Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Trip, but not Exactly a Vacation

Photo: A picture I took of the lagoon and buildings that are part of the Hawaiian Hilton Village where we stayed.

Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to go to Hawaii. I've always heard of how beautiful it is, so when my husband decided to go to a conference in Honolulu and asked if I wanted to go too I didn't hesitate. In the Midwest it is far more rare than in the Pacific Northwest to find someone who has visited Hawaii because it is a lot more expensive to fly from Michigan than it is from Washington.

Also, moving to the state of Washington ten months ago from Michigan cut our flight time to the islands by a little more than half. It takes about six hours to fly from Washington to the islands of Hawaii. Also, we were delighted when an airline started offering direct flights from a regional airport in our new home town to Hawaii just in time for us to fly back (more on that later.)

As far as anticipating the trip, my husband and I were excited about starting the new year (Jan 3-8) in the Aloha state, but also apprehensive. (Our two boys, however, were just plain excited.) We had never taken our sons, including the oldest who has autism, on a multi-day trip that required air travel to and from our destination. We worried a little about making it through airport security. We fretted about meltdowns in public, and wondered if we would regret attempting to go.
Giving into our fear however would have meant not experiencing some of the best of what life has to offer...warm sunshine, beautiful scenery and the rich culture and history of the islands. So we prepared the best we could. We let the school system know we were pulling the boys for a week to go on on trip. I took my son to his psychiatrist the week before we went. The doctor gave me a note written on a prescription pad that explained my son had Autism Spectrum Disorder. He also wrote a prescription for a sedative to use during the plane ride, but we decided to not use it.

My husband planned a rich variety of outings for us, and booked us in a room where his conference was being held. Fortunately, the hotel was located on a beach and had several swim pools, a must for most families with children. So, I packed swim suits, sun lotion and even after sun lotion in case one of us became sunburned. We also did our best to communicate our expectations of behavior to our son.

Fortunately, we were able to go on all the outings my husband planned, but it wasn't easy. Every day had its challenges when it came to our twelve year old boy. We couldn't relax as the word vacation implies. But we did our best to enjoy our trip. We had our fun moments, but we also faced enormous challenges that we could have never anticipated. So yeah, I have some stories, which I'll share. All I'll write now is if I had of known exactly what was going to happen during our trip, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to have gone.

That said, Hawaii lived up to my expectations. There is no place quite like it, and I'm so happy that I was able to fulfill a childhood dream and that my husband and I were able to take our children on a trip they are likely to remember for the rest of their lives. Hawaii is beautiful and we were able to enjoy five days of warm sunshine during the first full week of January...a novelty for this family who hails from the Midwest. Please stay tuned for more on our trip later.


Casdok said...

Oh looking forward to hearing more of your adventures :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

I'm glad to see that you don't allow autism to hinder your family. Quick question... how did your 12 year old do when adjusting back to life post vacation? I am a behavioral therapist for children ages 1-8 and typical see quite a few more behaviors after a vacation. I'm interested in hearing how a 12 year old adjusted back to life... any behaviors or difficulties?

Julie L. said...

Thanks. We try not to hide. Yes, we had a transition issue on the last day...a big public meltdown on the was something we could have avoided in hindsight. We checked out the hotel at noon, but our departing flight wasn't until 10:30 p.m. so we were baseless for awhile so that didn't help. The main problem was our child wanted to swim in one of the hotel's pools, but it was gated and inaccessible after check out...Once home, i think all was ok. We were all tired and recovering from jet lag. He's doing better with transitioning from vacations/trips than he used to...but yes that can still be an issue at times. Fortunately he did great at the end and after our last trip to a family getaway at the North Cascades Institute.