Vacation = Risk Management Plan

As we plan to take our next family vacation we are reminded of the difference we face to go on vacations each year.  For us family vacation planning is a risk management plan.  Like all families we have a plan, we just have Plan A (the actual plan), Plan B (the backup plan) and Plan C (the bug out plan). 

Plan A (the actual plan).

Like everyone we create a plan for our vacations.  What are we going to do and who are we going to see.  For the past several years we go to Orlando on vacation, for many reasons that I will detail later.  So for us, our plan usually consists of where are we going to stay, what parks are we going to visit and pool days.  Like many families we try not to overload the schedule.  We also try to set ourselves up for success, we do this in two ways (1) we bring the grandparents on vacation, this allows for extra adults during difficult situations (2) we rent a house instead of a typical hotel, to allow for extra space for Savannah to get down time as needed. 

As a part of Plan A-we try to avoid meltdowns-risk aversion. We do this in three ways (1) prepare Savannah for the trip in advance, (2) do our research before we go, and consult disability services when we arrive at the park (3) when we go, bring comfort items with us. 

Prepare Savannah in Advance:

For Savannah we start talking about going on vacation weeks in advance, and slowly increase our conversation as we get closer the go date.  We use language like, “5 more sleeps until we go to Disney World,” and “We are going to Disney World on spring break.”  We also tell her who is coming with us and which park we are going to visit. 

Do Our Research:

The first year we went to Disney we did not do our research and it went terribly wrong.  The experience ended after two hours on a shuttle and tram to get to the park and finally Savannah had enough.  We spent maybe a few hours in the park ending with Plan C (Escape).  Everyone had told us how great Disney was for families on the spectrum, but we did it all wrong.  After that we committed to doing our research to determine the best way to tackle the parks. We found out, all parks offer some form of “line skipping” for children that cannot handle standing in line for long periods of time.  It varies from park to park but is a resource we depend on to avoid Plan B.        

Bring Comfort Items:

Like all of the risk avoiders above, we also bring comfort items to the parks to avoid meltdowns. For our family, comfort items include a stroller (for a little seclusion), teddy (her favorite lovie), and snacks.  As a part of our research we discovered you can bring small coolers into most parks.  Also as a part of the disability services you can state that your child is on a special diet and parks will allow you to bring food items in.  This has been a life saver for us, as snacks and food usually divert meltdowns.  Also, Disney now offers fruit at a reasonable price at many of the refreshment stands within the parks.    

Plan B (The Backup Plan):

I’m sure a lot of families have a backup plan on vacation.  Backup plans probably consist of what do we do on a rainy day, or what if we just don’t feel like doing something on a particular day.  For us, we plan extensively for the backup.  As stated above, my husband and I do extensive online research on the places we plan to visit. We try to ensure we have a place to go if we have a meltdown.  Luckily all of the parks in the Orlando area have “quiet zones” for families like us to get away from the crowds.  Also, many parks have trained staff and weighted vests or blankets available during crisis situations. To find “quiet zones” and other services we do research online and ALWAYS consult with disability services when we get to the park.

Plan C (The Escape Plan):

When all else fails, leave!!!  The first year we went to Orlando, we were not prepared and all hell broke loose. Plan A quickly dissolved and Plan B was non-existent.  After many bribes, begging and pleading it was obvious that we were in over our heads. My husband and I quickly devised an escape plan that consisted of getting out of the park as fast as possible and calling an Uber back to our hotel (fail #1 see Plan A).  My parents were devastated that we spent hundreds of dollars to abruptly leave without fully experiencing the park.  In the end, we knew it was the right thing to do for our family. Sometimes you just need to get out. Know your breaking point and call it quits if necessary. 

Like all families we enjoy vacation, we just do it a little different.

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