By Julie Peake
Former Parent to Parent and Altogether Autism researcher
B Soc. Sci (Hons) (Psychology and Sociology), Dip Social Work, PG Dip SSS
Travelling can be challenging, unpredictable, and yet so rewarding – often a combination of all three! If you are travelling with children with disabilities, additional planning can help make the experience a positive one for both children and adults.
Travel requires good preparation and research, regardless of whether you are travelling domestically or internationally. Undoubtedly parents/caregivers of children with disabilities will be good planners already. If your travel plans include working with a travel agent, spend time discussing the interests and needs or your child/ren. For example, if your child has autism it may be helpful to provide the travel agent with some basic information about communication and sensory challenges and developing a travel related visual alongside your child may be worth considering. Those with children with physical disabilities may need to focus more on accessibility to destinations, any aids required and accommodation needs. Always think about any medication and/or dietary requirements when deciding on how and where to travel. Remember if you are using a travel agent, they are working for you not the other way around!!
Some ideas to consider:
The below article is written by a father with two children with special needs. It is helpful and positive. While based on his experiences in the United States largely relating to flying, it includes useful messages that may resonate with many parents/caregivers.
Our national airline, Air New Zealand, have information and support for children and other travellers relating primarily to physical and sensory disabilities. This indicates the need to communicate early and clearly with travel agents and/or airlines and staff should your child have a disability outside of these parameters as it should not exclude them from having a positive experience travelling.
Travel provides a range of exciting opportunities for both exploration and relaxation. It is possible to provide children with a range of disabilities a variety of interesting travel experiences. Planning, cooperation with others and patience are the key factors for a successful trip.
• Hamed, H. (2013). Tourism and autism: An initiative study for how travel companies can plan tourism trips for autistic people. American Journal of Tourism Management. 2 (1) 1-14.
• Neo, W., & Flaherty, G. (2019). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Global Travel. International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health. 7 (1) 1-3.