Essential Tips for Traveling With Special Needs Kids

Travel is unquestionably one of the best ways to strengthen family relationships and create lasting memories.  It’s empowering for parents with special needs kids to break the stereotype that their children are unable to live full lives.

While traveling is more complicated (at first) and sometimes stressful, It will be totally worth it if parents with special needs children can put in the effort to see their kids enjoy the adventure of traveling.

If you wish to make travel joyful for a special-needs child, here is some professional advice on how to make your child’s experience enjoyable.

1. Start Small Dawn Barclay is the author of Traveling Different: Vacation Strategies for Parents of the Anxious, the Inflexible, and the Neurodiverse (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022) and the special needs contributing editor for InsiderTravelReport.

2. Make Preparations Preparing thoroughly helps to ease your child’s anxiety and prepares them for the trip’s new experiences. According to Barclay, the following tips can help you prepare in advance:

– Figure out every aspect of your trip, from leaving the house to returning home again. Think about where the triggers will be for your particular child. For example, if your child hates crowds and strangers and is sensitive to smells, perhaps taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel would be a better choice than taking the free transfer bus, even if it is cheaper.

– Come up with backup plans for every possibility you can think of. For example, having little gifts your child knows about that you’ll give them every 30 minutes of delay on the tarmac may make the child root for airplane delays. At the very least, it will be a consolation. Just make sure the child knows this backup plan in advance, so no eventuality is a total surprise.

– Also, consider new sensory stimuli. If your child has never been to the beach before, buy sand at a crafts or hardware store, lay out a tarp, and spread it out for them to walk on. Practice wearing layered clothing if you live in warmer climes and you are visiting a colder climate.

3. Create a Child-centric Vacation Ultimately, the trip should be about your child; as such, Barclay emphasizes allowing them to have a say and considering their choices and interests when deciding where to visit. She suggests the following ways to make this happen.