How to Handle Out of Town Appointments

Special needs families are faced with more than just day to day challenges, we are often hit with a multitude of out of town appointments in our never ending search for answers and treatments. My family is no exception as we must travel 3+ hours one way to see specialists that are not offered in our neck of the woods. How do we handle it? 

1.) Plan, plan and more plan.  I like to have an itinerary of sorts. It keeps me grounded, eases my stress, and gives me one less thing to worry or think about. I make lists of everything, and keep them in a battle book or battle bag. I keep a running list of all meds and dosages, any reactions, medical history, recent doctor visit summaries, etc. I organize these into a tote or binder for easy access. I also request all paperwork to be sent before the appointment time so that I can have it filled out and ready to turn in with insurance and ID cards.

2.) Plan your route, then plan 2 back up routes. Do not rely on GPS! GPS is a great thing, unless it's not. In most of my experience, GPS fails me. GPS doesn't know when the interstate or major highways are closed due to accidents or unexpected road work. This happened to me with our last trip to the neurologist. I'm in a strange city, with closed roads and detours, and I couldn't even pull up Google Maps to try and my way around because my phone service was also temporarily interrupted do to a mishap in programming. Luckily for me, I had printed off written directions with a secondary set of plan B written directions. I was easily able to navigate through city side roads to arrive where we needed to be.

3.) Have a go bag. I like to have a go bag ready with all of the important things like a few doses of meds, extra changes of clothing, copies of cards and such, note pads, crayons/pens/books, a toy truck, and some spending cash. This way if I get an unexpected call and there's not enough time to pack, we have a bag ready to go in a pinch and it's not too inconvenient. 

4.) Take Back Up. I have a list of extended family members who can be ready to go at a moments notice. I don't like to make the trip alone, and it's always good to have someone else there to help out.

5.) Check on clinic specials at hotels, and use reward cards! Sleep smart! First, I use a points card and hotel reward card when booking overnight stays. I've developed a list of favorite hotels so that I don't have the stress of finding the best deals anymore. It's always best to ask the scheduling clinic if they have a parent liaison or a welcome center that can assist you in making arrangements. Often times, in cities with a notable child clinic or hospital, they will have special rates with area hotels. If they do not, don't be afraid to ask for a specialized rate. Hotel management are often very accommodating and will at the very list give you a corporate discount. The savings can be significant. My favorite is regularly $160+/night and with the clinic discount I can get the room for $85 + tax. My top choice is a hotel that has a free hot breakfast, indoor pool, fitness center, free local and long distance calls, AND a free hot, buffet style dinner with complimentary soft drinks and popcorn. This is a huge savings for us since that's 2 meals we don't have to pay for, and snacks we don't have to pay for and pack. I can use my reward card with them, and earn free nights as well, which REALLY helps out. Plus, if I book with my miles card, I can earn points on my credit card for additional perks like cash back bonuses, free nights, or even gift cards.

Finally, make it fun if possible. I've tried to make it a rule that any time we have to go out of town for an appointment, we do something fun...even if it requires an overnight that wasn't 100% necessary (not that I'd want to drive 4 hours one way, then 4 hours back again.) We go to the zoo, museums, shopping, IMAX...anything to make Mr. B not dread it. The last time we went to the zoo (half of it at least) and Mr. B said it was a great trip, even though he had to have 9 tubes of blood drawn.