As a young adult, I traveled throughout Europe with only a small backpack to my name.

I relished in making do with very little. 

Then my life got a little complicated and this philosophy changed. 

Goodbye, simplicity—hello, special needs vacation planning 101! 

Our minivan is packed to the roof. My husband is ready to get on the road. 

This will be his first roundtrip to our vacation destination today. 

He will return home around lunchtime to load us up, along with the second installation of equipment and luggage. 

As the last of the items are loaded into the vehicle, I wonder to myself if a moving van would have been more appropriate. 

We’re going on vacation, but there will be no plane or train travel today—just the automobile.

The first years of Mia’s life were too unstable health-wise to even plan a weekend getaway—let alone a real vacation. 

But, as anyone will tell you, all work and no play really can wear you down. 

After three years and no time-off except for the vacation days we took from work to spend with Mia in the hospital, it was high time for a real vacation. 

We’d tried the stay-cation model of vacationing at home and doing small day trips from our house. 

It’s a nice idea, but for us it still kept us in our everyday routines and tied to household chores. 

So a real, pack-your-bags-and-go trip was in order.

But how do you pack up a house full of therapy equipment and medical supplies? 

Do you leave some of the equipment at home and make do? 

Do you bring everything with you? 

How long should the vacation be to actually cancel out all the effort of implementing the vacation in the first place?

We decided that the effort of taking a vacation would mean we would need to get away for at least three weeks for the time away to have a ‘therapeutic effect’. 

That is a long time to go without all of Mia’s therapy equipment that we use daily. 

So we made the commitment to bring everything along that we use on a daily basis including: therapy chair, adaptive stroller, stander, and walker. 

At the last minute, Mia’s blow up boat filled with colourful balls also made it into the final cut. 

Then we have the medical equipment: suction machine, pulse oximeter monitor, oxygen tank, feeding pump, nebulizer, and chest percussion therapy vest with compressor. 

Don’t forget, we still need clothes, shoes, and daily medical supplies.

Planning a vacation with a special needs child has the potential to be a highly stressful event. 

But it doesn’t have to be. 

We’ve found a solution that works for us. 

The initial planning takes some attention to detail, but once we are at our destination, we truly can relax, and that is what vacation is all about.

The first element of our vacation formula is to choose a destination that is within a two hour radius of our home. 

This allows us to be able to make two car trips if necessary to bring all of our luggage and equipment. 

Being closer to home also provides a bit of mental security. 

If Mia was to get sick and need to be near her specialists, we’re literally a short airlift away from our home hospital. 

We’re lucky in that we live close to many mountain destinations. 

Due to Mia’s chronic lung issues, we chose a mountain resort that was once known for it’s healing climate in the days of tuberculosis sanatoriums. 

What better place to combine a relaxing vacation, than one that can offer a therapeutic effect for Mia’s lungs?

The second element of our vacation planning is renting a fully equipped apartment. 

Once we found the right apartment, we even planned to stick with it for the future. 

This allows us a level of independence. 

I can cook the blenderized meals that I need to prepare for Mia. 

A washing machine and dryer allow for lighter packing in the clothes department. 

And the highlight? 

The caretaker for the apartment is super flexible and helpful, allowing us to have medical supplies sent on ahead

The third element that makes our trips less stressful, is that we keep on going back to the same location. 

For us the unknown is an added stress factor. 

Knowing the location and how easily we can get around with a wheelchair takes away a lot of planning. 

We know all the trails that work for us. We have our favourite restaurants that cater easily to Mia’s needs. 

We even have our go-to coffee shop, that never forgets us and welcomes Mia back each season with a freshly made smoothie.

A change of pace, limited stress and a relaxing, therapeutic environment. 

That’s my ideal vacation with a special needs child. 

What’s yours?

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