Diary of a special needs mom: The Realities of Planning the Perfect, Relaxing Vacation

May 4, 2016 | Abram's Nation

The following narrative blends stories from our real Abram’s Bed families to fictionally capture the trials and successes we experience as special needs families. None of the names or situations is meant to resemble a specific reality, but the universal difficulties are intended to enlighten and endear.

 Planning a vacation looms over my spare time this month. Certainly, scheduling always presents a problem because we are a blended family with a special needs son. This presents its own challenges that sometimes make me want to give up the idea of planning anything. Even a weekend away seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

But I remember my family trips as a child, and I cherish those memories. I want my children to have these memories, too.

After we have worked out the schedule and the money—argh, that’s another issue—I know we have a week and a half in June. Yes, a brief ten-day period in June: Two kids and the two of us. Let’s go somewhere fun and easy for all of us.

And by easy for all of us, I mostly mean Jacob. Planning a trip with him is tricky.

Jacob is on the Autism Spectrum. He has so much energy and life, but too many people and too much chaos triggers him. The typical excitement of a theme park overwhelms him, and he can lose it. We need a vacation place where Jacob and his brother can run around and enjoy lots of activities, but is also sensitive to his special needs.

Through some research, I have our trip narrowed down to three.

Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio

Everyone with special needs is admitted free to this park. Outside of San Antonio, this theme park offers full access to everyone. Morgan’s Wonderland has tons of sensory activities and rides, all encouraging for young minds, including the Sensory Village and Pirate Island Playground.

Morgan’s Wonderland offers hotel discounts in the area, and the sensory interactions seem particularly well-suited for Jacob. The rest of us can certainly find some quiet hotel in the evening to rest. Maybe we can enjoy the Riverwalk and the Alamo in San Antonio, too?

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN

Set in the Smoky Mountains, Dollywood advertises the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, SkyZip, lots of rides and water rides (open in the summer). The park advertises plenty of festivals, and the Smoky Mountains offer lots of beauty and other opportunities.

The water park and the rides sound perfect, and even the drive through the Smokies might not be torture. I love the mountains, and this might be the perfect, peaceful vacation to see a little of the country. We could borrow my parents’ RV and drive through the Smokies, camping along the way…. 

Franklyn D. Resort and Spa—Runaway Bay, Jamaica

This one may have to wait for a different year because of the money, but boy, does this place sound phenomenal. At Franklyn D. Resort and Spa a personal nanny is assigned to our family, all meals are included, family activities for adults and kids, and it’s right next to the beach. Sounds amazing. I might come back from this vacation rested if I don’t kayak and snorkel too much.

We may start saving a vacation at this resort next year. The private rooms, planned activities, adult activities, kid functions, and scheduled meals make this sound like a dream. This is the kind of vacation I would plan for myself, and each of us would be able to have amazing activities throughout the day. And time to relax.

For a week and half in June, the four of us will go somewhere amazing. We’ll probably fight, and I might be glad to come home.

But we will get away, and make lots of memories—hopefully, mostly good ones. More updates to come….