Steph lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two daughters, Tamsin, age 14, and Sasha, age 12. Sasha was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and her particular type of autism is known as Pathological Demand Avoidance. She blogs at Steph’s Two Girls
When and where did you last go on holiday?
Our last holiday as a family was to Center Parcs at Elveden Forest, last summer, on the hottest week of the year in the UK.
What is the best family holiday you’ve been on?
I want to say that going to Disney World in Florida five years ago was the best family holiday we’ve ever had, but in reality, although it was an amazing time, it sadly didn’t work so well for our autistic daughter. Sasha struggled with the crowds in the parks and any queuing or waiting around.
We were so grateful that my parents travelled with us for that holiday though, because it meant we could split our time up and be in the parks with our eldest together some times while they stayed in the villa with our youngest. Then we’d switch over, and one of us parents would stay ‘home’. Youngest loved the sunny climate and being able to swim in the pool every day. So it worked in a way!
The best family holidays have always been at Center Parcs. We usually visit for at least one weekend a year.
Why did it work?
Center Parcs has amazing swimming pool facilities which our younger daughter loves. If she is happy, everyone is happy. We’ve also spent a holiday there with the grandparents in the past too. The lodges for accommodation are all very similar, which makes it feel familiar and safe for our daughter. We love that there are other activities there which our eldest can do, and being self-catering so we can take the particular foods our youngest eats also make a big difference.
How do you decide where to go on holiday?
Despite having flown several times over the first eight years of her life, our youngest has become too anxious to travel by aeroplane any more. She’s also not good at travelling any distance by car due to travel sickness. For the moment we’ve decided that Center Parcs is the only place our youngest is really happy so it’s an easy choice. If we were to be able to travel further afield again, we’d look for somewhere not too busy and with a pool. Personally I’d rather be sitting on the beach by the sea but neither of my girls are fans of sand.
What’s the biggest challenge for you on holiday?
Getting chance to relax. The only way I can achieve this for any amount of time is if our youngest is happy.
What’s the one thing you always pack for a flight?
Sweets to suck for when ears are hurting.
What’s your top tip for going on a long journey?
Plenty of stops to make it more interesting and as much soft stuff as you can pack to make the journey comfortable.
What’s your favourite holiday memory?
I have so many personal holiday memories that it’s difficult to choose. Seeing the amazing coastline of the Great Ocean Road in Australia is probably up there, as is walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But in terms of holidays with the girls, seeing them playing happily together in the villa pool in Florida, entertaining their grandparents is something I’ll never forget.
What place is the top of your bucket list?
Japan is one place which I’ve never visited that I’d like to travel to. If our youngest could get over her fear of flying I think she would love it there (briefly) – in my head I think she’d love Nintendo Land but in reality it would likely be too busy and noisy…
What’s your top travel tip for a family with additional needs who is planning their first holiday?
Be prepared. Think about what is going to make the whole family happy and appreciate that you may need to split up or spend your time differently to what your ideal is.