Who is coming with you on your vacation?
It often makes sense to answer that question differently when it comes to special needs vacations.
For a typically developing family, the answer is the family. Anybody else is optional.
For special need travel the answer is usually a case of “the more, the merrier”. Why is that? It’s because you will benefit from having others with you for support. Obviously, it’s going to be you and your child but what “supporting cast” can you bring with you?
Spouse or significant other. For single parent families this clearly isn’t an option but does increase the benefit of having somebody else from our list below. Otherwise, it is just a question of both being able to get the same time off from work.
Siblings. Typically developing siblings are, very frequently, absolute heroes who accept, cherish and help to support their autistic family member. If one or more of your other children play this role at home then their help while you are traveling is going to be even more valuable.
Extended family. Yes, we do know that, in some families, this suggestion would be totally toxic. Hopefully that doesn’t apply to you and your family. If it is possible, having your child’s aunt, uncle or even a cousin or two will provide you with some extra support from people that your child knows. Who, in your family, already spends time with your child? Does that include the “special case” of grandparents?
Grandparents. If you are very lucky, your parents will want to be with their grandchild(ren) on vacation. They will also be a loved and familiar face and may just pick up some part of the tab. That certainly would be “special”.
Friends, members of a support group. Ask your friends to go with you. Ask members of any support group to which you belong. Even if your friends have only typically developing children, they still know you and your child. They’ll still be familiar to your child. Members of a support group may need as much help as you do. If they come with you, you’ll be helping each other.
The professionals. Your child’s teacher, instructional assistant, therapist or other professional support team are all familiar with your child and their needs. By definition they are professional grade help. Would one of them be willing to vacation with you and provide help while doing so? You would be exceedingly lucky if they did this and paid their own way but one or other may be willing to trade their services for you covering the cost of their trip. This will, of course, add to your costs but the benefit will be immense.
This recommendation does come with a caution. Depending upon contractual situations, there is a chance that this sort of arrangement would create a conflict of interest for the person involved. Check to make sure that you aren’t putting this person in such a situation. If this becomes a real barrier, don’t forget that ex-teachers, ex-IAs or ex-therapists almost certainly won’t have that conflict.
Others. If you can’t bring any of the people listed above, try to think of others that we may have missed.