Lonely Planet Writer

Families with special needs children get special help to travel

Every parent who is traveling with a young child may struggle from time to time, and that’s even truer of parents who have children with cognitive and physical disabilities such as Down Syndrome or autism spectrum disorder.

Meg Harris, co-founder of SpecialGlobe and her family at Clearwater, Florida on holidays.
Meg Harris, co-founder of SpecialGlobe and her family at Clearwater, Florida on holidays. Image by Meg Harris

Meg Harris, an American who has a daughter who has a genetic neurological disorder, was frustrated at the lack of concise travel information online for parents like her. So she and her friend Jonathan Yardley created SpecialGlobe, a website for families that want to make their trips with special needs children be as smooth as can be.

For example, airlines differ in the types of support they offer for parents who need to be seated next to their child or who need assistance with boarding a plane with their child. SpecialGlobe aims to become a forum where parents can swap tips about dealing with such airlines, as well as read articles that offer easy-to-understand advice.

The advice is aimed at US families right now, but the aspiration is to become a global platform.

Harris is proud of Eliza, her eight-year old daughter. She says that online trip-planning advice was essential in helping her family avoid problems during recent trips they took to Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark in the Bahamas and to the Special Olympics, where her daughter competed for the first time.

This summer Harris plans to take her kids on the road for six weeks, and she hopes her family’s example can inspire other families, too. SpecialGlobe offers print-and-go trip-planning itineraries for popular destinations, promotions from hotels that welcome special-needs children, and trip-planners and tools powered by Expedia, HomeAway, and Enterprise car rental.