Free Printable Checklist for Special Needs Families Planning a Cruise
My family and I are heading on our first cruise in a few months. We’re so excited about the ship that the kids haven’t stopped talking about it for months. I’m both excited and nervous because as a special needs family we have a few extra steps. Any prolonged trip or even the short ones require some extra planning on our end. With JB being Non-Verbal Autistic nothing is just as easy as picking up and going.
Our first family trip to Hersheypark was a bust. JB had a very difficult time dealing with the crowds of people and he didn’t like any of the rides. We winged it and I have to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. On our second trip we prepared and adapted to make sure he would enjoy himself. If he’s happy the rest of us are usually golden. Making sure his needs are met are a top priority for me, especially with something like a cruise.
This past summer we attend a media event aboard a Carnival ship in our home town. It was the perfect chance for us to get a sense of how JB would react to being on the ship. He was very nervous about boarding the huge ship. It scared him a bit. He was also very impatient about waiting to board the ship. When we were dining he didn’t understand why some people had their food and he didn’t have his yet. All things we stored in our memory bank to help us better prepare for our upcoming cruise.
Tips & Suggestions for Special Needs Families
I know not all special needs family is made the same. We are all different with our own unique set of challenges. I created the free printable as a way to help families like mines plan for a cruise and cut down on stress while planning. There’s no way you can completely prepare for everything but I hope my checklist keep you on track of some of the basics. Here’s a few tips and suggestions to help along with the checklist.
- If your child has a special diet please check your cruise line’s policy on dietary needs. While they may offer some options as far as gluten-free or sugar-free options, they may not have more complex offerings. Contact the customer service department prior to sailing to address any special dietary needs in case you need to shop for your own snacks for onboard the ship.
- If you’re flying try to book and travel the day before your cruise. This gives your child the opportunity to destress between events. Flying can be very stressful for special needs families, so getting to spend the night in a hotel the day before heading to port will shorten your travel day. You can also look into this option for when you return from your cruise as well.
- I can’t stress this enough but if your child requires special medical equipment please make sure you pack it with you. Inform the airline and cruise ship of any special medical equipment. I would recommend using a back up just in case anything happens while you’re traveling.
- Pack all your required medication in your carry on bag or a special back pack for your child. Once you’re on board the ship it could be hours before you see your luggage. Keep all your required medications on you ensures you’re covered at all times. I also recommend packing a change of clothes as well in your carry on bag for the ship.
- Have a practice dry run at the airport if possible. Our local airport participates in the Wings for Autism program and hold special trail runs for families with children on the spectrum to help them through the process of going through security and boarding the plane.
These are just a few of the tips to help families like mines when traveling or planning a cruise. Check out my detailed checklist if you’re planning a cruise or any long travel trips in the future.
Are you a special needs mom/dad and have tips you use for traveling with kids? Share them in the comments below.