The best holidays for families with special needs

Bag the perfect trip for people of all abilities, from accessible accommodation to a respite break for full-time carers

  • Those with disabilities can enjoy a white-water rafting experience at Lee Valley 
  • Charitytourismforall.co.uk can help with wheelchair-friendly accommodation
  • There are also low-cost options for those looking after relatives with dementia

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week, he explores holidays for families with special needs.

The peak holiday booking season is in full swing, and here’s how to pick the perfect break, whether you need accessible accommodation, a place that disabled children will love or a respite break for full-time carers. 

There are also low-cost options for those looking after relatives with dementia.

FACT-FINDING

Extra help: Those with disabilities can still enjoy a white-water rafting experience at Lee Valley in Hertfordshire

The Rough Guide To Accessible Britain (accessibleguide.co.uk) is packed with information so you’ll know exactly what to expect at attractions across the UK. For example, different coloured helmets are handed out discreetly to those with disabilities at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire so that staff can offer extra assistance if required.

Charitytourismforall.co.uk can also help with details of wheelchair-friendly accommodation, plus recommendations for places to stay, shop and eat for those with autism.

And for honest opinions, the fast-growing euansguide.com has thousands of reviews written by disabled travellers or their carers.

When booking a hotel or holiday cottage, you should take its own promises about suitability for different needs with a pinch of salt. Get more certainty by checking against the nine categories of the National Accessibility Scheme that show, for example, if rooms or properties are suitable for older and less mobile guests, or visually impaired or blind people.

Some firms, including Premier Cottages (premiercottages.co.uk), now carry the NAS logos on suitable accommodation.

GET SOME ASSISTANCE

Families caring for over-18s with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s or spina bifida can also find a fabulous holiday. The charity revitalise.org.uk has three fully accessible centres in the UK with 24-hour, nurse-led care and bags of entertainment.

Take a trip to London skyscraper The Shard, pictured above 

Stay at Jubilee Lodge in Essex and there are excursions to the top of London’s Shard and to West End shows. Stay at Netley Waterside House near Southampton and you can take a speedboat across the Solent or try accessible cycling.

Pick Sandpipers in Southport and enjoy trips to the Lake District or the lights of Blackpool. Families can come, too, or they can take a break elsewhere while on-call registered nurses and carers offer all the support required.

Three times a year, the Revitalise centres offer week-long ‘Treasured Moments’ holidays for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Full-board prices start at £799pp – and staff can guide people to local-authority or charity funding that can reduce the bill.

FURTHER AFIELD

Specialist tour firms such as enableholidays.com help find adapted accommodation for wheelchair users and others around the world, including gites in France and beachside holidays in Cape Town. 

Meanwhile, disabledaccessholidays.com can help with mobility equipment hire.

British Airways is training staff to offer extra help to passengers who wear the Sunflower lanyard to signify a hidden disability, such as a speech impairment. Find out more at heathrow.com.

HELP WITH THE BILLS

Paying for travel can be tough, especially if you need extra care, but many charities can help. Those focused on specific medical conditions or disabilities will know their sector best. Organisations such as familyfund.org.uk and carers.org also have useful contacts.

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