5 Best Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Children

Thursday, October 18, 2018

When vacationing with special needs children, traveling by car is often the easiest option. The reasons for this, being the fact that you can bring more supplies with you and, typically, have the option to stop whenever you need to take a break. The less appealing aspect is that it's obviously going to take longer than a flight, and they may get bored easily, make huge messes, cause you to stress out during your drive and lose your navigation skills. So, before you begin on your exciting trek, here are some tips to help your adventure go smoothly!

5 Best Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Children

1. Map The Details

Obviously, you're going to be using GPS of some sort for your trip to get to the destination, but what about the in-between's? I like to plan out where we will stop for meals, snacks & drinks, and leg stretching opportunities. This way, I don't end up stuck on a road for 25 minutes with my kids whining that they're "starving". I also like to plan accordingly for the bathroom breaks, so we don't end up having to use a gross restroom somewhere. If you have a smallish child, I also suggest grabbing some emergency Pull-Ups, just in case.


5 Best Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Children

A plus to mapping this all out, is that you can know which exits you need for food and breaks, and can tell your child ahead of time. My oldest daughter enjoys being able to plan what's to come, and having an exit number to look out for is really comforting to her.

2. Pack Essentials
5 Best Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Children

When I say "pack", I don't mean in your suitcase in the trunk. I mean in a canvas or travel bag of some sort, that can sit in the floor of the back seat or somewhere reachable, so you can actually get to your essentials.
All of these things have come up as a necessity at one point or another on our road trips. I'm telling you... Get all of it and then some!

3. Comfort Items

This could be anything. A special blanket (maybe a weighted blanket?), a toy, pillow, anything. My oldest always brings one of her Build-a-Bear's with her for traveling and my youngest just brings something that makes her happy at the moment. It can be an essential item to keep anxieties down and bring them the comfort of "home".


4. Bring Snacks

Snacks are absolutely necessary!!!!! For you and them. I have to stay replenished, or my narcoleptic-like issues will kick in, and I will get too sleepy to drive. For them, it just keeps them quiet and happy. Having the option to grab a snack whenever they need can also give some familiarity and comfort of home, so bring their favorites. We like to pack gluten-free items, granola, and gummies with no high fructose corn syrup or food dyes (as my youngest is allergic). These all provide enough energy to keep them going, without giving sugar highs on a long car ride! Also, plenty of water. Yes, you'll have more bathroom breaks, but everyone needs to stay hydrated.

5 Best Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Children
Photo credit: Silvercar

5. Entertainment

Tablets, movies for the DVD player (if you have one), coloring books, stickers, whatever it is that keeps them entertained. Bring it all. Because they will get fed up with something. Yes, even that tablet they will get boring after so many hours. I like to start off with the coloring books and such, and refer to the tablet when they've gotten bored of all the hands-on stuff. Also, because watching a movie can help them take a nap... so I save the best for last.

I am by no means an expert on travel or being the special needs parent. But, I have done this quite a few times. Road trips are my favorite and we take them as often as possible. I've successfully managed to do each road trip without major meltdowns from either child, so I'd say I'm doing pretty good! I hope these tips help you on your next road trip (whether big or small).


Do you prefer road trips or flying? What's the most important thing you bring for the trip? Share in the comments!

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