Traveling with a special needs child doesn’t have to be hard! Check out these 9 tips to make your next travel plans a breeze!

If you have a child with special needs, you need to take unique precautions before heading off on vacation. Your little one may find themselves overwhelmed with the changes and start to exhibit specific behavioral issues.

Worse, you could forget an essential item and struggle to find a substitute in an unfamiliar place. Of course, this cautionary tale doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and stay home.

9 Tips for Traveling With a Special Needs Child

Follow these nine preparation tips, and you’ll enjoy a lovely holiday with the entire family.

1. Do Some Trial Runs

Are you flying or driving? Either way, it pays to do a trial run. If you intend to fly, reach out to the TSA Cares hotline to get your questions answered about screenings and what to expect at the airport. 

If you’re taking a road trip, try a few longer drives first. This practice helps your child adjust to the vehicle in motion for extended periods and helps you identify ways to keep them occupied.

2. Talk to Their Doctor

Before departure, talk to your child‘s doctor — they can offer valuable advice on travel tips. You might also request a letter from your physician to present to officials about a disability that requires accommodations.

Your pediatrician can review your little one’s medications with you and offer you short-term prescriptions to ensure they don’t miss a dose if anything gets lost in transit.

3. Tend to Vehicle Maintenance

A flat tire or overheated radiator is an inconvenience for anybody, but delays can cause special needs children to act out behaviorally. Before departure, take your vehicle for an oil change — you should have it serviced every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, anyway.

While it’s at the shop, your mechanic can change the filters, top off fluids, check for any leaks and inspect your belts for weak spots.

4. Pack Devices and Medications

Another advantage of getting a travel stash of medications is that you can pack them first so that you don’t forget them. Depending on your financial situation, you might not have items such as spare pairs of glasses or extra crutches.

If you do, however, pack these well in advance of your departure. This advice goes double if you plan to travel internationally, and you don’t know what overseas pharmacies typically stock.

5. Bring Lots of Snacks and Water

A hungry child is often a cranky one, even if they don’t have special needs. If your little one has a condition like autism that makes expressing their needs challenging, they may act out if their blood sugar drops too low — their brain will demand glucose.

You can amp up your child’s anticipation of your journey by including a treat they don’t ordinarily get to eat.

6. Provide a Comfort Object

It wasn’t only Linus from “Charlie Brown” who needed his blanket. Favorite stuffed toys allow children to receive support outside of you and self-soothe when their caregiver is absent.  

Plus, these precious items serve as anchors for those who may feel tossed upon the stormy seas of unfamiliar surroundings. Just make sure when traveling with your special needs child to keep up with their lovies.

7. Grab a Blanket and Clothes

Physical discomfort can lead to behavioral problems, especially in children with sensory processing issues. Check the weather forecast before departure, but also carry a change of clothes and a small blanket in the carry-on.

You don’t want your angel to become a howling demon merely because they feel chilled. Plus, if they spill something, damp garments can create misery.

8. Learn Some Travel Games

Do you remember how to play “I Spy?” If not, why not brush up on the informal rules before you take off? Children need stimulation to keep their minds occupied and distracted on long trips.

You can also download and print free travel activities, such as the license plate game and Tic Tac Toe, to avoid cries of “Are we there yet?” on the road. 

9. Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

If you expect perfection, you will surely meet disappointment. Unexpected twists occur in the best-laid plans, and you can’t always predict how your child will react to new scenarios.

Remain flexible and calm. What’s more important — honoring your little ones’ needs to make your vacation enjoyable, or dragging them to three museums in one day?

Make Traveling With a Special Needs Child a Breeze

Traveling with a special needs child presents unique challenges. However, with these tips, you can enjoy the family vacation you deserve!

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