Many of us see holidays as a break from routine, and the never-ending cycle of school runs, work and food shopping. However, when travelling with a disabled child, they often still rely on routine, familiarity and a certain amount of security, which is why so many families with disabled children return year after year to the exact location, own caravans or motorhomes or don’t even leave the house. It got me thinking, and I don’t often write about disability or special needs; I’m not sure why but I’ve realised it’s okay to write about the things I’m an expert in, so I’ve decided to share with you 5 top holiday ideas with a disabled child in the UK.
If you are planning your next break, whether in the spring, summer, autumn or winter months, you probably naturally look for holidays where the weather will be warmer or the case in the UK with less rain but travel outside of the UK is complicated right now. Those travelling with children stress out enough without the added pressure of a disabled child. So what better alternative than staying within the UK and enjoying a break closer to home or even staying at home?
Before confirming all the details, maybe sit down as a family and ensure that you can cover all your needs while considering the child’s particular requirements. This will help ensure that you all get the best of your holiday.
5 Top Holiday Ideas with a Disabled Child in the UK
Holidays at Home
Who can forget the advice in 2020 to stay at home, to consider not travelling at all? Many of us adapted to staying home, keeping the kids entertained in the garden, or using local parks. Should we be looking to up our entertainment and fun this year? Now not to confuse staying at home with a UK staycation; this will be where you physically stay home. There are also opportunities to get out and about with English Heritage, Merlin Resorts and National Trust sites on your doorstep.
I have spoken to friends who have hired hot tubs, booked a chef, and built a garden cocktail bar; the list is endless to what some of us have been getting up to over the last three years. So here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Garden or park picnic
- Camp out in the garden
- Hire a hot tub, or if your budget stretches, purchase one
- Movie night or favourite television show binge
- Start an online course or learn a new language as a family.
We find holiday parks offer the most accessible accommodation as a family, with Haven Perran Sands being our firm favourite for nearly ten years. The most established holiday parks, such as Butlins, Haven, Parkdean and Hoseasons, have accommodations, including adapted caravans and free onsite entertainment. There are parks to suit everyone, for those who like being near a beach or a quieter retreat.
We love our breaks away with Haven holidays and can highly recommend them, who in 2017 won the Best Family Holiday Company. They have a great range of accommodations to suit families’ needs, including chalets, apartments, tents and caravans, with some caravans having accessible ramps.
If, however, you want more of a respite. A place where activities are organised to get an hour or two to spend with your other children or your partner, then have you considered a respite holiday or disabled access holiday?
Sometimes as parents, we all need a little break from our caring responsibilities. We shouldn’t feel guilty about this, but some holidays offer a respite type of holiday. Many options are available for respite holidays – from specialist centres that provide holidays for people needing care to breaks for carers.
There are three types of respite holidays available within the UK, respite with care, holidays together and breaks for carers.
- Respite with care: the person you’re caring for goes on holiday to a specialist centre that can provide the care and support they need while taking your own break from caring.
- Holidays together: you and the person you care for take a holiday together. This allows you both to enjoy a change of scenery and the benefits of a holiday without arranging replacement care. Depending on the centre, it doesn’t necessarily allow you time away from the day-to-day caring responsibilities.
- Breaks for carers: you take a holiday while the person you care for stays in a care home or is cared for by someone else for a short time.
Respite with care
Respite holidays with care offer specialist accommodation, travel and activities for people with illnesses or disabilities. While this isn’t for everybody, I know of friends who have sent their older teenagers to this type of respite, and I have heard extremely positive things. While our son is too young to be away from home with strangers, it is something to consider if you are a single parent or need time to recharge and appreciate some self-care and know your child is probably having a fantastic time. Often places can be funded or supplemented by charities.
Special respite holidays are for people with disabilities and their carers/families. Places like Revitalise want it to be a proper holiday for disabled people and carers. Tourism for All also has a wealth of information for all your travel planning needs, from disabled-friendly attractions and accommodations to restaurants that accommodate wheelchairs.
