by Rachel Nichols
If your family is anything like mine, summer break is usually spent on medical stuff. We try to get as much stuff done in the summer so that my five-year-old, Spencer, doesn’t have to miss school. We usually don’t take family vacations because either we can’t afford to, or all our paid time off is allotted to traveling out of town for appointments.
Last summer I was determined to take a vacation. My son, however, had to stay in Cincinnati for several medical appointments over the course of a few days. This is how we combined a medical trip with a family vacation.
Use Your Hospital’s Perks
Our children’s hospital has an amazing guest services program, and many other hospitals do too. They can get discounted hotel rates and free or discounted local attraction tickets to families that have to travel in for care. Spencer had appointments on a Wednesday, a short appointment on Thursday, and testing all day Friday. We decided to book a hotel room through guest services starting from Tuesday until Thursday night. Guest services was able to get us a much better hotel rate than we would have received otherwise. We were able to get a Ronald McDonald House short stay room for Friday night and decided we’d head home Saturday afternoon.
Cincinnati in July is pretty miserable. We don’t do well in the heat, so we looked for things to do inside. Luckily, the Cincinnati area has a ton of stuff to do that is indoors and handicapped accessible. One day during our stay, guest services got us tickets to go to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. The Center is three museums in one, including an interactive children’s museum and play area. All of the exhibits were handicapped accessible, which was great for us because we have one kid in a stroller and another in a wheelchair.
We also went to the Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky. While the hospital does do discounted tickets, we went ahead and got a family pass since we knew we would be back. The aquarium has a stroller policy that only allows strollers through exhibits during certain times (the schedule is available on the website), but of course wheelchairs are always welcome. The Aquarium is beautiful and soothing, which is great for my sensory kiddo. There are also a lot of shows and several interactive exhibits such as petting turtles and sharks.
Explore the Unexpected
Surprisingly, the most enjoyable trip that we took for our son was a trip to Jungle Jim’s. Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store that specializes in international foods. They have everything! At the original location in Fairfield they have tons of interesting displays, such as an animatronic lion that sings Elvis songs and a fish department that doubles as a boat. The British foods section has its own Sherwood Forest that includes a Robin Hood statue. Spencer really enjoys going there because it’s so exciting to him. My husband and I like going there to find mysterious foreign foods and fancy cheeses.
There is so much more to do in Cincinnati that we just didn’t have time to do on this trip. There is a wonderful art museum that is free and handicap friendly. The Krohn Conservatory is also free except for when they’re doing their butterfly show in the spring. If you want to battle the heat, Cincinnati has a wonderful (but hilly) zoo that is inexpensive, although guest services can get tickets for the zoo as well.
Make the Most of Your Stay
Every time we are in for a hospital visit, guest services can always find us something to do either for free or inexpensively. It’s not just our children’s hospital with these programs either–many children’s hospitals have similar programs. If you’re traveling far from home for appointments or a hospital stay, check with the guest services department and see if there is anything they can do to make your visit more enjoyable.