Saturday, July 05, 2008

Road vacations: better options than you might think

Vacations with special needs children can be less than restful.

We have gone with long van-bound hotel-staying road trips for years. The first years, when the children were young and our techniques were less advanced, were like hang gliding around a tornado.

We did complex real-time calculations around video length, gasoline levels, food levels, drug levels, bladder volume, local geography, local facility expectations, weather and much more.

Now it's more like base jumping -- risky, but fairly predictable.

Here's a quick (very quick) post on advantages and recommendations for our family. The reality varies from trip-to-trip as we all age and change.

On the last trip we took our dog. That odyssey also involved a very politically challenging 50th anniversary parent celebration and several different family reunions at multiple sites. It spanned two nations, maybe 2,000 miles or so. My back blew out and I needed an ambulance ride to an ED about 60% through, then spent 3 days flat on the floor of the van until I invented a rig that allowed me to sit and drive.

And yet, and yet ... the children thought the trip went well.

Which is to say that if the vacation can work for the children under these circumstances, then the arrangement is more robust than even we expected.

Vacation for us? That was a funny one. Actually, if not for my back, I'd have had fun. I think my wife actually had a good time, and even I will remember the trip fondly after a few more weeks of forgetfulness.

Advantages and advice follow. I'll ask my wife to review and expand so this may develop further.

  1. In a moving van, no-one can hear your child scream.
  2. Variety (external)
  3. Consistency and predictability (internal)
  4. They'll never see you again
  5. You can stop the van, you can't stop the plane.
  6. Flexibility
  1. Small town parks, usually by schools.
  2. Picnic, not restaurant
  3. McDonald's drive through. (Same everywhere)
  4. Avoid the big interstate (rest areas on I 90)
  5. Avoid poor/destitute/hyper-urban areas (need breaks, need space)
  6. Audio CDs ("books on tape") - superb. Little House in the Big Woods, Hank the Cow Dog
  7. Activity bags: small toys, coloring books"Yu-Gi-Oh" cards and "duel disks".
  8. iPod Playlists.
  9. Movie in pm
  10. Rituals: breakfast in room.
  11. Gas station BID: bathroom, snacks
  12. Swim in AM and PM
  13. Ideally stay with one or two hotel chains (Baymont, AmericInn, Residence Inn)
  14. Try to maintain your usual behavioral management regiment (ours fell apart on our last trip, no doubt)

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