Free Printable Checklist for Special Needs Families Planning a Cruise

Free Printable Checklist for Special Needs Families Planning a Cruise

My family and I are heading on our first cruise in a few months. We’re so excited about the ship that the kids haven’t stopped talking about it for months. I’m both excited and nervous because as a special needs family we have a few extra steps. Any prolonged trip or even the short ones require some extra planning on our end. With JB being Non-Verbal Autistic nothing is just as easy as picking up and going.

Our first family trip to Hersheypark was a bust. JB had a very difficult time dealing with the crowds of people and he didn’t like any of the rides. We winged it and I have to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. On our second trip we prepared and adapted to make sure he would enjoy himself. If he’s happy the rest of us are usually golden. Making sure his needs are met are a top priority for me, especially with something like a cruise.

This past summer we attend a media event aboard a Carnival ship in our home town. It was the perfect chance for us to get a sense of how JB would react to being on the ship. He was very nervous about boarding the huge ship. It scared him a bit. He was also very impatient about waiting to board the ship. When we were dining he didn’t understand why some people had their food and he didn’t have his yet. All things we stored in our memory bank to help us better prepare for our upcoming cruise.

Tips & Suggestions for Special Needs Families

I know not all special needs family is made the same. We are all different with our own unique set of challenges. I created the free printable as a way to help families like mines plan for a cruise and cut down on stress while planning. There’s no way you can completely prepare for everything but I hope my checklist keep you on track of some of the basics. Here’s a few tips and suggestions to help along with the checklist.

  1. If your child has a special diet please check your cruise line’s policy on dietary needs. While they may offer some options as far as gluten-free or sugar-free options, they may not have more complex offerings. Contact the customer service department prior to sailing to address any special dietary needs in case you need to shop for your own snacks for onboard the ship.
  2. If you’re flying try to book and travel the day before your cruise. This gives your child the opportunity to destress between events. Flying can be very stressful for special needs families, so getting to spend the night in a hotel the day before heading to port will shorten your travel day. You can also look into this option for when you return from your cruise as well.
  3. I can’t stress this enough but if your child requires special medical equipment please make sure you pack it with you. Inform the airline and cruise ship of any special medical equipment. I would recommend using a back up just in case anything happens while you’re traveling.
  4. Pack all your required medication in your carry on bag or a special back pack for your child. Once you’re on board the ship it could be hours before you see your luggage. Keep all your required medications on you ensures you’re covered at all times. I also recommend packing a change of clothes as well in your carry on bag for the ship.
  5. Have a practice dry run at the airport if possible. Our local airport participates in the Wings for Autism program and hold special trail runs for families with children on the spectrum to help them through the process of going through security and boarding the plane.

These are just a few of the tips to help families like mines when traveling or planning a cruise.  Check out my detailed checklist if you’re planning a cruise or any long travel trips in the future.

Are you a special needs mom/dad and have tips you use for traveling with kids? Share them in the comments below.

Fun Times for Young Kids at Dutch Wonderland #DutchWonderland #Travel

Fun Times for Young Kids at Dutch Wonderland

My family and I have visited Lancaster, PA quite a few times in the past, we’ve driven past Dutch Wonderland many times but had never made real plans to visit.  Recently the park reached out to me about visiting with my family and I knew it would be a great summer adventure for the family.

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We jumped into the 2016 Kia Sedona we were driving that week thanks to Drive Shop and Kia.  It was perfect for road tripping to Lancaster.  One of the first things I immediately loved about Dutch Wonderland is the parking price.  General parking was just $5, which is very affordable compared to other parks we’ve visited.  They also offer a preferred parking option for families looking to park closer to the park.

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The walk wasn’t that far away for us so we choose the cheaper parking and got started with our short walk over to the entrance of the park.

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While walking to the entrance we found this poster about the drink cups at Dutch Wonderland.  We love these cups because it’s cheaper if you plan to have more than one drink per visit.  We got the kids toddler cups because it was cheaper and they didn’t need the really big cups.  Since we have four children we paid about $20 with taxes for drink cups for the kids.  Even if we don’t make it back to the park ever they can still use them at home.

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Our selfie game was not on fleek.  LOL, we failed at trying to take one of the family walking across the parking lot into the park.

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Once you clear the entrance area, you walk right through the gift shop area and head to the ticketing area.  After picking up our tickets we headed into the park.  We started with getting the kids measured up to make sure we knew what rides they could ride at the park.

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Dutch Wonderland is truly a kids park so they make sure to cater to their consumer base.  There are rides for families, but there is a nice amount for younger children.  Most of the rides even our two year old could ride with an adult.  Some rides required an adult for the older kids as well.  There is also a water park area at Dutch Wonderland.

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Our first stop was the Wonderland Special Train. It’s right at the entrance of the park so it was easy to hop in the short line and wait.  It’s a great way to spy a large portion of the park and see what rides you want to tackle for the day.

Next we tried a flying ride called Kite Flight.  The older kids were excited about riding and then our five-year old wanted to ride it.  I wasn’t sure how he would do with his Autism.  He was scared a little, so I held his hand and he started to laugh and enjoy the ride.  He kept his eyes close but he loved it enough to want to ride a second time.

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We took a relaxing ride on the Monorail since it’s one or our favorite rides.  It’s another great way to see the park and rides you plan to ride.  That’s how we found a few of the water rides we choose that day.

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Sky Ride is a fun way to catch a one way ride from the front to the back of park or vice versa.  We couldn’t do it because we had our youngest in a stroller but it’s a great way to get some one section to the other in the park.

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Snapped this while riding the train

We didn’t catch any Dutch Wonderland shows while visiting the park, however new this year the park unveiled two live shows hosted by the characters.  When the park closes at 8:30 PM you can visit Celebration Theatre for Princess Brooke’s Kingdom Celebration.  A Royal Fiasco takes place daily at 12:30, 2:30, and 6:30 PM, this interactive show is a great way to meet some of your favorite Dutch Wonderland Characters.

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I know the fake horse may be confusing however Dutch Wonderland does offer actual Pony Rides for kids in the park.  It does has an additional fee that’s not included in your admission price into the park.

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Dutch Wonderland also offers quite a few game for kids and adults to enjoy as well.  I recommend checking out a games package at the front gate to save on games if you’re visiting with your family.  It’s cheaper to buy the package instead of paying for individual games.

We had so much fun visiting Exploration Island where there are over 20 lifelike dinosaurs.  We walked around the area learning about several different dinosaurs.  One even had an interactive console for kids to move the dinosaur on their own.  My five year old loved getting in the egg and popping his head out of the top.

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I had to share a photo of our son JB on the Frog Hopper, he was scared at first but ended up riding four times and didn’t want to leave.  Traveling with a special needs child can be challenging, and I’m happy to report that Dutch Wonderland was perfect for him.  He loved the rides, and really enjoyed himself.  The park wasn’t overwhelming for him, and the crowds were minimal.

We took a ride on the Tug Boat around the back half of the park. It was a great way to enjoy the scenery around the park and see some of Lancaster.  It was very beautiful to see the surroundings of the park.

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One of our favorite rides of the day was the Double Splash Flume.  It was the longest line we stood in to ride a ride the entire time we were in the park.  The whole family rode and we enjoyed it, even our two year old loved it.  You do get a little wet but we quickly dried off.


Save from now until September 2, 2016 when visiting Dutch Wonderland by using my coupon code.  Tickets include admission into Dutch Wonderland and Duke’s Lagoon, and are good for any day during the regular 2016 operating season. DISCOUNT: Save up to $7 on One Day Admission Tickets:

  • Gate price: $40.99
  • Discounted price – 7 Days in advance: $33.99
  • Discounted price – 4 Days in advance: $36.99

Visit my special Dutch Wonderland savings page to take advantage of this special discount offer or use coupon code NickisRandomMusingsBlog16.


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Family Fun at Kings Dominion

Family Fun at Kings Dominion

My kids are starting to get older, so this summer my husband and I decided it was time to making some more fun memories with them.  Living in Maryland has some awesome perks, including being close to several states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and more.  We’ve been spending a lot of time at amusement parks lately, so I wanted to take the kids to places they’ve never visited this summer.  I remember going to Kings Dominion when I was in college, and my husband use to take his students there all the time, so we started planning a trip down during their Spring Bloom event.

