It is never easy to travel with children, but traveling with a child that has special needs presents a whole new set of challenges. However, it doesn’t have to be impossible. There are many places that offer accommodations for kids with special needs and provide families the relaxing getaway they deserve. Here are 10 vacation ideas for those traveling with kids that have special needs.
Family Vacation Ideas for Children with Special Needs
LEGOLAND – Carlsbad, CA
This epic wonderland for kids and adults has everything from giant LEGO statues to waterparks. LEGOLAND is a massive park that has a Hotel, Restaurant, Sea Life Aquarium, a LEGOⓇ NinjagoⓇ World, and this summer, Star Wars™ Days! It is a mecca for many kids, and they offer assistance to those that need the use of a wheelchair. Within the park you can rent a wheelchair or an electric convenience vehicle. They also have a downloadable map that features exactly what areas in the park that have wheelchair access. There are even rides for kids in wheelchairs as long as they have upper body control and the ability to be transferred. If you call before your trip, they can offer more details and answer any potential questions.
Autism On The Seas
In 2007, the National Organization Autism on the Seas began working with Royal Caribbean. Their goal was to provide services for families on vacation that catered to those with special needs including Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, as well as other Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Their services are now also offered on Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney and Carnival Cruise lines. They have a full staff with education and experience working with special needs as well as full background checks. The staff is sanctioned by the cruise lines and offers private events and activities in the ship’s entertainment rooms and even specialized respite sessions. In addition to their services, they also provide priority boarding, private muster drills, dinner seating, private venue sessions, reserved show seating, all of which are open to siblings and child friends. This organization strives to give you the relaxing vacation your family deserves while catering to your child’s specific needs.
Morgan’s Wonderland – San Antonio, Texas
Morgan’s Wonderland was specifically designed to address the barriers that children with special needs often face in public spaces. It has created a park with unique accessibility so children from all walks of life can come and enjoy just being a kid. Across 25 acres, they offer an Amphitheater, a Sensory Village™, Butterfly Playground, Walk and Roll Path, Pirate Island Playground, and much more for kids and families. They have created a place to accommodate special needs in a way most other parks cannot. Download their park map to see what they have to offer your family.
Smuggler’s Notch – Jeffersonville, VT
Open all year, Smuggler’s Notch has things for the whole family, every season. They also have an Adaptive Program that was created to provide children and adults of all abilities with therapeutic recreation. The experiences are tailored to the needs of each individual. The ratio of counselors to each program also depends on the needs of each person, and they provide an encouraging environment to participate in a variety of available activities. From arts and crafts to rock climbing, it is their goal to provide everyone with an enjoyable experience that inspires confidence.
Splore – Moab – Utah
Splore – Moab is a not-for-profit organization created to allow people of all skill levels the chance to enjoy the beauty of Utah and experience the thrills of outdoor adventure. They have outdoor adventures like Nordic skiing, outdoor climbing, rafting, canoeing, and indoor climbing. It is a chance for those with special needs to experience life like they never have before and experience the excitement of the great outdoors with the help of skilled professionals.
Hershey Park – Hershey, PA
As a major family attraction, Hersheypark has an incredible selection of activities from rides and water parks to shows, a zoo, and of course, Hershey chocolate! With so many families arriving for vacation, they provide guests with special needs a Ride Accessibility Program. This program offers special access throughout the park and allows them to bypass lines with some exceptions. Before arriving, be sure to fill out the online questionnaire to prepare for your admittance and ask for any certain accommodations your family may need. When you arrive, the questionnaire needs to be taken to the hospitality services, and you will receive a list of accessible rides and a boarding pass to help you navigate the park with ease.
Great Wolf Lodge – Nationwide
The Great Wolf Lodge is a massive indoor water park with games, entertainment and activities to keep a busy family happy. There are numerous locations across the country, and with so much to do, it is a popular spot for family vacations. For those that use a wheelchair, the Lodge is ADA compliant and many of the lodges have “zero entry” pools allowing even those with special needs to enjoy water park fun. Call ahead before your stay to ask any questions or make special requests for your trip.
Shared Adventures – Santa Cruz, CA
As a non-profit organization, Shared Adventures aims to give everyone the chance to enjoy recreation and the great outdoors regardless of their ability level. They have a variety of options from daily activities and outings to overnight camps with family members or caretakers. It gives children with special needs the chance to enjoy some adventure and offers them positive interaction to help them grow. View their Activity Calendar to see what they have to offer your family.
TradeWinds Resorts – St. Pete Beach, FL
Located in St. Pete Beach, the TradeWinds Resort overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and features fourteen dining options, seven pools, two activity centers for kids plus a staff trained by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. They are happy to accommodate families with children that have special needs, and they have “safety kits” available that include a hanging door alarm, outlet covers and other items to ensure your child’s safety. Dining options also feature gluten free dishes. It is a beautiful beach getaway, and a place the whole family can enjoy.
Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, TN
Dollywood sits against the backdrop of the beautiful Smoky Mountains, and it is a theme park that offers a variety of rides and activities for those with special needs. Their ride accessibility guide gives detailed information for each ride and the necessary abilities to participate. There are rides for those that can transfer from their wheelchair as well as rides that allow actual wheelchairs. In addition, the park has a calming room for those with special needs that might need a break from the commotion of the park.