I've always liked experiences vs things, but when my daughter suffered from severe seizures and I turned into an official "special needs mom"... experiences and living days to their fullest became even more important to me.
So this year, as my oldest graduated 8th grade and we couldn't think of anything material that she really wanted, we started to plan a trip. It was decided that I'd take only her with me for a mom and daughter trip to hang out before the big years of high school begin. I'll do the same with my youngest when she graduates next year.
As a special needs mom and single mom, there are so many things to consider when traveling! Where can we stay that is kid-friendly, access to everything, including our dietary needs and let's us feel safe as women traveling.
We decided to head to New York! My daughter, Julianne, LOVES photography and I knew she'd struggle to put her camera down on this trip. Which is exactly what I wanted.
My biggest decision was how are we going to get around NYC. I've driven through before and knew about the traffic, so I started to research tour bus companies. You know the ones you can hop on and off and look really touristy, yet love every minutes. Yes, one of those.
I found one that looked awesome and we had the BEST experience. A big thank you to City Sightseeing New York for providing us with tickets for our bus and ferry tours!
We were so excited when we arrived in NYC the first afternoon that we couldn't wait to start seeing the sights. We jumped on the NYC Bus Tour and took the night tour. We got to see everything we wanted from afar the first night! Then the next few days we knew exactly where we wanted to explore closer up.
Night time tour in NYC with City Sightseeing New York Tour company!
The teacher in me can't help but get geeked out when I see the Scholastic headquarters. They were having a huge book conference, but my daughter just rolled her eyes with the look of "mom, we are on vacation and I just finished school, seriously?!?", so we skipped it.
I have to admit that using Snapchat to journal everything with location filters made the tour even a bit more fun. I don't even have to use my mom brain to try and remember where I took the pics. Bonus!
We cruised by Little Italy the first night and then made our way back there for lunch, a canoli and gelato before we left. Oh My YUM!
The last time I was here, there were ashes still on the ground and the city was silent. Seeing the memorial and the Financial District was a bit overwhelming. Julianne could see the sadness in my face. Experiencing the new sights together and remembering the world before 9/11 was one of our best mother daughter talks.
Helllooooo candy! Although being from Chicago, we decided the outside is more impressive than Chicago, but the inside wasn't as spectacular. Our Hershey store has a bakery, so we put that on our to do list this summer when we go home.
So we moved onto NYC ice cream from the street vendor. Yeah, we don't have this in Chicago!
I was right. She couldn't put her camera down. She has 100's of pictures to go through and I'll love seeing our trip through her eyes. Want to see the world a different way? Give your child a camera. It's eye opening.
Tired from walking and hopping on and off buses, we decided it was time to spend the afternoon on the ferry. Our tour bus company also ran a ferry tour (Hint: Buy the passes together and get a discount). It was a perfect way to spend a cloudy afternoon seeing the skyline from afar and just taking it all in.
Times Square. Our home for the entire trip. It couldn't have been a better host. I can't tell you what I'll remember most about this trip, but I can tell you it felt right. I got to give my daughter some much needed 1:1 time. We talked about boys, girls, and her little sister.
I can't encourage other moms enough to travel. To take the journey. To get out of the daily routine. It's not easy. You have to find the right place. The right hotel. The right transportation. The right decisions for your family, but it'll be so worth it.
You spend your days fighting for education support, medical needs, and for the community to accept your child. You do this so your child can have a great life. While you're advocating, don't forget... you can start living now.
If you sit at an IEP table, this checklist is for you! Parents, teachers, therapists and support team members... you can all use this tool for your next IEP meeting!