Travelling with a Child Who Has Special Needs? Here's What You Need to Know

Plan ahead and Be Prepared So You Can Relax and Enjoy your time away

Travelling with a Child Who Has Special Needs? Here's What You Need to Know

Travelling with a Child Who Has Special Needs? Here's What You Need to Know

Our daughter has developmental delays, Epilepsy and other medical issues, so the thought of flying her to a tropical island rife with germs, and food borne illnesses freaks me out. But worrying about what “could” happen is no longer an option because life is happening right now. Worry has been given its walking papers, and in its place are plane tickets!

I’ve come to believe that it IS possible to have a safe and relaxing family holiday if we do the research and prepare properly.

Our Elf on the Shelf arrived last week for his yearly visit. He had a letter tucked under one arm and my son read the news aloud that Santa was sending our family away to Cuba for the holidays. My son shouted, “We’re going to Cuba??!! Avery, we’re going to Cuba!!!”

My daughter shrieked, “What?? Cuba!! We’re going to Cuba!! Oh my gosh, CUBAHHHHH!” 

“Do you know what Cuba is?” her dad asked her.

“No...” she answered smiling, excited as anyone could possibly be about something they had never heard of. The girl is 100% all in, all the time. 

We showed the kids YouTube videos from the resort and talked about palm trees and white sandy beaches and snorkeling in the ocean. I was so happy; I could barely catch my breath. 

As exciting as it is, the worry is still there just below the surface, threatening to bust out and grab me by the throat, choking away the joy. So to keep the travel anxiety from ruining the fun, I’m in full planning mode. This means research, doctor appointments to update our vaccinations, shopping, packing, and checking my lists (taking Santa’s lead, I’m checking them twice).  

If you have family travel plans, you might benefit from my slightly neurotic but highly efficient travel checklist. Sharing is caring, so “Lisa’s List for Travel” is below. Feel free to peruse at your leisure. Also, if you have any additional travel tips I’ve missed, please leave them in the comments. I have room at the bottom of my list to add more because… amply prepared = maximum joy

1. Is There A Doctor In The House?

Find out what medical facilities are available ahead of time. Choose a destination and specific resort with appropriate medical facilities, access, and amenities. Is there a hospital nearby? A 24/7 doctor at the resort? Bring phone numbers for all physicians/specialists at home.

2. Not Up-to-Date? Then Vaccinate!

Find out what vaccine preventable diseases exist at your destination and vaccinate accordingly. Vaccines help protect against illness and outbreaks at home and away, so we stick to the vaccination schedule. If too many people delay or refuse vaccines, more cases of serious diseases can be spread. I contacted a travel clinic and was advised that hepatitis A, and hepatitis B are risks in Cuba.  My daughter, husband, and I needed one more dose of hepatitis A and B to be travel-ready. Since our son completed the hepatitis B series as part of the school vaccination program, his was a simple, one shot deal. 

“A family that vaccinates together, travels together.” Or something like that... :)

3. Pack a First Aid Kit 

Holiday travel can include activities and gatherings with lots of people (who can easily spread germs by coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing drinks), so it's wise to be prepared for anything — from a cold to a nasty bought of traveler’s tummy. Drugstore goods abroad can be pricey and hard to find, so bringing along supplies is a must.

The Thornbury First Aid Kit Includes:

  • Aspirin
  • Tylenol and Advil
  • Tums
  • Imodium
  • Electrolyte Packets
  • Band-Aids
  • Polysporin
  • Multivitamins
  • Throat Lozenges
  • Thermometer
  • Reactin
  • Benadryl
  • After Sun Lotion and After Bite
  • Visine
  • Ear plugs & Ear Drops (in case of Swimmer’s Ear)
  • Daily medications (the ones my daughter takes) plus EXTRA packed separately in case they get lost. I pack important daily meds in my purse and keep them with me on the plane.

*You won’t need to buy all of these since you probably have lots of these supplies already. Also, you don’t need a full supply—just enough for your stay. 

4. Ensure To Insure

Call your insurance company to double check that your policy is sufficient and up-to-date. Remember to bring your policy number and contact numbers with you so they are nearby if needed.

5. Pack Snacks!

A friend told me the food in Cuba is awful. Her exact words were, “Good luck with the no-eating.” Great. Others have said the food is just kind of bland. So we’re bringing a few food items to ensure the kids stay well fed. 

Our Snack Pack Includes:

  • Ketchup packets (apparently the ketchup there is weird, so…)
  • Jello & apple sauce cups
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Packets of nuts/nut clusters
  • Granola and Protein Bars
  • Healthy water enhancer (we like Stur) to add to bottled water. Of course water is best, but my daughter doesn’t drink much. If a fruity flavour makes her drink more, great. I’d like this to be a "no dehydration vacation," if possible. 
  • Pediasure—when every calorie counts, it's a “milkshake” before bed!

6. What's The Hubbub On The Kids Club?

Be sure to look into the Kids Club since your kid may be spending a lot of time there. Is it suitable? Is it safe? Are the caretakers well trained and able to handle a child with special needs? The kids club at the resort we will be staying at looks great online, however I'll investigate in person when we get there. 

7. This Is Only A Drill

After checking into the hotel, do a run-through of emergency procedures. Locate exits, talk about what it might happen if there's a fire-drill (some kids with special needs are terrified of loud alarms), talk about safety (e.g. no leaving the room or going near the pool without a parent).  

*If your child is a wanderer, bring a portable travel door alarm so you'll be alerted if they open the door while you're sleeping. 

Happy travels friends! May all roads lead to fun and sun and happy, healthy, good times. 

This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions of the author are their own.


Orangetheory Fitness: A Workout for Those Who Make Exercise Excuses

"Orange Ya Glad To Get Your Mojo Back?"

Orangetheory Fitness: A Workout for Those Who Make Exercise Excuses

Orangetheory Fitness: A Workout for Those Who Make Exercise Excuses

Over the past few years, I lost my mojo and gained 20 pounds in its place. With a family reunion coming up this spring, I want to get back in shape, feel energized, and get my mojo back. I’m still in shape. Well, “a” shape, anyway. Think ‘soft pear.’ My clothes don’t fit and I’m tired all the time. I’m frustrated with myself for letting it get to this point.

  • I blame my busy life.
  • I blame working from home and sitting for hours on end on my rear end. 
  • I blame my lack of self-control. I bought three boxes of Girl Guide cookies to be a good neighbour. I put them in the freezer to stop myself from eating them. Guess what? Frozen chocolate mint cookies are delicious. 
  • I blame my inability to make myself a priority. Every single thing, big or small, real or imagined, takes priority over exercise. 

I understand that if I exercise consistently and effectively, I’ll lose weight, tone my flabby pear bits, and get my energy back. I understand, but I haven't been doing it. 

I tried working out at home and it went well. For four days. Then I got bored. When the instructor shouted at me from my computer screen to “really lean into the stretch” I stretched out on the floor and felt something sticky. My floor was filthy. I made a mental note to mop. I just laid there, thinking about how much it would cost to hire a cleaning lady. Then I reached for my phone and texted a friend to ask for the name of her cleaning company. That’s a fun little peek into my attention span.

The fact is, I NEED to work out in public. My competitive streak and fear of looking lazy means if there are eyes on me, I’ll stay focused until the end of the workout. When the opportunity to be an Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) Ambassador came up, I was on it like me on a burrito on a Friday night. In other words, I was all over it.

One of the best things about OTF for me is that if I bail, I pay. Clearly, I need that since I’m an expert bailer. Let’s just say, if your boat is sinking, you’ll want me on board. Class sizes are limited to 24 participants per class, so you need to pre-book your sessions (by phone or online via the app). If you don’t show up, or cancel 24-hours prior, you pay. Since I’m frugal, I will not bail. When I’m feeling well-rested and energetic, I book my next week of classes. Then, by the time I'm feeling lazy and busy, it’s too late. I have to show up. I fall for it every time. 

Also, I do better when I have a goal. I’m flying home to B.C. for a wedding in May. Not to outshine the bride (impossible, you’re beautiful Robyn) but it would be nice if the family and friends I haven’t seen for years said: "Wow, what has she done to herself?” But in a good way. And I can reply, “Body by OTF and lots of hard work!” I might bow or just flex my arm muscles and wink. I haven’t worked it all out yet. Maybe I won’t wow anyone. The only person I really want to wow is myself. 

I’ve been working out at OTF for nearly a month. This crushes my record of four days. Yes, four days of classes is usually how long I last before I quit and move on to something else. Or onto long periods of doing absolutely nothing. After my first OTF workout I could barely lower myself onto the toilet the next day. My husband heard me whimper, “It burns...” from the bathroom. He was relieved to hear I was referring to my hamstrings. 

My coach suggested some stretches to do at home. The OTF coaches (who have biceps for days... #want) have my back. I like the idea of instructors keeping an eye on me and my heart rate because, and this is no joke, I sometimes worry because of my age, my history with high BP, and the fact that my fitness level is in the toilet, that I could actually die.

Good news, I'm still alive! And I'm feeling pretty damn great. The people working out alongside me are friendly and fun to chat with (when I can actually breathe enough to form words). They’re also helpful and self-deprecating — the lady with the blonde ponytail basically sprinting on the treadmill as I lumber along is a total rock star. But when I told her that she said, “Oh, I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ll get there.” And she made me feel like I could actually get there. She also told me she’s been at OTF for a year and a half and she loves it more now than ever. I'm SO excited to hear that. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned about Orangetheory Fitness so far (I'll be posting tips I'm learning along the way on Twitter and Instagram too!)

1. This workout is for everybody and all fitness levels!

I was concerned about keeping up. What if I made a fool of myself? What if I hit the “orange heart rate zone” just by bending over to tie up my shoes? I needn’t have worried. Nobody cares what level you’re at. They’re too busy trying to crush their own workout to notice what you’re doing. 

2. Orangetheory Fitness is an energizing group personal training program, unlike any I've ever experienced.

A lot of my friends have personal trainers. They get great results, but it’s way out of my price range. OTF is more expensive than your run-of-the-mill gym membership, but WAY less expensive than a personal trainer.

3. This 60-minute full body workout is backed by science.

The workout is broken into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training. Skilled coaches guide us through each session. We use a variety of equipment including treadmills, rowing machines, TRX suspension training, and free weights. I burn an average of 500-1,000 calories per workout, including after-burn. 

4. Previous to OTF, the only “after-burn” I experienced was post burrito.

LOL! Orangetheory’s heart-rate-monitored training is designed to maintain a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. The result is the Orange Effect — more energy, visible toning, and extra calorie burn for up to 36-hours post-workout. You continue to burn calories AFTER your workout!

Everyone in the class is equipped with a heart-rate monitor to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout. Your results are broadcasted live on TV monitors throughout the studio. Don’t worry, it’s not embarrassing. It’s highly motivating. 

5. When I walk into the studio I'm greeted by name.

How nice is that? Another special touch I appreciate is that I can leave my phone at the front desk. If my kids' school should happen to call, they'll answer for me. As the parent of a child with medical concerns, this gives me peace of mind, so I can relax and focus on my workout. 

Only a few weeks in and I’ve already lost weight and inches. But what I’ve lost doesn’t nearly compare with what I’ve gained. I feel happy. I feel confident. I feel more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt again. I feel inspired to keep burning! When my family asks, “Orange ya glad you tried Orangetheory?” This "too busy for exercise, chronic bailer" says, YES! 

Orangetheory Fitness is expanding its Greater Toronto Area studios to 11 in 2016 and adding another ten in 2017 and memberships can be bought now. Come try it with me!