All families needs vacations, and it could be argued that those with the daily extra challenges of special-needs kids have a special need for R&R-- yet they may have a harder time finding it.
Fortunately, progress is being made on such fronts as wheelchair accessibility, at resorts, theme parks, etc. (See below, for some general resources about accessible travel.)
Family-Friendly Resorts with Nanny Programs
Beach resorts, especially all inclusives, typically offer so many activities and kids programs that every one in the family can have their own style of fun, and with a nanny available for extra help, such resorts might make just the right getaway for families with a special-needs child.
- Franklyn D. Resort is an all inclusive resort on the north coast of Jamaica with an outstanding feature: each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay. Families with special needs receive a 50% discount (not during peak holiday periods, though); this applies to families with physically disabled kids.*
- Beaches Resorts is the family brand of the Sandals chain of all inclusive resorts, and all Beaches properties have kids programs for different ages, a nursery, and a host of activities. Nannies are available for kids with special needs. Note too that all Beaches Resorts -- except Beaches Boscobel, which is built on a hill-- are wheelchair-accessible.
Beaches Turks & Caicos is a popular all inclusive with beautiful white-sand beach, and water park; book early, even for off-season months. Beaches Negril and Beaches Boscobel are both in Jamaica. Beaches Negril has a prime spot, on Negril's 7-mile long beach, and also has a water park.
- Casa de Campo is a giant resort in the Dominican Republic: "giant" as in 7000 acres, legendary golf course, equestrian center, and even a 16th-century-style Italian village. Casa de Campo has many kids programs, and nanny service is available.
- Ocean Club Resort, Turks and Caicos: reportedly has a nanny program. (No kids club, though.)
Finally, a tip from VacationKids.com founder Sally Black:
- "Usually any resort concierge can arrange for private "babysitting", and generally speaking the cost runs from $10-15 per hour; but families might be able to hire a nanny/assistant for a weekly flat fee. They may want to call ahead as it usually takes 24 hours to arrange with the concierge."
Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have good reputations for welcoming guests with disabilities. Check out this Welcome to Disney World page, with sections on mobility disabilities, visual disabilities, and more. A "Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities"-- with details about services and facilities-- can be found at Guest Relations in all four theme parks and at Walt Disney World® Resorts. (Note: Disney World sometimes reorganizes its web site; if the link above doesn't work, just google "Disney World disabilities").
Tip: check the "disABILITIES" section at the DISboards.com bulletin boards site, for discussions of Disney vacations -- and for a "sticky" thread about other vacation ideas, too.
Further Travel Resources that May be Helpful:
- Access-Able Travel Source: this web site has destinations, FAQ's, cruise tips, bulletin board...
- List of travel professionals who have experience with people with special needs, at the Access-Able Travel site
Please note that the writer has not visited all these resorts in person.
*Always check resort websites for updates!