Educational Travel with Special Needs or Dietary RestrictionsTerie Thompson
If you, or a loved one, have a special need or dietary restriction and will be traveling with a student group, Educational Destinations has you covered. When a group is focused on education, it is easy to overlook issues with accessibility, facilities, and other factors to consider to ensure all members of the group are able to participate and enjoy the trip to the fullest extent. Group travel with special needs members requires extra consideration at every stage of planning and executing the trip.
It is important to travel with a tour provider that will make your special needs or dietary restrictions travelers a priority. In planning a trip, remember that everyone in the group deserves to participate in all of the activities.
Educational Destinations has recently overhauled its process for addressing travelers’ special needs and dietary restrictions: they are now handled individually. It is the right thing to do, and it is the level of service that all of our travelers deserve. No matter if the need is a food allergy or a physical limitation, Educational Destinations special needs and dietary restrictions travelers are assigned a dedicated Operations Coordinator who will address requests, need by need.
Here are some questions and answers that will help your travelers during their next trip with Educational Destinations:
When you register for the trip, don’t forget to tell us about any special needs your traveler has, like a physical limitation or a food allergy. Please share that information with us, so we can explore options and plan the best possible experience for your family member.
For physical limitations, please share everything that might help us plan. For instance, if walking all day for several days is going to be a struggle, let us know. While the group is on foot, we may be able to arrange a location for you to take a break. If you get around by wheelchair, let us know. We want to be sure your fold-able wheelchair will fit in the motor coach luggage bay. We may even be able to reserve a handicap-accessible motor coach if you contact us early enough.
Key Tip – Select and brief your traveler’s wheelchair companion, and have the two practice together, before trip departure.
For travelers with cognitive disabilities, some amusement parks offer a rider switch program, which allows one person to experience a ride, while another person waits with the traveler who does not. The two helpers then swap places to allow the second traveler to ride without waiting in line. Also, some parks offer a guide that addresses each attraction’s specific triggers, such as flashing lights, loud noises, surprise elements, etc.
Key Tip – Request cognitive disability information from amusement parks and other attractions early in trip planning.
If there is a food allergy, it’s important for travelers to tell us the specific foods they must avoid, as well as the alternative foods they can eat. For instance, if one has nut allergies, list the specifics (i.e., My student is allergic to almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and cashews, but not allergic to peanuts and pine nuts). If your traveler is a vegetarian, let us know if they may eat dairy products, eggs, honey, and gelatin. Be as specific as possible. Once we’re informed, we will contact our dining vendors to gather meal options. We work together and do our best to accommodate dining needs.
For those who have food restrictions based on faith traditions, let us know your traveler’s specific needs, so we may arrange appropriate meals.
Key Tip – Let us know what you CAN eat, in addition to the foods that you cannot eat.
Check the “Special Need” box when you fill-in your online tour registration. This is the best way to let us know that your traveler has a specific concern. When the trip is moved from the Travel Designer stage to your Operations Agent, he or she will send an introductory e-mail to each person who checked the Special Need box. Reply to the Agent with detailed information by the requested due date.
Key Tip – Be open. Be specific.
Your Operations Agent contacts vendors with specific requests. Once arrangements are finalized, Special Needs details are given to your Educational Destinations Tour Director, who re-confirms them and travels with your group throughout its trip. Receiving Special Needs details early allows us to plan the most appropriate course of action.
Key Tip – Share information as soon as you receive your Special Needs email. It takes time to gather options and determine a plan of action.
Share the Special Needs of your traveler with teachers and chaperones. The latter are the traveler’s main ‘contact people’. Also, the special needs traveler should be coached to be his or her own advocate, especially in situations when ‘contact people’ are not present. Educational Destinations Tour Directors manage pre-planned arrangements, answer traveler’s questions and handle adjustments. Maintaining open communication and working together to share information with all parties is essential for a smooth trip.
Key Tip – Share your student’s Special Need with the Chaperone and Teacher.
Be patient – Someone with special needs may move more slowly than other travelers. The journey is sometimes more interesting than the destination. You may see something amazing that you would have missed otherwise, and everyone still will participate in all of the activities and events.
Be flexible – When the unexpected happens (i.e. a meal is delayed, a ride is stopped to load a disabled traveler, etc.) take a moment, take a breath, and look around. This is a great opportunity to think about details you want to remember about the trip.
Be kind – You will have a unique experience, but the same experience might be challenging for someone else. Can you help? Trips are more fun when you get to know the other travelers in your group better and share memorable adventures.
Educational Destinations Goals –
- Give travelers the highest degree of accuracy, care, responsiveness, and timeliness, while providing the best possible tour.
- Create a truly fun experience that simultaneously exposes and educates our travelers about new places and cultures.
Ready to get started with your trip with Educational Destinations?