Mission Possible: Successful Family Vacations
Successful Family Vacations
Vacations can be wonderful times, providing opportunities for family members to strengthen their relationships through shared experiences. Vacations can also be challenging times for families that include children with special needs. In this article, we will share tactics and maneuvers to make family vacations more enjoyable for everyone. We will provide ideas through a road trip and family reunion (R&R) example for Liam and family, but the following steps can be used to plan any vacation.
Determine what you would like to do as a family during your vacation. Be positive, outlining the goals would you would like to achieve if everything goes as well as possible.
- Goals for the Road Trip to the Reunion for Liam and Family
- Travel through four states to spend time with extended family
- Enjoy the ride, rather than just making good time on the trip
- Create positive memories and further strengthen relationships
Gather as much information possible about the upcoming vacation to facilitate action planning. This reconnaissance can be done by considering previous experiences with similar vacations, asking other people who will be present or have traveled to the same place, or visiting sites on the internet to see descriptions, maps, and pictures. Ask yourself the following questions:
When: On what dates will we leave and return? How long will we be gone? What are the timelines for each of the activities? How much down time will there be?
Where: What places will we be visiting? What forms of transportation will we use? Where will we sleep and eat? What is the environment like in each of the places?
Who: With whom will we be interacting? Will the people be familiar or unfamiliar? What are their characteristics? How many people will be present in each activity?
What: In what types of activities will we be participating? For example, will they be indoor or outdoor? Active or passive?
Plan of Attack
Make arrangements and organize accommodations to make each activity as successful as possible. Consider the resources and potential risks associated with each setting. Your plan of attack may involve creative scheduling (e.g., alternating boring activities with those that are more enjoyable, establishing time limits based on the child’s needs), packing familiar and preferred items, requesting environmental modifications, and orienting the people with whom you will be coming in contact. It also may involve practicing skills with your child that will allow him or her to participate fully in activities, interact appropriately, and cope with particularly challenging circumstances.
R&R: Stock car with various toys, games, videos, and equipment for playing at the rest stops. Plan games and sing along activities, ensuring a variety of options. Pack snacks and picnic items for trip so dining in restaurants is not always necessary. Arrange for hotels with swimming pools and separate sleeping area. Investigate handicapped/disabled parking and facilities at park. Ask Grandma and Aunt Judy to stock up on preferred foods and to keep sweets out of sight, as well as to keep pets separate. Encourage familiar relatives to serve as “guides”, encouraging others to follow Liam’s lead and limit questions. Practice greeting and conversational exchanges. Post the itinerary on the wall calendar, reviewing it with Liam.
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