Holiday Happiness Program by New Directions Travel

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Holiday Happiness Program by New Directions Travel
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Source: New Directions Travel



New Directions Travel is excited to announce its annual Holiday Happiness Program, offering travel programs over the holidays for people with disabilities. Holiday Happiness offers short vacation tours during the key holiday seasons of Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, for people with intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy, who cannot be with their own families at these important times of the year. The recipients of this program take trips to Disneyland, San Francisco, or Hawaii. Watch a video of one of our experiences here.

Executive Director Dee Duncan started with one Holiday Happiness Program in 1985. She noticed that many of the care-facility residents were being left behind the during the holidays, while their peers as well as staff were packing their bags for home. Typically, participants cannot be with their own families because they are wards of the court or state due to abuse or neglect, they have been abandoned by their families, all family members have passed away, or their families are not capable of caring for their special needs. Dee decided to take those who had been “left behind” to Disneyland that year for Christmas.

“I have been leading the Holiday Happiness tour every Christmas since our first trip to Disneyland in 1985, and cannot think of a more meaningful way to spend my holidays than giving joy to those who cannot be with their families,” comments Duncan on this year’s tours.

Today, the program offers a home-style Christmas at Disneyland, San Francisco, or Hawaii complete with deluxe hotel accommodations, gourmet meals, hand-decorated stockings filled to the brim, beautiful Christmas trees, visits from Santa, gifts galore, and dedicated staff and volunteers offering huge amounts of love and joy. This year New Directions will offer four large programs (20 – 25 participants each) at Christmas time, with additional programs offered at every major holiday.

In 1985 the current executive director Dee Duncan started this unique organization in her small studio apartment in Santa Barbara. Prior, she had worked at a residential facility for many years, where she witnessed first-hand the heartbreaking conditions at the holidays for those with no family involvement. She also arranged vacations for the residents and observed the striking results in increased self-esteem, hands on learning and independent living skills among those who traveled.

Equally important, Dee observed how these vacations easily “broke down barriers” and stimulated interactions and friendships between the general population and her travelers. The travel vacations beautifully promoted inclusion and acceptance in a most natural and non-threatening way. Dee was so excited about these results, that she became passionate about making this available to more people beyond the residential facility. New Directions, with an office in Santa Barbara, now employs six staff, five part time employees with developmental disabilities, and has over 100 volunteers.


New Directions for people with disabilities, inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing high-quality local, national, and international travel vacations and holiday programs for people with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. The organization has taken over 18,000 people with brain impairments on trips all over the world. New Directions believes that people who have disabilities deserve the same opportunities in life that others expect and enjoy. Our profoundly enriching travel programs expand the self-esteem of every traveler. Whole new worlds of understanding open for both participants and the general population. Through these unique programs, people with disabilities are increasingly understood, appreciated and accepted as important and contributing members of our world. Find us online here or call us at 805-967-2841.

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Ahchooo Dec 16, 2018 01:17 PM
Holiday Happiness Program by New Directions Travel

This is a fabulous program. I know a man with intellectual disabilities who will be going to Disneyland with New Directions this week. He's so excited; these trips are the highlight of his year.

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