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4 Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Disabilities


Holiday travel tips are necessary, especially if you are traveling with a disabled family member. Whether you are traveling by plane, train, automobile or even ship, implement special strategies beforehand so that the trip runs as smoothly as possible. Keep in mind that surprises always occur during travel, no matter how well defined your preparation. However, if you keep an open, relaxed mind throughout the process, you'll sail through the trip like a champ. 

1. Plan Ahead

Eighty percent of your travel success depends on how well you plan beforehand. If you plan to take fly or travel by train, call the carrier ahead of time, explain your situation, and ask the representative how you can accommodate your family member and eliminate disruptions to other passengers. Ask the representative to identify bathroom and wheelchair accessible facilities along with suggestions on where you can go with your family member should he become uncomfortable or uneasy.

Additionally, contact the hotel and request a wheelchair accessible room or one that permits for easy entrance and exit. For example, if your family member is autistic, he may not feel comfortable on elevators or having to make a long trip to the room. Get in touch with attractions such as museums, theme parks or theaters to ensure your family member has special accommodations when you arrive. 

2. Stick to Routines

One of the most important steps you can take is to keep your disabled family member comfortable is to stick to his routine before the trip. From experiencing holiday lights to having special meals and entertainment, your loved one's routine will be abruptly disrupted during the trip. Those who have disabilities thrive on routine because it is one area of their day that they know will always the same. 

Also, try to add pieces of your family member's daily routine into the holiday trip as often as possible. If your disabled family member always takes a nap between 2:00pm and 4:00pm, forgo sightseeing between those times and return to the hotel for nap time. Pack favorite foods and familiar items from home to make your family member feel comfortable and more at ease within unfamiliar surroundings.

3. Dress Appropriately

Arm your disabled family member with an identification tag that includes vital information as it pertains to his disability as well as contact information such as your cell phone number. In the unlikely event you become separated from your loved one, you will at least have a way to find him easier than without identification, especially if a communication issue is part of the disability.

Additionally, pack comfortable, familiar clothing for your family member. Select outfits and pieces you know he enjoys wearing and avoid introducing new items during the trip.

4. Have a Back-up Plan

If the perfectly planned day doesn't go as hoped, have a back-up plan so all isn't lost. For example, if you plan to visit a museum that doesn't turn out to be wheel chair accessible (even if you were given information that it was), have "plan B" ready for execution. You could instead hit a local park or the zoo that day instead of the museum. Identify attractions that are within close proximity to your original destination so you don't lose time traveling from one part of the city or area to the other. 

When staying at a hotel, consult with your concierge to identify alternative attractions. Your hotel concierge is an excellent resource for helping guests find appropriate activities and entertainment in the area.

Overall, allow yourself time to let go and accept that some days during your holiday trip may not go as planned. Keep in mind that the reason you took the trip was to be together as a family and to appreciate one another during this wondrous time of the year.


Gina Ragusa is a freelance writer and mom from sunny (and sometimes not) South Florida. Her 15 year experience ranges from writing about banking to tattoo parlors. Read more about her adventures at

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