Holidays together can be a great way to receive the care and support your child needs and still enjoy your time together. There are various options to suit people with specific illnesses and different mobility and care needs. Not all the accommodation below includes carers, medical or nursing care, but this could be arranged privately before you travel.
- Barretstown – Free, specially designed camps and programmes for children and their families living with a serious illness – supported behind the scenes by 24-hour on-site medical and nursing care.
- Homelands – Fife-based charity working to improve the quality of life of individuals affected by disability, people with life-limiting conditions and their carers through the provision of luxury holiday accommodation.
- Wall Eden Farm – is based in Somerset near Burnham on Sea and has wheelchair-accessible log cabins with outdoor hot tubs.
Breaks for Carers
Caring for someone full-time can be very demanding – both physically and emotionally, and I should know. I have a very hyperactive 12-year-old with complex needs. Naturally, you’ll need time apart now and again, so you can recharge your batteries.
Some arrange for family or friends to help for a few hours or a day or two. We are lucky enough to access a short break scheme in a neighbouring county. Thankfully they are open at weekends and during the holidays; we usually have access to three sessions a term which can be a stretch in the summer holidays.
There are, however, options for you to have respite care and support at home or, depending on your area, they can have respite care in a care home if this is something that you feel suits your needs better.
Family Activity Holiday
If you have a disabled child who loves nothing more than feeling the wind in their hair or screaming as loud as they can, then an activity holiday may be precisely what you are looking for, especially with older teenagers or young adults. The Calvert Trust is an activity centre in the Lake District that offers multi-activity courses, including:
- Wheelchair assault course
- Horse riding
- High Rope Course
Not all activities will be available, so it’s best to ask what will be available when booking. Aside from The Calvert Trust, other activities can be done locally, including indoor snowboarding or skiing, and they even offer holidays. In the last few years, indoor trampolining parks have popped up everywhere, with many offering SEN/Autism friendly sessions. They are an excellent way to get your child interested in an activity, usually with a free carer pass. It can be a little hit-and-miss as to how busy they can be, but there is typically no music, and attendants understand the needs of those with sensory issues.
If you and your family are the more outdoors type, there are also water sports like swimming, canoeing and speedboat rides that are often accessible to those with disabilities and additional needs. So if paddleboarding is your thing or kayaking, it is worth investigating your local area.
Sometimes all you want to do is get away from it all. As far as the eye can see, Woodland walks, log cabins with wood burners and trees with no one around for miles. It sounds incredible to me, and I can’t wait to go on a woodland holiday in the next few years. The top three most accessible accommodations are Forest holidays, Center Parcs, and National Trust Membership – Woodland breaks. In some locations, you can use a personal caravan, tent or motorhome of your choice. Woodland breaks are one of the perfect holiday ideas for a disabled child.
So there you have my 5 Top Holiday Ideas with a Disabled Child in the UK, however, sometimes it isn’t the holiday type that’s the problem but the financing, so as a little summary. Below are a few charities and associations that offer grants, support and sometimes free holidays for families needing a well-deserved break.
Financing that well-deserved break can be challenging. When every little penny counts, organisations receive support to allow those in need to appreciate a good holiday. The Family Holiday Association is one organisation. They offer short breaks and days out, but they usually have strict guidelines of where you can stay and for how long, and you have to be referred by either a teacher, family support worker or social worker. So it is worth investigating if finances are an issue.
Over the last five to six years, we have used Family Fund to help with our family holidays, and without them, we wouldn’t have been to go on half our holidays. The other website to check out is Disability-Grants.org; they list all the charities, trusts, accommodations and funding you may qualify for.
I hope you found this post interesting; even if you are not directly affected, please feel free to share with friends and family who may benefit from knowing the 5 Top Holiday Ideas with a Disabled Child in the UK. Also, drop me a comment below if any of my tips have inspired you, with or without a disabled child.
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