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Family Solutions: Family Outings and Vacations 


Tips For Traveling With Special Needs Kids
by Lisa Simmons
  Summer is an ideal time for family vacations and get-a-ways. Most parents will tell you that successful family traveling takes planning. Traveling with a special needs child takes even more preparation, but is sure to create wonderful family memories for everyone.

Here are some tips to help make your trip a true success!

1. Be Brave

Many families with special needs kids are just plain scared of trips away from home. The thought of trying to do sensitive medical procedures "on the road" or deal with behavioral  outbursts in front of a crowd is simply too overwhelming to contemplate. Unless your doctor or specialist has specifically ruled out travel, don't let your fears take over! 

2. Planning Is Everything

Map out your trip and select destinations that can accommodate you and your child's needs. If you're not sure what type of questions to ask, try this Accessibility Checklist. If any of your destinations seems totally unable to meet your needs don't be shy about asking for other recommendations in the area. Maybe the knowledge that they lost a potential customer will inspire them to improve their accessibility.

3. Consult With Your Child's Physician 

Ask for recommendations, tips, and a special "travel pack" with items you may need in case of an emergency. Your travel pack might include items like: 

  • A list of any prescription drugs your child is taking and a copy of the prescription (just in case)

  • A physician's description letter of your child's condition and needs in case of an emergency

  • Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and/or pager numbers of your home physicians/specialists

  • Recommendations for physicians and specialists in the area you're visiting

  • Health insurance cards and phone numbers (be sure you've reviewed your insurance policy before you leave – many require prior approval before out of town emergency room or doctor's visits)

  • Phone numbers of any necessary medical supply company 

4. Make A Small Checklist Of Items That Cannot Be Left Behind

If your special needs child has favorite toys, security items or essential medical items, you don't want to discover them "missing" half way home. Make a list as you pack of all essential items and double check it before you leave each stop of your journey.

5. Don't Be Shy

During your travels you're bound to run into individuals who don't know what to do or how to react to an individual with special needs. As diplomatically as you can, let people know what you need and expect them to make accommodations for your child's special needs. Most people will be more than happy to help. If they offer you a room or seating accommodation that just won't work, politely decline and explain again what you need and why. Look at as an opportunity to do your part for disability awareness!

Traveling, like everything else, is an acquired skill. If you're first trip doesn't turn out perfectly, don't give up! Sit down (after you've rested) and analyze what went wrong. 

  • How could you have prepared differently or more effectively?

  • Which of your destinations & stopovers worked well?

  • Which ones just need to be crossed off your list? 

Chances are if your trip was to visit family or friends you'll be traveling that road again. Time spent establishing relationships along the road can be time well invested! And remember, every trip is a learning experience for you and a precious family memory for you children! Here to many safe travels!

About the Author

© 2001, Lisa Simmons. All Rights Reserved. Lisa is a disability researcher and author of "The Internet Resource Guide for Parents and Disability Professionals". Visit her online at: or subscribe to her free newsletter at This article provided by the Family Content Archives at:

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