5 Tips for Traveling with Special Needs

As I watch the weather reports of predicted snow in the Northeast this week, it brings back fond memories of the day my first daughter was born. It was one of those rare snow events here in the South, what the Northerners would call a "dusting", that shuts downs our entire city. My beautiful daughter was born with a "dusting" of snowy white hair that New Year's Day. We called her our "Snow Angel". We did not know until a few weeks later that her white hair was due to a genetic condition known as albinism. We learned that her albinism would affect her skin, hair, and eyes, that she would be legally blind due to this, and that we would have many challenges ahead of us in years to come. It was only 17 months after this that we had a second daughter with the same condition. I look at them both now, 14 years later, and they are still our angels. We have created such wonderful memories growing and learning together as a family, and experiencing the ups and downs of life. God reminds me daily of how precious all of life is, and how each of us are like snowflakes, uniquely designed and special.  

5 Tips for Traveling with Special Needs 

1. Travel Insurance - Many people think that travel insurance is only to recoup their money in case they need to cancel for sickness or death. What they forget is when traveling outside of the country, on a cruise or overseas, your medical insurance won't cover medical care should something happen.  That's why travel insurance is so important - especially a plan that covers unexpected emergencies like lost baggage, accidents, trip interruptions, and trip cancellations, even loss of your passport. A good plan will cover emergency medical evacuation coverage, 24/7 travel assistance services and more. Be sure to purchase the plan as close to the deposit date as possible. Typically, the insurance needs to be purchased 14 days after deposit or less to cover pre-existing conditions.
2. Call the airline in advance- After booking your flight, call the airline and explain your special need. They will flag your ticket with the special information needed to assist you while traveling. In most cases, you will be allowed to pre-board and get everyone settled before general boarding begins. Most airlines will provide extra assistance, including arranging for a wheelchair to help your family. If your airport has a line for "Families and SpecialAssistance", use it. These people are very familiar with medical equipment, medications, and special needs. 
3. Take all medications and medical supplies with you in a carry on - This one is especially important for diabetics. You never know when your checked bag might get lost or misdirected, or if your flight will be delayed. When you approach the TSA attendant at the bag check, let them know there are medicines and medical supplies in your bag, in case they want to hand check it. This also applies to CPAP machines, pumps, and meters. 
4. Seek out "Special Needs Friendly" Vacation Destinations - Think of what your family would love to do, where you have always wanted to visit, and where everyone will have fun. Don't automatically limit yourself! There are so many destinations that will accommodate needs today.  Most hotels, resorts, and cruise lines have options for you that are not listed on their websites. Dream Big!
5. Use a knowledgeable Travel Planner - Vacation is meant to be a time for getting away from the stresses of everyday life, NOT an addition to the stress! Let a travel planner who knows how to take care of all of the details work for you. A good planner will be thinking of some of these things: making sure your room has a mini-fridge for medicines, the pool has a lift, the ADA room has a bench in the shower, the cruise line has your meals prepared in the gluten free kitchen, the resort puts your family in the quieter part of the resort for you and your child to have much needed "down time", your cabin is near the elevators so you do not have to take so many stairs, the ski resort has an adaptive ski program for your daughter, and so much more.