Brenda's Corner: Travelling with my Son Maclain
I am often asked what it's like to travel with Maclain, and how much different it is having a family member with a disability when we pack up and hit the road. My short answer is that I do not know it to be any other way because it's all we know, but I do know that it takes a whole lot more planning, and comes with a lot of give and take.
Written by Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison
There are many things that we as his parents have to consider with any travel we do if Maclain is in the mix. We have never let it stop us, however, from exploring, visiting and experiencing the world around us. Here are some of the things that we always try to adhere to before any road trip.
Finding ways to make travel easier.
Research, research, research.
This is key. You need to know as much as possible about where you're going. Accessibility, healthcare providers, pharmacies, washroom facilities, accommodations, and the list goes on. The more you prepare, the better things will go and hopefully you will not be caught in a situation that could be a deal breaker on your trip.
The reality is that our kids often need special items that you cannot just pick up at your local grocery store or big-box retailer, especially if you are going to another country. Pack it so that you'll have it just in case. Not having an essential item is the quickest way to cut a trip short. When in doubt, pack it.
For us, we have non-negotiables like batteries for Maclain's cochlear implants, supplies for his bowel routine, and extra parts for his wheelchair. Many families need specialized equipment for sleeping and feeding, multiple medications, custom clothing or other items. Most airlines, trains, etc. will allow extra baggage at no cost if items are medical or special needs related.
Extra time on the clock.
Give yourself a lot of time to get where you're going. I have learned from experience that nothing goes as planned, and with that comes time delays. When I feel rushed, I start to panic and it sets off a whole butterfly effect. We have enough on our plate with everything else, I do not need the added stress of running late for a flight or reservations, or checking in. When I give myself a time buffer, I immediately feel more relaxed.
It's ok to ask for help.
It can get exhausting trying to manage everything on your own. There are usually helpful staff members onsite or online at most hotels, attractions and restaurants who will often go out of their way to make sure special needs can be accommodated. Even if they are not always sure how they can help, they are usually willing to learn. Be ok with someone opening doors, helping carry equipment, lending a hand with directions or showing you the way.
Things may not go as planned every time.
Even the best-laid plans can go awry. It happens to everyone at some point. As the saying goes "if I had a dollar for every time...".This is typical when you have a family member with a disability. The hotel you thought was accessible is not, the accommodations you requested were not available; and many other disappointments.
However, provided that safety isn't a concern, or your family's health or well being is not being compromised, try to not let things ruin your time away. We've had many trips that could have been side-railed because of physical barriers or attitudinal barriers, but we have always tried to just find a way around it, or choose another path. There is always another option, and sometimes you just have to take every moment in strides.
With so much planning and worry that comes along with travelling, especially when faced with the obstacles that can accompany a family member who has a disability, you need to be able to take a deep breath and enjoy! Make some memories, and embrace the incredible opportunities that come with travelling and seeing the world around you. Even mundane trips can have surprise elements that can make it a trip to remember. Take pictures, be silly, stay up late, buy the touristy t-shirt, love the time you have together.
Maclain loves adventure, and we love spending time as a family, so we are always finding ways to make that happen. Trips to see Mickey at Disney, relax in the Caribbean, sail the high seas, visit big cities to see favourite sports teams play, or just to cheer on our own family hockey player in a weekend tournament. We have been extremely lucky that so far we have been able to find ways make things work, even if it hasn't always been the way we imagined it to be, and we look forward to many more travel and trips in the future!
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Brenda's Corner. Please continue to follow her family journey for advice, insights and education related to parenting and empowering children of all abilities.
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