6 Tips for Traveling with a Special Needs Child
With the summer months coming many families are in the middle of planning family vacations and fun trips and some will be going on spur of the moment trips. This may seem super normal to a lot of people but to someone with a special needs child traveling can require a lot of planning and may even seem impossible or overwhelming. The best advice for someone questioning a family trip is to TAKE THE TRIP! You will never regret the memories made and I have some tips to help prepare!
1. plan in advance
Give yourself months to plan things out. Making a to-do list will also help you not forget the little things and it will make the overall experience less stressful. Think of what the location will be like, what will the food be like? Will you need to ask for any additional accommodations? Talk to your child about what is to come, this will help prepare them for the inevitable change in routine.
2. Choosing your lodging
Be strategic with this! When you book a room you sometimes don’t know what floor you are on until you get there. To prevent having to make changes once you arrive, be sure to request a ground-level room, and potentially a larger room so you will have more space if you have a wheelchair.
3. Travel Insurance
Consider paying a little extra for travel insurance. If your child is medically fragile or medically complex buying insurance can help protect you in case of a last-minute cancelation. A lot of plane tickets and accommodations have a cancelation window, travel insurance will ensure that you receive a refund or credit to reschedule if you cancel past their date. At first, this seems like a waste of money but even as someone without a special needs child I have personally benefited from travel insurance!
Make sure you have whatever medications your child will need and enough of it to last the trip. You don’t want to get down to the day of leaving or even worse get to your location and run out of the necessary medication. This may seem like a no-brainer but when you are used to calling in a refill and quickly going to get it you may not consider counting the amount before traveling.
5. bring what you need
Sensory items, communication devices, social stories. Don’t pack light when it comes to what your kiddo may need to have a successful trip! Let them pick their own comfort items so they can have a little independence with packing.
6. set realistic expectations
I do not mean “lower” your expectations! But be realistic so that you don’t end up disappointed if something does not go perfectly. For example travel time, If you know your child cannot ride in the car for a long time don’t force them to. Break up the travel time and allow for rest breaks to get out of the car. Having a happy child who is adjusting to the changes is better than getting to your location quicker.
Make the best memories and use what is offered! Some amusement parks offer discounts for children with special needs, ask questions when planning your activities and see what is available such as preferred parking, or preferred admission, and beach wheelchairs. Don’t let anxiety take away your summer fun. If your child needs noise-canceling headphones to enjoy Disney World so be it. If your older child/adult carries a comfort item that may not be age-appropriate let them. Ignore any “looks” you may get and let them experience what the world has to offer. You will never regret the memories made!
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