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Travelling with Friends--How to make it happen

Feb 18, 2014

The Vacation and Travel Issue:

 

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FEATURE ARTICLE

 

Travelling with Friends--How to make it happen

 

For many years, a group of four women friends have travelled together, accompanied by their long-time support worker. They’ve had adventures that most of us only dream about. They’ve gone:

  • helmet diving in Bermuda.
  • on a helicopter ride down the Grand Canyon.
  • hot air ballooning in PEI.
  • tidal bore rafting in Nova Scotia.
  • parasailing in Cuba.
  • up a chairlift to a wolf reserve in the Rockies.
  • on a carriage ride in Central Park, New York City.

“It gives them a great sense of pride to tell friends and family about their experiences,” says Susan Bunn, their support worker. “They have a wealth of things to talk about. And that helps with community interaction.”

Accompanied by Bunn, the four women now go on several weekend getaways and one major trip per year. “They have more of a sense of freedom than they would travelling with their parents,” says Bunn. Often, the parents take a separate trip at the same time. Or they just enjoy a break at home.

Think your son or daughter might love a getaway with friends? We asked Bunn for her advice and tips:

  • Find a compatible support worker. Advertise through respiteservices.com, use word of mouth or consider hiring a family friend.
  • Get to know each other. Try easy outings based on interests. Bunn initially accompanied the women to local classes in cardmaking and quiltmaking. Eventually, they added on lunch or a movie to the day’s plan. These outings helped them to connect.
  • Start local and nearby. “Start small because there can be risks once you start going out of country,” advises Bunn. As theatre lovers, the group went for dinner and shows at Stage West and in Toronto. They also enjoyed a night of dancing on a Toronto cruise.
  • Plan day trips. Try outings such as Niagara Falls, a waterpark, theatre at Stratford or Niagara on the Lake or attractions such as the CN Tower. (Check to see if attractions accept an Access to Entertainment Card(http://easterseals.ca/english/access-2-entertainment-card) enabling free or discounted admission for a support person.)
  • Build up to an overnight or weekend away. The women Bunn supports especially enjoy a yearly “girls’ getaway” weekend at Fern Resort in Orillia. “The same people come back each year, so they know everyone,” says Bunn. “It’s a totally inclusive environment.” Their favourite weekend activities include jewellery making and zumba classes.
  • Take turns choosing travel destinations. In Bunn’s travel group, they rotate who gets to choose their next trip. But all must agree and be comfortable with the choice.
  • Plan ahead and research online. To keep costs low, Bunn researches good deals on travel, car rental and accommodations.As well, she finds trip activities and sightseeing options online so the women can choose what they like. “We’ve been doing this so long together that they mostly plan the activities themselves,” she says.
  • Agree on guidelines. “I do a lot of things for the women on the trip because I want them to have fun,” says Bunn. But they also share tasks. On trips that aren’t all-inclusive, the women shop for food and cook together. Says Bunn: “I tell them:‘I’m here to help for things you need support with, but I’m not your maid.’”
  • Share support costs. When three or four friends travel together, it lessens support costs. Typically, individuals pay for their own trip plus they split the cost of the support person’s trip. As well, each traveller pays a daily fee to the support worker.
  • Make emergency plans. Everyone needs medical and trip cancellation insurance. Also make a back-up plan in case a participant or support worker has to return home unexpectedly. Parents usually agree to personally transport their son or daughter home in an emergency.
  • Finalize activity plans with families. “I just love that these women will try new things,” says Bunn. “They know I won’t push them beyond their comfort level.” With parents, they discuss plans beforehand and have individuals (or parents) sign waivers if needed.
  • Explain your group’s needs: When booking activities that might need modifying, phone ahead and explain your needs. When reserving a hot air balloon ride, Bunn gave a heads up about their group. “We got a really positive response,” she says.“The operator emailed back to ask what supports we would need to make it successful.”
  • Try different kinds of vacations. Each type offers different pros and cons. “All- inclusive resorts and cruises are great for getting to know other guests,” says Bunn. “You often sit with the same guests at dinner or at the pool.” While a road trip is fun, it may not offer the same social opportunities. “We didn’t meet people and interact with them in the same way when renting a car and staying at different hotels.”
  • Book basic accommodations. Fancy hotel rooms tend to be unimportant. To save money on a cruise, Bunn booked inside rooms. “One lady was a little claustrophobic,” she says. “But she got used to it.”
  • Capture the memories. Afterwards, Bunn and her travel companions often scrapbook their travel photos. It’s a great way to share the adventures with friends and family.

 

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