Traveling with kids is often demanding, and traveling with a child with special needs can add further challenges. Don’t let that be an obstacle to having fun with your kids on a long road trip. With a little planning, any journey can be a fun and exciting chance to connect and experience everything the road has to offer. Here are several tips for keeping kids with special needs safe and happy on long trips.
Plan Your Itinerary (and Then Plan for Surprises!)
A vacation is a time to relax, but before you hit the road, make a few calls and scout lodging and activates ahead of time. Contact the hotels you’re staying at and the attractions you will visit and mention your child’s needs and best interests. More than likely, they’ve helped people like yourself and can provide special accommodations such as wheelchairs, fast passes, and the like. Many hotels have accessible rooms and pools, shower chairs, hospital beds, and staff educated about assisting individuals with special needs. Also, if your kids have dietary restrictions, look for stores and restaurants in the area that provide proper nutritional choices ahead of time.
Speak With Your Pediatrician
Call your child’s doctors to discuss the best ways to enjoy your vacation while keeping your kids safe and happy. They’ll make suggestions for what items, medications, and the like to bring along and how to prepare for possible travel issues. Your doctor can also provide referrals for local physicians, specialists, and hospitals to call on if you need help. Most medical records are electronic these days and accessible by healthcare providers anywhere. But just in case, make a list of medications and print out or save a copy of your child’s personal medical records on a thumb drive.
Extra Supplies, Personal Items, and Breaks
Purchase whatever special items you need for their health and comfort, and consider doubling it, just in case you’re on the road and far from a source. Bring a cooler of appropriate snacks and consider purchasing a refrigerated one you can plug into the cigarette lighter. Most importantly, take regular breaks on the road—don’t limit them to only when passengers need to relieve themselves. You already know how certain environments, sights, sounds, and so forth affect your child. Now consider them in the context of traveling for hours in a small, enclosed place. Make your car a smaller, cozier version of your home, with an extra eye toward safety and comfort.
Planning Means More Time and Fun Together
A big part of keeping kids with special needs safe and happy on long trips is making them feel like a part of the process. Participation makes a vacation even more fun, so let your kids know what will happen. Show them what activities are available and ask what they’d like to do and see. Provide plenty of images to help them visualize where you’re going. If possible, plan for what to do should you become separated, and equip them with a list explaining their situation and needs. Overall, make it clear that this is their trip too!