I first met Hayley at Port Lympne Reserve where I was working as a wedding toastmaster. Fast forward a year or so later and Hayley contacted me to help her plan and book a family holiday Down Under, twinned with Singapore and Bali. Traveling with young children is often stressful for any parent but when a child has a hidden disability it is often easier to stay at home or within familiar surroundings. As an ex-special needs primary teacher, I am empathetic and understanding of what is required to ensure my customers are looked after and feel at ease throughout their holiday.
I really wanted to take my young children on a long haul holiday for a month to Australia to see family with stopovers in Singapore and Bali. This would be challenging for any parent and I was very nervous about travelling with Riley as he has Autism and ADHD.
I contacted Nikki, an experienced travel advisor and ex-special needs teacher who proved to be meticulous in all aspects of organisation and understanding our needs as a family.
Nikki knew my son would struggle with crowds at the airport, waiting in queues and the long flights. She knew just what to do: she contacted the airport and airlines for the relevant forms for travellers with hidden disabilities. These were easy to complete.
A lanyard arrived in the post, along with our travel documents, and this simple means of identification meant all staff were alerted to my sons needs.
Riley did struggle with the crowds at the airport but having a disability stroller coupled with the lanyard was an ENORMOUS help. I didn't need to wait around at any point. It made the whole process seamless and considerably less traumatic than it would have been.
Nikki also recommended a night flight so we could all get some sleep on the outward journey - and this really helped.
Our itinerary included a stopover in Singapore before travelling onto Australia and returning via Bali. In each country, all transfers were pre-booked and perfect. They were always there waiting for us, wherever we were.
Having a child like Riley means there is no room for mistakes - I need to be able to tell him what is happening, and when, and ensure that the transport is comfortable and safe.
Booking with Nikki meant that there was no need to worry about any of the transfers - we had many, due to travelling to different countries and doing excursions, etc. I just told her what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go and when, and everything was arranged for us. All the taxis were clean and comfortable, with very friendly helpful drivers and all had complimentary bottled mineral water!
We even travelled around Singapore on the tube and it was relatively easy. We were able to push the stroller on and off with ease.
The whole month away allowed us to experience so much together and the hotels Nikki had arranged for us had fantastic menu options, including local cuisine and English food for the children when required.
This was the trip of a lifetime. We made so many fantastic memories and I’d recommend it to EVERYONE! We still talk about breakfast with orangutans, feeding elephants, swimming in waterfalls, whale and dolphin watching, open top bus tours, visiting temples, Movie World, the turtle sanctuary, Wet n Wild, visiting coffee plantations and so much more.
For me the open top bus tour was great. We got to see so much in one go in Singapore! Stopping off in China Town and Little India were great experiences.
However, if I was to do the trip again or if I were to give anyone advice travelling with children or a child with special needs, it's to do Singapore on the way back from Australia/ Bali. This is because there is so much to see and do there and upon arrival, the children were jetlagged (as was I) and also trying to adjust to the sticky intense heat.
If I had gone on the way back, the children would have already been accustomed to the higher temperatures and without suffering from such jetlag, we would have been able to do more in the time we had.
Holidays are made for family memories that last a lifetime and I would like to thank Nikki - you were amazing! You made it all possible.