Kids Vacations for Disabled Children and Parents

How do you plan disabled kids vacations? Parents and disabled kids need vacations probably more than others. The statistics say 1 in every 167 kids now suffers from some form of autism. It takes re-tooling of traditional  concepts to accommodate travel with disabled children.

Kids with disabilities can provide more challenges for planning successful vacations. If you don't have a disabled child, it's likely you've seen one or many on your vacations, however. You may think the boy are girl acting unruly is not well disciplined, but if you look closer you'll often discover that the child has a disability that may cause them to act this way.  With more youth being born with or showing symptoms of autism, the numbers are alarming. Disabilities in families have become so common that the public school system in California will attest that they are burdened with the need for extra funding and teaching resources. And just try to get support on vacations when your autistic child is not socially acceptable.

Take for instance, a friend of mine whose wife is a registered nurse. He works as a manager in a Fortune 500 firm.  Both are educated, intelligent, and homeowners who don't have a lot of money to spend after paying their expensive mortgage in Los Angeles.  Oh, they  have an autistic son who's 10 now.  I will never forget the story my friend told about trying to take a family vacation to Catalina Island for just two days. Their blonde, blue-eyed boy looks cute as a bug, but flips out when people try to touch him. He screams.

The friend's most memorable moment was on his trip when his son began screaming in the hotel room, "Daddy, you're killing me." It was loud and repeated, and it started when dad tried to help his son put on his pajamas after a bath. The screaming started with no prompting or warning, and it wouldn't stop.

Mom was out shopping for several items in Avalon's cute little village, unaware that back at the hotel her son was having a fit.  And with few tools to handle this situation in a place where vacationers share walls, my friend took a chair outside the room and sat there while his son screamed.  He did not want to be carted off to jail, so he removed himself from his son, who continued to scream in the room by himself.

So how do you travel with disabled children? My friend decided that his family was better off not traveling, except to see family and stay at their homes, as the stress was overwhelming. It isn't easy planning kids vacations with disabled children, and strategy often depends on the type of disability.  The best opportunities are first, to search for off-season travel and less crowds, and speak with your hotel about your needs.  Sometimes they can set you off from the crowd in rooms that don't have shared walls.

Next, discuss what can go wrong and right before you take the trip. If your expectations are centered, then you can look at it like an experiment that did or didn't provide the results you predicted.  While there are camps for disabled youth, there's also a strong need for the adults of these children to feel normal and have opportunities to enjoy the time-honored traditions of family vacations.

Have compassion when you travel, and try to help others in these situations. A helping hand and word of understanding goes a long way to a successful vacation for parents and kids with disabilities. There have been probably a dozen times this year alone on press trips where I have heard fellow writers mention someone and say how they found that writer totally annoying or strange. While some travel writers seem to be completely out of touch with reality and think the world evolves around them alone, several situations I examined and people discussed were, indeed, noticeable for the unusual behavior displayed by an individual.  I believe several people were individuals with special needs, albeit high functioning in their ability to write stories. Disabilities vary in degrees and aren't always noticeable at first glance. In kids it's hard to tell if a child simply lacks rules and guidelines because the parent hasn't provided them, or if the child is incapable of following rules due to other factors.


Some other options may include booking into more unusual spots such a small b&b we know of in Big Bear Lake that has only a few rooms, and possibly could give you the run of the place during mid-week vacations, off season.

Drive trips are usually the easiest with disabled youth.  Many children and adults with disabilities have phobias about travel.  They suffer separation anxiety from routines and familiar scenes. There are support groups and coops in most cities that help parents experience a night out. But sometimes parents need a vacation with their children. With the goals to mainstream disabled youth in the school system, your disabled kids vacation certainly assists in that effort.  If a program doesn't exist in your local area, see if you can get the help of your school or nonprofit agency such as YMCA to create a program.  One friend has a disabled adult son who travels around the globe with other disabled adults through one such program. He's been on cruises, to Greece, to Italy, England and many foreign places. This may not work for everyone, but the socializing with others and independence he feels makes him extremely happy, and his parents parents feel joy inside knowing their son is having a good time.


If you feel you need to discuss your child's situation before booking a room, you'll often discover that others have called before you and if not, you're helping pave the way for the those who will follow in your footsteps trying to plan a trip with their special child (or adult).

disabled kids travel disneyland disneyland kids travel
Hot Deals
Save on Tickets


Universal City

Discount Disneyland Tickets


catalina express
Long Beach, Dana Point

Catalina Flyer

Newport Beach

Discount Disney's California Adventure tickets


Knotts Berry Farm
Buena Park

Discount Medieval Times tickets

Buena Park

Discount Pirates Dinner Adventure tickets

Buena Park

Discount Legoland California tickets


Discount San Diego Zoo tickets

San Diego

San Diego

Discount SeaWorld tickets