If you’re the parent to a child with special needs (like me) travel takes on a whole different dimension. My seven-year-old daughter Jo Jo has Down Syndrome, and little things most other families take for granted — like a daytime stroll to the beach from the hotel — can be a major challenge. On a recent trip to Florida, my little Miss refused to walk anywhere. Whether it was just because it was too hard for her (kids with Down Syndrome have low muscle tone) or she was just perfecting her Princess act, I ended up schlepping her on my back for most of our vacation. She had a great ride; I got a hernia.

The good news is finally some hotels and vacation destinations have caught on that some of our kiddos are differently abled, and there are more options when it comes to planning and booking your trip than ever. 

This past February, Meg Harris, mom to a special needs child (her nine-year-old daughter Eliza has a neurological disorder) launched Specialglobe.com, a web site that serves as an online community for families of special needs kids to connect. The site offers destination guides, travel reviews, forums as well as a partnership to Expedia to book discounted flights and hotels. “I travelled a lot as a child, and I wanted my kids to have the same gift,” says Harris. “But while most places are in compliance to guarantee guests have physical access to things like hotel rooms and bathrooms, there just wasn’t as much information as to what hotels and vacation spots were really welcoming to people with cognitive disabilities. There were very few resources out there for families like mine.”

Mindful of this same issue, veteran travel agent Alan Day founded his own website three years ago after a disastrous vacation with his 11-year-old son who has autism. “It was horrible and not a vacation at all — all the issues we had at home in Connecticut we had in the Caribbean. When I came back I vowed we’d never go through it again and started to research what help is out there for kids on the spectrum to travel.” Just as families for children with disabilities work on their IEPs (individual education plans), Day says he helps those desperate for some R&R develop an IVP (individual vacation plan).

Yahoo Travel rounded up the best tips and some amazing vacation spots that are great for kids with special needs. 

When it comes to planning a vacation, Day has a few general tips:

1. Find a property that offers the activities that you want or that is close to those activities. “In the summer, that usually means finding someplace with a pool, since most kids with disabilities enjoy swimming,” says Day. “It gives you an ‘anchor’ activity and allows you to try as many other activities as you can, all the time knowing you have a fall back.”

2. For the budget conscious, the least expensive room in a high-grade hotel is better than the best room in a lower-grade hotel. (The better the hotel, the better the amenities and level of service.)

3. Smaller low rise properties tend to be quieter, which is good if you have a child with sensory issues — ask ahead of time for the last room in a given hallway, since it will only have one room next to it.

4. You can also always rent a vacation house, which may offer fewer amenities but all the comforts of home. Carl Shephard, co-founder of the vacation rental site Homeaway.com, actually started the site over a decade ago after realizing how challenging it could be for him to travel with his then seven-year-old son Jack, who has Down Syndrome. “When you have a child with special needs, you often need to control the environment, which can’t always happen in a hotel,” he explains.

Still stumped about vacation? Here are some ideas: