06 September 2017

Travelling abroad with a child with additional needs

So as you may know we journeyed to Barcelona over the Summer to stay with my sister and have our first abroad holiday as a family of four. In fact we've not been abroad together as a family for a good number of years (I think Theo was around 18 months!) but this time it was different. There were four of us, and it needed a whole load more planning than usual. I wanted to talk about preparing and organising a family holiday that involves having to take into account everything you might need for a child who has additional medical needs.

I know that planning a family holiday abroad, or in fact even at home can seem like a pretty daunting task. It all looks so easy when you watch people from a far swanning around villas and pools, their kids having the best time, what you don't see are the challenges that come with travelling with children, and even more so those that come with all the additions. For one we had to hold off really even booking anything this year as we had to wait for Rohan's heart procedure to happen, we had two failed attempts and each time then had to wait to be given a new appointment, to pass the surgery pre assessment and then keep our fingers crossed that he didn't catch some bug in the week in between. He finally had a successful procedure in June, which meant our chances of finding any good holiday deals went out the window.

We decided that we wanted to go abroad, seeing that last year our holiday consisted of a week in a tent in the rain in Cornwall (well it was Sunny for a few days, and I do love Cornwall) but after the last few years of holidaying in the UK (all of which we've enjoyed) we felt it was time to try somewhere further and have a proper break. I think we felt like we deserved a little holiday. Considering that actually booking anywhere in the UK would have cost us nearly the same amounts that late in the year. So we decided to try and visit my sister in Barcelona, which is one of our favourite places to visit anyway. Initially we were just going to go for a week and stay with her, but after thinking about it we felt that actually having a little more time and to relax somewhere by a pool would do us all good. So we found a last minute deal in a holiday park with Eurocamp just down the coast from Barcelona. It was perfect. It cost us pretty much all our extra savings, but sometimes you just really need to give yourself a break right?


So then the planning began. Because Rohan is on special high calorie milk we had to take all that we would need with us, as well as his regular medication and all the equipment he needs. This meant that we had to contact the airline to let them know and give us permission to bring all that extra stuff. Thankfully Easyjet were really accommodating and allowed us an extra hold bag with no weight limit, and an extra carry on for the plane. We had to then arrange a letter to be written by two separate people detailing all the things we needed to take with us and why. I mean I know you usually end up having take so much stuff with you anyway when travelling with babies and children, but add in a box of 24 bottles of milk, a CPAP machine, extra masks, a sats monitor, his boots and bars, medication, tubes and leads and you have A LOT. We even had to remember extras such as additional plug adapters for all that we needed to plug in. There was just so much to remember as Rohan relies on all of this to be able to survive, that if we forgot anything then we'd be in a lot of trouble. It's a daunting thought.

So eventually the day of our flight, (which we purposefully booked and paid a but more for) in the middle of the day, to avoid travelling over bedtimes to avoid having to worry about Rohan being overtired or needing his CPAP to sleep. We had to carry on milk to the flight which again required a letter to let security know. But all went really well and Rohan even managed a little nap on the flight for around half an hour. We'd arranged for my sister to meet us at the airport to take the luggage back in their car, whilst my sister and I and the boys took public transport across the city, which was fun and not stressful seeing as we weren't weighed down with bags. The rest of our time in Barcelona passed as most others when travelling with children. Rohan had to forgo some naps at home, and we had to remember to slow down to let them adjust to the new routines, but I think we all had a great time. Day to day was pretty much the same as it is at home, with the normal additional things we have to do for Rohan. Sometimes it's actually easy to forget that our days might look different to other people's, because we do it everyday. When we got to our second part of the holiday we realised that Rohan really needed a few proper days of napping in his cot with his CPAP machine because we'd been out and about most days and he'd been having short naps in his buggy obviously without it, which is fine, but not for prolonged amounts of time as his airways had clearly got weaker for having to work hard during his nap times that he struggled to breathe well one night, even when on his machine. It wasn't ideal but a few days of proper naps seemed to make it better, and we learnt yet another lesson. Maybe we should've had a days rest in between all the outings.

I'm guess not writing this to complain or get pity, more I think to remind myself what we had to do and to share a little of what our experience was like. It's so easy to think that so many people are living these perfect lives, and when you share a smiling holiday picture, often there can be so much unseen that has gone on up until that point that I think it's important to share that things may never be as easy as they seem. I also know that we're pretty lucky to be able to go on a holiday abroad, to afford it and also that Rohan's condition still allows us enough flexibility to do so. I think holidays will always be like this for us, but I'm hoping they will still always be worth the extra effort.

Oh and it definitely didn't go 100% swimmingly, we forgot and left one of our carry on suitcases somewhere in the airport on the way back! Hopefully lost property has it, as it had most of Theo's and Rohan's clothes and we can get it back. I think this was a result of having been allowed an extra bag, but actually not having enough hands for all of our stuff and it being the end of the holiday and being a little worn out! 

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