How TravelManagers Has Helped My Neurodiverse Family (and Others) to Thrive

How TravelManagers Has Helped My Neurodiverse Family (and Others) to Thrive

Melanie Whyte has been a personal travel manager with TravelManagers for more than twelve years. During that time, she has juggled the demands of running a successful home-based travel business with being an amazing solo parent to two brilliant neurodiverse kids. Along the way, as a Certified Autism Travel Professional she has made it her quest to provide accessible, enjoyable and enriching travel experiences for other neurodiverse families. We asked her to share her story.

When my son was four years old, I took him on a holiday to Fiji. His experience was transformed from a dream to a nightmare in a heartbeat, thanks to the sensory overload of a flushing aeroplane toilet. The intensity of that moment could have spelt the end of our family’s travel dreams, but I was determined that my kids (both of whom have autism) deserved the happiness that comes from experiencing new destinations and adventures as much as anyone else.

I knew it was up to me to figure out how to open the world to my kids. It takes plenty of creativity and understanding to make it work, but twelve years on, we’ve shared so many wonderful adventures together. They have confidence in my ability to ensure that their needs will be met, and more importantly, they have confidence in themselves as a result of their travel experiences. As a mum, I consider this to be one of the greatest gifts I could have given my kids.

It breaks my heart to think that there are so many other families who miss out on the gift of travel because they believe it is all too hard. It’s also tough on neurotypical family members, who may miss out on experiences because of the challenges associated with their siblings’ needs. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to channel my knowledge and learnings into helping other families experience the joy of travel too.

By really getting to know the families and understanding their unique needs, I can take care of the countless little details that make all the difference to their holidays. It might be knowing which cruise ships offer calm spaces, or which Paris hotels can guarantee blackout curtains in their rooms. From creating social stories that feature a child’s favourite teddy to incorporating appropriate downtime into their daily itinerary, I love playing a part in ensuring that neurodiverse children have opportunities to experience the world on their terms.

There are plenty of suppliers out there who claim to support the needs of neurodiverse customers. My expertise lies in knowing which of these are authentic, versus those that are simply paying lip service to the concept.

For any travel advisor, building relationships with clients requires a high level of trust. In the case of neurodiverse families, they need to feel comfortable having open and frank conversations about their individual needs. Having a home-based office is one of the many benefits to the TravelManagers model – it’s a quiet, private space in which to meet clients with neurodiverse children and get a good handle on their personal situation. I simply couldn’t provide that in a typical bricks-and-mortar retail environment.

In all honesty, any employer would have fired me by now, but TravelManagers has supported me every step of the way. It’s the only company that delivers the flexibility and autonomy I need in order to prioritise my kids, and I love that my work commitments can fit around their needs – without sacrificing the quality of service my clients receive.

And then there’s the amazing TravelManagers culture of sharing and helping each other out. I receive so many referrals from my fellow PTMs, and on the flipside, I can tap into the PTM network or talk to the National Partnership Office team if I need advice relating to a specific request or requirement. I’ve been with TravelManagers for close to thirteen years now, and our partnership has been integral to all that I’ve achieved for my business, my clients and my family.

 

To find out more about joining TravelManagers request an information pack or speak to one of our Business Partnership Managers.

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