One Incredible Idea…
When I first found out about the possibility of adult travel with Exceptional Getaways, I was intrigued.
There on the bulletin board of our music therapy agency was a brightly colored flyer about an upcoming vacation getaway.
I discovered that this company was dedicated to providing fun travel getaways and vacations for adults with special needs.
While my kids with autism grew up taking vacations and traveling, the thought had not yet occurred to me that they would soon be adults ready to see the world without me around.
Soon I called up Exceptional Getaways, Inc. to request a face-to-face meeting. I met both Michelle and Tim, founders of this company, curious to find out what they do.
Whatever future I envisioned for my kids seemed a whole lot brighter by the presence of this organization. Their mission serves a tremendous need for those with different needs to fulfill their vacation dreams and realize their goals for independence at the same time.
So, with no further ado… I am very excited to share with you what I learned about Michelle, Tim and their company Exceptional Getaways, Inc.
Adult Travel with Exceptional Getaways: An Exceptional Group Vacation Experience
Both of the founders of Exceptional Getaways, Inc. come from backgrounds serving the special needs community. Michelle Webster owns a behavior consultant company and is a behavior consultant. Tim Stout is a case manager with a Family and Community Supports Waiver case management company.
Over the years they realized the massive need for adults to have the right support to live a happy and fulfilling life. And they believed travel was a huge part of meeting that need.
It has only been two years since they started, but it has grown “bigger than imagined,” according to Michelle. They envisioned meeting once a month for small, local trips with an occasional larger vacation during the year.
They have gone camping for a few days at state parks. Their strategy is to mix-in trips that are shorter or closer to home with longer trips that are farther away.
Today, they now include meet-ups every Thursday in Bloomington, Indiana, for free “Fun Day” events. (This spring they had an Easter egg hunt with kite-flying at a local park).
Just recently they announced on their Facebook page, with great enthusiasm, that they are planning a week-long trip to Walt Disney World in 2020.
Who can Travel with Exceptional Getaways?
The key to their success is having the right support for their clients. Given that each person needs varying degrees of assistance, they provide the right ratio of staff to go with their travelers on these trips. A few may need 1:1 help while others may only require 3:1 assistance.
The staff are hired by Exceptional Getaways, Inc., but they are often support staff for waiver agencies also. They are trained to handle most situations that require specialized care. Sometime a traveler’s own staff is welcomed to join them.
Exclusively-planned trips are also available in which a traveler can plan and personalize his or her own vacation destination.
Michelle and Tim make it a point to go to every trip. (Usually both go, but sometimes one depending on the trip.) That way they can provide backup support when needed.
Because it is group travel, there is room to develop some personal independence as well as bond with others within the security of a safe environment.
When they go to Walt Disney World, for example, they rent a large house with many bedrooms as a way to maintain high levels of safety and encourage friendships to form.
Their travel clientele must be 18 and older. The oldest traveler was in her 70’s. Some travel with them frequently, while others pick and choose based on their availability of time and funds.
They only have to sign-up for each trip that is planned a month or so in advance. Their weekly local “Fun Days” can include teens with their parents or support staff and no sign up is needed for those activities.
Most travelers come from the local Bloomington area or even Indianapolis. Lately more people from as far as Chicago and Kentucky are calling them up, asking if they can join their groups. The challenge, however, is getting travelers together into one meeting place first before they can set off to their destination as one unified group.
They have their own vehicles to transport the group, including what Michelle calls the “party bus” that can be fun times while traveling and the large SUV driven by Tim that pulls the trailer with all of the necessary equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, etc.).
How Do Travelers Pay for These Trips?
Clients can establish payment plans if they have fixed incomes; they can also use Arc Trust money. They can save money for trips that are already planned or they can build a savings for future unplanned trips. Exceptional Getaways, Inc. can’t solicit funds from churches or other foundational-based giving associations (i.e. scholarships or grant money). Some individuals, families or companies have raised money for individuals to go.
Who Else Do They Help?
One of the great hidden benefits of this company is for those who don’t go on their trips. Just like many of the summer camps for those with autism or other disabilities, Exceptional Getaways, Inc. provides the opportunity for parent respite.
Considering that many may still live at home well into adulthood, this affords parents a time to bond with one another or do their own thing. Maybe parents can plan their own couple’s or friends’ getaway at the same time.
I got the strong sense that both Michelle and Tim feel very fulfilled by what they do. They are highly involved in the community, doing Buddy Walks and Autism Walks, and otherwise getting the word out about the benefit of their services. They were continuously smiling as they were talking about the people they work with and the places they have visited.
As Michelle put it, “we just want to see people happy and enjoying themselves.” And those who travel with them certainly are as they keep coming back for more!
Check out Exceptional Getaways, Inc. Today!
When I asked if there are other companies like this one, they said they seem to be the ONLY place in the Midwest (and definitely in Indiana) that provides supported travel for those with disabilities. (Other companies like Exceptional Getaways, Inc. are mainly on the East and West coast.)
Clearly the idea of supporting adults in realizing their vacation dreams is still quite novel. I imagine that once word “gets out” about Exceptional Getaways, Inc. that many will flock to discover the benefits they provide.
Maybe your loved one with differential needs is still a child. Even if you’re not yet forecasting the needs of your child as an adult, hopefully this brings some peace of mind knowing this is an option. Many who have gone on these trips are so excited to go on more!
Exceptional Getaways, Inc. brings pure joy and wish fulfillment for so many already…discover more for yourself!