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We started off by posting a teaser to where we were heading that day.  Of course by the time I posted were already almost at the park.  Locals in the DMV area knew almost immediately were the family was spending the day.

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We arrived and heading in the parking lot.  I highly recommend springing for the preferred parking, it was so close to the park entrance and it only cost a few bucks more.

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Thanks to Kings Dominion for providing complementary tickets for my family and I to visit the park. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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After picking up our tickets, clearing security and entering the park, we stopped by the fountain to take a few photographs.  With four kids its always hard to get a photograph with everyone laughing or smiling.  These were the best ones from the day.

In VA. This weekend

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Luckily we found someone to take a photograph of the whole family so we had it for our personal memories.

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Before heading into the park we stopped by the official measuring station for the kids to get measured and get wrist bands, this made the process of getting on rides easier and they didn’t have to get measured at every ride, the ride attendant was able to look at their band to make sure they could ride the rides.

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We stopped by the fountain to enjoy some of the shade while plotting our desired route for the park.  The Spring Bloom festival was in full swing at the park when we visited.  We saw beautiful flowers and other spring decorations around the park.

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We headed to Planet Snoopy since it’s where most of the kids rides are located in the park.  I really liked that everything for the kids was concentrated to that one area, making it easy for us to navigate and enjoy.

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During the Spring Bloom Festival there was a petting zoo in Planet Snoopy.  We didn’t stop there but lots of families enjoyed petting the animals and even getting the opportunity to feed them.

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These are just a few of the topiaries that we spotted in the park.  My son was so excited to see all the Peanuts characters throughout the Planet Snoopy area of the park.

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Kings Dominion was one of the cleanliest parks that I’ve visited in a long time.  It was pretty much spotless, not a single piece of trash was on the grounds at all.  Even the petting zoo area was very clean and organized.  We also noticed that Lowes was in the park passing out free Build and Grow kits to families so they could build different projects while relaxing in the shade.

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The park also features amazing safety signs near all their rides, it gives critical information about who can ride the ride, the thrill levels, who should avoid the rides, height restrictions, weight limits, and even accessibility information for park visitors needing them.

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The kids had to take a picture with this giant Charlie Brown statue.  They had so much fun trying the different rides around the park.

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The kids even tried the roller coaster all by themselves and in the front row at that.  I was so proud of them for getting out and having fun on their own.

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Our autistic son had the most fun he’s ever had at a theme park.  Usually he’s panicking and upset about the crowds.  Plant Snoopy was very clear for us, the lines weren’t that long at all, the longest we waited for a ride was about 15 minutes, which was still torture for him.  When we choose the rides for younger kids the wait times were a lot shorter.  He absolutely loved Whirly Birds and we ended up on that ride at least five times.  If you’re interested in skipping the line on some of your favorite rides check out the Fast Lane program.  I also recommend checking guest services to learn about the Board Pass Program.

  • Kings Dominion is proud of their reputation for accommodating guests with disabilities through their Ride Admission Policy. To continue to provide equal access for all guests, be aware that all guests with mobility impairments or ASD will now receive a Ride Boarding Pass with wait times. The Ride Boarding Pass Program allows guests to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.

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If you’re planning on visiting the park with someone with special needs, or someone on the Autism Spectrum be sure to visit the website for tips and helpful information before your trip begins.

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Planet Snoopy didn’t just have rides for kids but family rides as well.  My husband and I ended up splitting up a few times taking turned with the kids on rides.  I had the younger kids, and he had the older two.  The park also offers a Parent Swap program for certain rides.  To participate and learn more visit Guest Services at the main gate.

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Kings Dominion is open all summer long for hours of family fun and entertainment.  Visit the website for special offers, events, park times, and more.  If you live close to the park you can purchase a Season Pass, Kings Dominion offers three different season pass levels, all with special perks for pass holders like, discounts for friends, parking, even admission to all Cedar Fair Parks when you purchase the Platinum level season pass.