Planning to go on a summer holiday when you have a child with additional needs is not easy. The more complex your child’s needs are the more planning has to go into arranging the family holiday. If at all possible don’t skip a year because the family holiday is so important for everyone. A change in scenery, surroundings, new adventures and meeting new people is great for the soul and helps us all face the challenges when we come home.

My big issue was people being extra nice.

In my case David is a wheelchair user, so many people have come up to me on holidays, to say: “Oh, I never thought he could swim?” or “sure God love us.” Everyone seems to tell me their problems on holidays and to be honest I just like to get away from everything. Be prepared, people are genuinely trying to be nice, it’s just sometimes it can come across wrong (this, of course, can happen at home too). Again, try not to let it get under your skin. Just have a stock answer and move on because it’s your holiday and your family so enjoy it your way.

A few tips that have worked for me are as follows:

Explain your trip to your child in simple small steps, start with we pack our bag, drive to the airport, etc. remember if your child has any audio processing disorders or need structure, it’s better to explain every step. If possible bring the child to the airport a few weeks before hand just so he/she can see the people, planes, etc.

Clarify at the check-in that you have a child with additional need, then the aircrew will have a better understanding and in my experience have gone to great lengths to show extra kindness to us all.

Bring their favourite toy no matter how big! And when you arrive in your apartment make a huge effort to keep all the child’s item in his/her room in case you should lose something. It happened us one year on holiday, I mislaid a baseball hat for David, and no other hat in the whole of Spain would do. David did not stop asking for it for days, every second he saw me he asked again and again.  I found it eventually, but the stress it continually caused was crazy.

Pack the essential first. If this is medicine, equipment, dietary needs, sun creams, etc. Then think about bringing things that will keep them entertained for the journey. Now it time to pack the real essentials!!! we are talking, favourite shoes, dress, tops, remember it is your time too.

If you want some time to read a book or go for a walk, plan it with your other half. Just say something like, will you look after the children from 10.00 to 11.30 tomorrow and I will look after them for you to watch a match in peace later that day. At least when it’s a little bit structured it can work better and you have that time to yourself and it makes it a little easier I feel.

Don’t try to change your child’s eating when on holidays. Another lesson I learned from David. Let say if they won’t eat lettuce here then the chances that they will eat lettuce on holidays will definitely not happen. My advice let it be.

Nobody wants any stress on holidays and it’s meant to be relaxing or fun filled, or a mixture of both. With a bit of extra planning, I am hoping your summer holiday this year is a great success.

Smile and enjoy, these are the memories we take with us for life.

Hasta la próxima vez, Dolores.