Special needs young man and chaperone shake hands

Assisting 101

Assisting Overview

This is a working vacation where we have to take care of the special needs of the Travelers, not a free vacation with no responsibilities.

  • Brand new Travel Companions start off with our more independent Travelers, and are not assigned to more difficult Travelers until they’ve gained some experience.
  • If you prefer to remain at this basic level of assistance, that’s perfectly fine, but it may limit the number of trips available to you.
  • Certain tasks (such as helping Travelers who use wheelchairs for distances, have other mobility issues, etc.) are only given to Travel Companions who’ve agreed to take on these responsibilities. (We’re not going to ask you to push a wheelchair up a quarter-mile hill if you haven’t volunteered in advance to do it).
  • Some female Travel Companions prefer not to work with male Travelers, which we’re happy to accommodate. Male Travel Companions do not work with female Travelers at the hotels.
  • Travel Companions generally room with other Travel Companions, not with Travelers.


General Assisting Details

Each of our trips can essentially be broken down into 5 distinct components that each have their own specific responsibilities: Central Services, Daytime Care, Attractions, Meals, and Hotels.

  • Central Services – Travel Companions do not handle luggage to and from the bus, traveler medicine or traveler spending money. On mornings when we leave a hotel luggage will need to be placed outside of each traveler’s room.
  • Attractions – We enjoy the attractions with the travelers. In many cases Travel Companions lead the travelers through the experience, pointing out different things and keeping everyone moving along.  Depending on the attraction the group may break into different sized sub-groups.  Individuals may also be divided by specific interests.  We do not rush through attraction but rather take the time to enjoy them.
  • Shows – At shows the Travel Companions assist travelers in getting seated.  During intermission we assist individuals in leaving and returning to their seats.
  • Daytime Care – Throughout the day, the primary responsibility is keeping everyone together and ensuring everyone is enjoying the experiences. Additionally, we remind the Travelers to take restroom breaks. If there are specific, individual care needs they are noted on the paperwork provided to all Travel Companions.
  • Shopping Assistance – Shopping is always a traveler favorite experience! Travel Companions help with picking out souvenirs or finding the right size clothing items. Each day Travel Companions receive the remaining spending money balances for each traveler.  Travel Companions will then be able to assist travelers, as necessary, in budgeting how much they want to spend at that store.  Once travelers have picked out their items they go to the counter where the Tour Leader will handle ringing them up and recording the transactions.
  • Meals – Travel Companions always sit at the table with Travelers, assisting with ordering as needed. We also monitor what is being ordered for portion control and to make good food choices.
  • Bus Time – Bus riding is an important part of their vacation.  Travel Companions sit with the travelers on the bus, engage them in conversation – ask them how they are doing and what they like about their trip and general questions about their lives.  On our bus rides we also nap, watch movies and get ready for the next attraction or event.
  • Hotels – Upon arrival, Travelers get their medications at the Med Station. While this is being done Travel Companions open and prepare the hotel rooms. After the travelers receive their medicine Travel Companions assist by taking Travelers to their rooms.

After all of the travelers are in their rooms Travel Companions head to the specific rooms that they are responsible for.  We make sure Travelers are doing their personal cares, help lay out clean clothes for the next day, and check that they get to sleep.  Typically, the trip is more activity than travelers are used to, so they’re usually pretty tired. The next morning we make sure they are up and getting ready.  If we are leaving the hotel suitcases get set outside the room.  Then everyone heads down to breakfast in the hotel.


Working with Travelers in Their Room

Hotels are typically where some Travelers require the more assistance.  Your Travel Companion packet will contain all the information needed to care for each Traveler in their rooms. You’ll have a Rooming List for the hotel that lists which room everyone is in, and who is responsible for watching which rooms. Responsibilities in the rooms include:

  • Personal Cares – Some travelers need to be reminded to brush their teeth. We also prompt to make sure travelers are taking showers. A small percentage of female Travelers need assistance with their hair.
  • Showers – Most Travelers shower completely independent, though some do need prompting. Some travelers may need help setting the water temperature, especially if the fixtures are complicated. This can especially be true on cruises as the fixtures are European.  The Tour Leaders will explain to the group in advance how the fixtures work.
  • Check the towels to make sure everyone is showering! Some Travelers need assistance getting in and out of the tub because of leg braces or balance issues. We always have a walk-in/ roll-in shower available for use in a room no one sleeps in. A few Travelers may need prompting to wash completely, which involves standing nearby and directing them. Travelers needing additional shower assistance are not given to new Travel Companions unless they already work in the field.
  • Toileting – most Travelers are completely independent. Some need a little assistance, but that’s not a responsibility for new Travel Companions.
  • Bed time – making sure Travelers go to bed
  • Wake up – making sure they’re up on time, getting ready, and make sure they go to breakfast.
  • Clothing – picking out matching outfits for the next day. Some Travelers may need prompting to change clothes each day.
  • Dirty clothes – we have onion bags available for dirty clothes that are labeled with Travelers’ names. Generally, you are directing this and not doing it for Travelers.
  • For any extra needs, like setting up a CPAP breathing machine, you can reach out to the Head Travel Companion or Tour Leader for help if the traveler does not handle this themselves.

Packing up – make sure the room, bathroom and shower are empty, and that nothing is left behind. If we’re checking out, suitcases need to be set outside the room before breakfast.

The Travel Companion program is operated by the Special Journeys Travel Companion Association. Learn more at www.sjtravelcompanions.org/