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5 Travel Tips for Families with Special Needs Children

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travel tips for families

It’s summertime and it’s time to share travel tips for families. There are tons of places that are perfect for families to visit and get some rest and relaxation. The one thing that can get tricky is when you are traveling with kids. And then let’s add traveling with a child with a disability. Here are some travel tips for families to make your vacation run smoothly!

Plan Ahead of Time Travel Tips for Families

When planning a vacation with kids, it is important to consider their needs and interests. Choose a destination that is kid-friendly and has activities that will keep them entertained. If attending a museum, amusement park, or another attraction, ask if they have a sensory area or wristband for quick access to rides for children with disabilities. Many places now have areas for accommodating the needs of children with disabilities. Call ahead and ask the attraction what services they have and decide if that works for your family.

Using Visual Schedules

Another travel tip for families is that it’s important to have a schedule. This will help keep the kids on track and allow them to know what is going on. It also helps to keep everyone on the same page about what is going to happen. Implement a visual schedule of the activities, it works well written out as a checklist or pictures. Your child crosses the activity off or puts the picture in a bag when the activity is completed.

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Creating a Safe Place

When children become overstimulated, it is important to have a calm and safe space for them to go. You can read more about the sensory spaces I have created for my classroom. This space should be away from the source of the stimulation and should be quiet and peaceful. It is also important to have someone there to help the child calm down and feel safe. If visiting friends or family for parties or dinner, ask if you can create a safe and calm place for your child. This should be a place away from the activities, that is quiet and has a few of their favorite things.

Have Fun Items Ready

Create a box of fun activities that is only available when you are unable to give full attention to your child. The box needs to be individualized for your child and the things you know they enjoy best. For example, if your child is into playdough, get a small new activity set that can keep their interest or get their mind off of a potentially overstimulating situation. Other items that work great are fidgets, small stuffed animals, and your child’s favorite snacks. Sometimes when you are in an unfamiliar place but have familiar items nearby it can be comforting to the child. Usually keeping these items in a backpack that you carry around from place to place can be convenient.

Travel Tips for Families with Visuals

If traveling by plane, create visuals of all activities, (security, giving a ticket over, putting the seat belt on) and load your carry-on with their favorite items (like mentioned earlier). It also can be helpful to book a seat that has your whole family in one row and make sure your child’s seat has extra legroom. This can provide your child with space to move especially on a long flight. Make sure that your child is dressed in comfortable clothes and shoes. And perhaps bring a small weighted blanket if your child has sensory needs.

Have a visual for when your child may be agitated or upset. With reasonable choices on it to support them when they might need a break, are hungry, or are tired. Understand that when you are on vacation there are many new and exciting experiences but, this also means there is lots of change and overstimulation that can happen as well.

Going on vacation can be very exciting! It can be a great opportunity to explore new places, meet new people, and try new things. Vacations can also be a great chance to relax and rejuvenate. Use these travel tips for families to make your vacation with your family the best it can be for everyone!