Special Needs Volunteer

Travel Companion Basics

The key to success for each and every Special Journeys vacations are our amazing Travel Companions.

Travel Companions Overview

Travel Companions are the volunteer chaperones who accompany every Special Journeys trip assisting the travelers who are individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities. These dedicated and compassionate individuals are assigned small groups of no more than 3-4 Travelers to watch over for the duration of the trip. This 4:1 ratio ensures that every Traveler has adequate care, personal supervision, and ready assistance throughout the day.

While this position is entirely volunteer, all of your expenses are covered. Think of it as a working vacation with individuals who would otherwise not be able to travel!


All Expenses are Covered? Tell Me More!

Special Journeys Travel Companion Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  This organization recruits, trains and coordinates the volunteers for each vacation.  The vacation price the Travelers pay covers the Travel Companions’ expenses. This includes hotels, meals, attractions, transportation – literally every aspect of the trip except for your personal snacks & souvenirs.


The Primary Role of a Travel Companion

The number one responsibility is to supervise the Travelers. During the day, that means keeping everyone together, enjoying the attractions and meals and following the Tour Leader. At hotels, this involves making sure they take care of personal cares and are ready to depart for the day’s activities on time.


Our Destinations

The majority of our trips are to destinations that can easily be reached by tour bus from a central location in Nebraska or Texas, such as Chicago, Kansa City, Branson, Nashville, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah, to name a few. Destination activities include city tours, scenic landmarks and national parks, amusement parks, professional ball games, casinos, fishing trips, music events & shows, zoos & aquariums, museums, and too many more to list!

Some of our vacations require flights – such as a Disney World or Las Vegas trip. We also do 1-2 cruises every year that we fly to, and we also do international trips every few years.

Panning for Gold
What our Travel Companions are saying:
"I was working as a flight attendant with a group of very excited passengers who said they were on their way to Alaska. This group‘s excitement was so contagious that I wrote down on an airline napkin Lexi‘s contact information and said I would get in touch with her some day when my life was not so busy. Over the years since I have volunteered on several trips with Special Journeys. I enjoy the interaction between the travelers who have just met, as they make new friends. They look out and care for each other as they explore new places and enjoy new activities. Each time, I go home with a good feeling in my heart as I have just shared in a special trip with very special people." – Jean

Our Typical Traveler

Our Travelers are just individuals who need some assistance with various daily activities, depending on their various levels of independence. The majority are individuals with mild-to-moderate intellectual/developmental disabilities. A small percentage of our Travelers also have physical limitations or restrictions.

Our typical traveler may hold a variety of jobs such as grocery store bagger, cleaner, and shelf-stocker; at restaurants they may bus tables, wash dishes, or serve as cashiers. These individuals are more than capable of functioning in social settings, and just require some occasional assistance and general supervision. Travel Companions are assigned group of 3-4 Travelers to watch over.


Our Non-Typical Travelers (Requires 1:1 Travel Companion)

Non-typical Travelers need a higher level of assistance than a single Travel Companion watching over 3-4 Travelers is able to provide. Travelers who use a wheelchair and need extra assistance – eating, dressing, bathing, transferring, and with personal cares – necessitate constant one-on-one assistance for the duration of the trip. In these situations, 1:1 Travel Companions are required.

A Traveler who requires this level of support must bring their own dedicated caregiver. In order to have the best vacation experience possible, we recommend a friend, family member, or agency staff they already know who is familiar with their specific needs.


Who Makes a Good Travel Companion?

Anyone with a big heart, compassion, patience and a desire to make a difference in someone’s life is a great fit. If that describes you – and you enjoy travel, seeing new things and sharing in rewarding experiences – you’re most likely a perfect fit!


Basic Requirements

Travel Companions need to be at least 21 and able to pass a background check. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to take part in a Meet & Greet with Travelers at the trip Drop Off location, or swing by for a hotel visit (typically in Kansas City) to see how we assist Travelers at overnight accommodations. You can also watch a few training videos to give you a solid introduction to the role. And we’ll start you out with shorter, simpler trips before moving on to the longer, more advanced ones.


Physical Requirements

Some of our destinations involve walking, so you should be in general good physical health/shape. Many of our Travel Companions are older, retired individuals.

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