Ah, family vacations.

Holidays are supposed to be a time free of stress and anxiety, filled with fun or relaxing events. 

However, for families with children with special needs, a vacation can be anything but relaxing. 

Still, we all long to get away for a few days, if for no other reason than a desire for a change of scenery. 

Today, I'm going to share why I believe a week on a cruise ship might be the best option for special needs families in need of a vacation.

Cruise ship crews are specially trained to be able to provide top-notch safety and service to their guests. 

Most cruise ships have employees who have knowledge about different special needs and they are trained to help those with challenges. 

Some cruise companies, like Royal Caribbean, are certified by AtoS(Autism on the Sea), as an autism-friendly cruise, meaning they go out their way to make special accommodations for families with an autistic loved one.

If a cruise sounds appealing to you, I've got a few tips on what you can do to insure your family will have an enjoyable time on the ship.

First, once you've booked your cruise, contact someone in guest services via email, explaining your child's special needs. 

Ask them what they can do to accommodate your child's needs and how you can help them as well. 

Since most cruise are family-friendly, they'll likely do whatever they can to work with you. 

They can book you in handicap-accessible rooms, reserve seating at shows that provide easy access to exits if needed, and if your child has a special diet, they can work with you to create a special menu just for your child. 

Cruises like Royal Caribbean that are sensitive to special needs may also work to connect you with other special needs families on the cruise, by placing you together at events or shows, and even reserved-seating dinners. 

It's certainly much easier to deal with an anxiety attack or a fit-throwing episode when you are surrounded by families and parents who not only are sympathetic and understanding, but are going through similar situations themselves.

Other ways to make your cruise more manageable include making special requests for express boarding to avoid long lines, and also asking for a special phone line that allows you to easily communicate with staff, especially the dining and kid's club staffs that will be directly handling the accommodations your child needs. 

I also advise making immediate contact with the head chef and the person in charge of the kid's club, so you can discuss meal plans and things like triggers that may cause a meltdown, as well as what the kids' club staff can do to calm your child down. 

If your child is sensitive to loud noise, you'll also want to request to stay inside your room during safety drills to avoid a meltdown.

Cruises are a great way to experience other cultures and to make new friends along the way. 

With the aid of kids' clubs, parents can even schedule in their own down times, and enjoy some good ol' adult conversations without the worry of interruption by a screaming child. 

Believe it or not, family cruises don't always cost an arm and a leg as many believe. 

In fact, depending on the time of year, cruises can be one of the most affordable family vacations available.

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