Sophia Feurtado is the Service User Engagement Manager at Exemplar Health Care, a complex care provider that operates more than 50 homes nationally.

A well-planned holiday can provide an exciting change of scenery and foster refreshed independence and happiness. We’ve supported many of the people we support to plan and enjoy a holiday. Whether it’s a going away for the weekend in the UK, attending a music festival, or soaking up European culture and sun, these are our top tips to help you plan successful trips for  people living with disabilities and complex needs.

Plan ahead

Planning well in advance is crucial to any successful holiday but it’s especially important when planning trips for adults with complex care needs. As not all accommodation options will meet the necessary care and mobility requirements, those that do are in high-demand and often get booked up quickly. It’s therefore essential to begin planning a trip well in advance to secure the best accommodation and activities. 

Match your destination to people’s interests

Take some time to think about which destinations will suit the interests of your holiday-goers. We often arrange group holidays for people with similar interests, as well as single trips. Holding group discussions with everyone who’s interested in a trip ensures they feel engaged and empowered to make key decisions.

We also base our solo trips on the interests of our residents. Last year, we supported Havenmere resident, Alex, to attend the Download music festival – and will be doing the same again this year. Festivals, let alone camping, may appear to present several challenges for those with complex care needs. But, with the right support, we made the necessary adjustments to allow Alex to really thrive: we stayed in the disabled access campsite and had accessible adjustments including viewing platforms at stages, wheelchair-accessible toilets, and adapted walkways. 

Research (and research again) your accommodation

Accommodation should be comfortable and meet people’s care needs and mobility requirements. We’re lucky to have visited some brilliant venues and often return to them year-after-year. To identify the best option for your trip, we recommend compiling a list of requirements, then researching locations with key accessibility features such as profiling beds and ceiling hoists. We often stay in adapted cottages or caravans, which offer more flexibility and communal living space than hotels. Thorough research, video tours, and calls with accommodation management help secure the right place to stay. You could even visit the site in advance as an added day trip!

We ensure people have their own rooms for privacy and comfort. This often requires open and honest communication with hosts about necessary adjustments as creating a safe environment allows people to relax and fully enjoy their holiday.

Choose the right team

For many, it’s the people we’re surrounded by that can be the most special thing about a holiday! Some of your holiday-goers may request certain team members accompany them or may feel more connected to some colleagues more than others. Rotas are crucial to planning, here, so we recommend starting these as early as possible. We find it helpful to use a ‘register your interest’ form to survey colleague availability, and often find many of our teams are keen to volunteer. Although it can be hard work, it’s so rewarding for our carers to see how much enjoyment people get from their trip, and for teams to know that they’re part of such a memorable experience. 

Always take rest and sleep into consideration when determining staffing levels, especially if the trip involves long drives or night observations. We also recommend that responsibility for money management, documentation, and medication be divided amongst team members to keep things running smoothly.

Plan activities … but not too many

Some people are eager to plan activities beforehand, while others might appreciate the spontaneity that comes from being outside of their usual routine. Remember that this is their holiday and it’s a great opportunity to offer them as much choice as they feel comfortable with. 

Once you’ve researched what’s available in the area and confirmed accessibility requirements, share the options with those attending. However, not every moment needs to be filled with an activity – making room for relaxation is just as important. 

Tailored destinations can help you to get the balance right between activities and relaxing. Last year, two of the people we support enjoyed a weekend in Calvert Lakes, a residential outdoor adventure holiday centre for people with disabilities, giving them the chance to safely experience an adventure in the Lake District.

Sophia Feurtado

Know your budget

Financial planning for a trip is likely to vary from person-to-person, and how an individual funds their care. Either way, ensure that financial considerations are clearly outlined from the beginning. Always consider how meals and expenses will be budgeted and paid for and include entry into attractions and an emergency cash fund in your budget as well.

It’s always so refreshing to feel the meticulous planning and hard work that we put into a holiday pay off, and to see just how much joy and fulfilment it can bring to both our residents and our care teams.