Blog  /  Parenting, Special Needs  /  Travel Trivia-Making it Work in All Ages and Stages

Having a son with special needs and two daughters who developed typically (the jury is still out on this one!) we have plenty of memories of early growing up years of travel and vacations! The honest summary would be this: some travel was not pleasant. Some travel was really hard but we are not going to “land” there in this blog. Through it all, we still made memories! Here are some things that worked for us at different stages and ages, abilities and disabilities!

WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG (and we were, too!)

Parents have more energy when they’re young-we did; but then so did the children! Sometimes that energy made us think twice about just staying home for a stay-cation, instead of doing all the work of packing, planning, driving or flying, and all the time and effort it takes.

In these young years the children were really very different in their stages of abilities and ages. When Joey was 10, Kristina was 7, and Kathleen 1.5! Trying to find something to do on a vacation for all of us was a challenge. What could we plan for a 10 year old who was easily distracted, hard to keep focused, sometimes having seizures (which would totally re-direct the day), a 7 year old very able to do most anything, and a toddler? Here are some of the things we decided, and for the most part, worked well for us in those young years:

  • Travel to places that were away from home but not too far! We realized a short to moderate drive somewhere was better for “getting along in the car” as well as “ability to sit that long”! It was also better so if someone got sick (of course it happened) we had a shorter distance to get home where comfort would be better.
  • Go to places that had pools. Yes, it was what the kids wanted, it was a great way to keep them all in one place, and we could all participate at whatever level we were able! It worked for us!
  • See the state parks. While we would have loved to jet to Europe, it would have been foolish and a waste of money (not that we had it when they were little). We opted to travel close and enjoy all of the Ohio state parks. Since we weren’t campers, we’d stay in the lodges and enjoy walking, swimming and wading in the pools, and other things parks offer (boating, hiking, museums, nature centers, etc.) It worked for us. Less travel, less pressure!

LATER YEARS

As the children matured we had the luxury of less whining and fussing, but still had the various differences in what Joey could do and what the girls could and wanted to do. Often we would choose a place, divide and conquer on what each person wanted to do, and I was often the one to sit with Joey for Joe to take the adventurous hike or helicopter ride with the girls. That isn’t a complaint; just a fact. I wasn’t that adventurous, so waiting with Joey was fine with me and even finer with him. He would fuss beyond believe when he didn’t want to do certain things. Possibly fear; but frustrating for us none-the-less. So here are a few things that worked for us in our later parenting years:

  • We would discuss where we wanted to go. That made it fun for all of us to have a say in where we were going and the places we wanted to see.
  • We would make a list (in order of what we most wanted to see). Instead of booking every moment of our time away, making a list of things to see and do in the order of most desire to see and do it, helped our timing and choices. We’d try to check off the list from top to bottom so as we had the time, energy, and health we would do what was most important and not be disappointed if the last thing on the list didn’t make the cut!
  • Each person got a day to plan specifics. We had such an agreeable group, always saying things like, “Whatever you want to do.” While that is nice not to have a bunch of demanding personalities, it could get a little wearisome when no one made a move to do something! This is how this looked for us: I had all of our names on separate pieces of paper. On day #1, we’d pick a name, and that person made the decisions where and when we’d eat, and when we’d take breaks or keep moving. It really helped the decision-making! We’d move through the week in that same fashion.

TRAVELING AS ADULTS:

Now that the children are grown, and a few grandchildren in tow, we have morphed into some fun non-planning as we travel. Here are a few fun things that work for us now (well, most of the time it works!)

  • Don’t make hotel reservations. While this frees us up to come and go any time, it has also given us some of the funniest memories. Once hotel accommodated all of us and at the time, one son-in-law…in one room with one bathroom. Hilarious. Oh, it was a weird room and location! (We generally try to get the married couples their own rooms, but it’s not always possible, so sometimes it’s one room for the guys and one for the gals. Oh, the stories!) Another recent trip with just Joe, Joey, and I included a town being totally sold out of all hotel rooms due to a big event, so we wound up getting a spot at a national park campground and sleeping in the mini van we were renting. (Remember: we are not campers.) It was hilarious eating a fruit and Pringles chips for dinner before going to bed, and Joe occasionally turning the car on to keep us all warm (no we didn’t plan for layering!) since it was in the high 30’s in the night time in the mountains. It is one of our fondest memories! And last but not least was a stay in the mountains of Vermont where the accommodations and “things to do” were so fun and engaging that we stayed an extra night. It was magnificent!
  • Plan a light schedule and add other things as able. When traveling with Joey we know we can’t often “pack it in” because he gets tired early. As we age, that is actually working well for us, too! When you plan a few things, rather than a big list of things, you can accommodate energy levels well. Again, the list of things in order of what you most want to do down to the things that don’t matter so much helps to keep everyone happy as you get to see the most important things.
  • Plan a day off from each other every 3rd or 4th day. Doing this makes it fun for couples and families to go off on their own and not be tied to the group too closely, to get to talk together without everyone else around them, and to go off the beaten path if others need to stay on it! It keeps us all happy, we get to share later what we got to do, and then it’s fun to be together again the next day.

Traveling can be fun, but also challenging. What ideas have we given you that you think might work in your travel plans? We hope you have a happy summer that gives you many marvelous memories-even the challenging, funny, and odd ones!

Joe and Cindi Ferrini

Joe and Cindi have been married since 1979, live in Cleveland, OH, have 3 grown children (one with special needs), grandchildren, and enjoy speaking and writing together on topics related to marriage and family (FAMILYLIFE’S “WEEKEND TO REMEMBER Get-A-Ways” as well as for organizations pertaining to special needs), leadership, and time/life management. Joe has practiced dentistry since 1978; Cindi enjoys writing (books, blogs, articles, etc.), speaking, radio, and social media. Together they have written articles and blogs for Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, http://specialneedsparenting.net and here at FamilyMatters, and authored UNEXPECTED JOURNEY: When Special Needs Change our Course. They’d love to connect with you at: www.joeferrini.com or www.cindiferrini.com

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