Disabled boy in walker

Whether half term is over for you, or you’re in the midst of it, and we shiver through this seemingly never-ending winter naturally, thoughts turn to holidays in the sun. Although summer may seem a long way off, time will fly by, so now is the time to get planning. Here’s My Family, Our Needs’ ideas for your next break.

For those of us who have a child with special requirements, it is advisable to sit down and make a list of what are the key ingredients for meeting your family’s travel and holiday needs. These will differ widely according to the ages and size of your family and the specific needs of your ‘special’ child.

You will need to consider the needs of all the family, not forgetting your own.

Questions to ask are:

  • What facilities and/or extra help will you need? Make a checklist of extra equipment or other resources you might need to take with you.
  • How will you travel? Do you need adapted transport and a map of accessible places you could stop for toilets or refreshments en-route?
  • If flying to your destination, do you need an airport guide and/or special airline seat for your child?
  • Do you and your child have a passport and travel/health insurance, if going overseas?
  • Will you need extra medication?
  • Do you need any special equipment at your destination, such as wheelchair accessible accommodation, ramps, toileting and bathing facilities, a hoist, a lift, beach wheelchair or accessible swimming pool?
  • If your child is liable to wander, do you need an indoor ‘safe’ space and enclosed secure garden?
  • Are there things you can get in advance to help your children, such as ear defenders or social stories for your phone or iPad?
  • Consider ways you may obtain extra help. Perhaps, in return for a free break in your holiday cottage, you could recruit an extra carer you know and trust to lighten the workload. Alternatively joining up with another family whose child has similar needs to your own could give you both a chance to spend an evening out and maybe fun for the children too.

Woodland breaks

One of the most popular venues for families, including those who have a child with a disability, are chalet holidays in parks or forests with catering and other amenities on site. Center Parcs provides secure, virtually traffic-free locations with covered facilities that make them available in all weathers. Parks also offer a range of outdoor facilities, such as cycling that can help more lively children to get rid of surplus energy.

Forest Holidays offer luxury log cabins with hot tubs in forest locations for a more peaceful holiday. There are several centres throughout the UK

Holiday parks

The more established holiday parks, such as Butlins also offer accommodation in chalets, many of which are new or upgraded, and offer free entertainment on site. For those who like to enjoy building sandcastles or bathing in the sea, Butlin’s camps are based in coastal resorts e.g. in Minehead, Somerset.

Haven holidays won the Best Family Holiday company award by British Travel Awards 2017. It is a well-established company with 36 parks all around the coast of Great Britain and offers a range of accommodation – chalets, apartments, tents and caravans, including adapted caravans with ramps and accessible bathing facilities. They have a team of advisors available to discuss the needs of disabled visitors and they welcome registered assistance dogs too.

Help to find the right holiday

Opportunities for holidaying with a family member with a chronic condition or a disability are increasing year-on-year. There are a number of charities and organisations now focused on helping you find a break that is just right for you.

  • Rough Guide to Accessible Britain is a free guide with over 200 inspiring ideas for fantastic worry-free days out with reviews, hints and tips on some of the UK’s best attractions written by and for disabled people. Every review contains all the access information you need to enjoy your day, including disabled parking, wheelchair access and more.
  • Open Britain is described as a one-stop-shop for accessible tourism in the UK providing you with a simple way to find accessible destinations and places to stay.
  • Disabled Go provides access guides to more than 120,000 places of interest throughout the UK, including hotels, restaurants, cafes, and museums. When visiting a town in the UK, a Disabled Go access guide could make your visit much easier and more enjoyable. Founded by a wheelchair user, all locations are vetted by a large team of other trained wheelchair users so ensuring the accuracy of access information supplied.
  • Matching Houses is an alternative way to take a break and see another part of the country (or even the world). It is a holiday house exchange where disabled people swap houses with others who have the same access needs. It has recently been extended to include families who have a disabled child. The cost is £36 a year to register, but there is a half-price offer for the first year.
  • Disabled Holidays is the largest accessible holiday specialist in the UK, offering a wide range of holidays from self-catering accommodation in the UK, to adventure or even Disney trips overseas and the increasingly popular offer of cruise holidays.
  • Enable Holidays is another travel company specialising in accessible holidays to a range of destinations all over the world.
  • The Calvert Trust has over 40 years’ experience delivering adventure holidays for young people with disabilities, their families and carers. They have three centres: Kielder Forest in Northumberland; Exmoor in Devon; and Lake District in Cumbria.

Help to pay for a holiday

Paying for a family holiday is not always easy, especially when there are extra expenses like hiring special equipment. However, there are organisations that may be able to help with financial support.

  • The Family Fund is an organisation that provides grants for disabled children’s needs, including holiday grants and travel insurance. Contact them to check your eligibility and/or to apply for help.
  • Turn2Us helps people with limited resources to find grants for holidays amongst other needs.
  • Sky Badger is a registered charity providing a wide range of information to help families caring for a disabled child. You can find information about holidays and grants to fund holidays and other things you may need on this site.

Making dreams come true

There are also a number of wish-granting charities for children with life-limiting or terminal conditions. These charities may supply holidays if this is the child’s wish. Amongst these are:

Everyone deserves a break, so we hope you find something to suit your family’s needs from the suggestions above. Do you know of somewhere different? Do you use a company who is really helpful?

Please share your thoughts, experiences and recommendations in the comments below, tweet us @weareMFON, find us on Facebook or email hello@myfamilyourneeds.co.uk.

Happy Holidays!