Travel Tips for Special Needs

Travel Tips for Special Needs

Traveling with children can be difficult; traveling with a special needs child can be a nightmare!  However, if you are prepared ahead of time, it can (almost) be a breeze.  

Two weeks before the travel date, I create a columned checklist of what to bring on the trip for the entire family.  One week before the trip, I pull out the suitcases and start to pack some items.  As items enter the suitcase, they are checked off the list.  If you are staying with family members or friends, ask them if they have certain items, such as a hair dryer, you can borrow so you do not have to over pack. 

If you are flying for vacation, explain to your travel agent or ticket agent that you have a special needs child and need to be seated up front and near the bathrooms of the plane.  When waiting for the flight to board, tell the agents at the gate that you need to be seated first because of your child’s disability.   Once seated, inform all flight attendants on the plane about your child.  The more they know, the better they are to help if needed. 

When we travel by vehicle, I always sit in the back with my daughter.  Less stress on the neck from turning in the passenger seat up front!  I have everything at my fingertips that she will need.  Because I travel a lot to see family, my sister gave me a car plug in cooler as a gift.  It keeps all drinks, sandwiches, yogurt, etc. cold.  In the early days when my daughter was on formula, I premade the bottles and popped them into the cooler -- a total lifesaver.  It was and still is one of the greatest gifts!

One item that I cannot do without is the “goody bag”:  DVD player, iPod, coloring books/crayons, reading books, stickers, snacks, water, etc. and a brand new small toy that will excite them.   I keep this bag on the floor in the back seat with me in the car and at my feet on the airplane.  

Traveling with special needs children can be conquered if you plan ahead and there are sites on the web to help you.  Happy traveling!

Below are two great links.  The first link is the TSA Guidelines for traveling with children that have a disability.  The second link is a wonderful program called “Wings for Autism” that started in Boston at Logan International Airport to help ease the stress of flying.  Wings for Autism is hoping to expand to other airports. 

TSA Guidelines:

Wings for Autism:

Photo by Runaround Tech

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Written by: Susan Parziale See other articles by Susan Parziale
About the Author:

Susan Parziale is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a non-profit educational association whose members include organizing consultants, speakers, trainers, authors, and manufacturers of organizing products. Susan has created simple yet innovative filing systems tailored to the needs of caregivers for special needs children. Her system tames overwhelming paperwork to help caregivers track and systematize important medical and educational documentation for the child's development and well-being. For her clients, Susan develops home organization systems, revamps children’s play spaces and devises creative solutions for storage areas and bedrooms. Her work has been featured in the Boston Parents Paper (October 2010), Lynnfield Patch (February 2011) and Lynnfield Weekly (October 2011) and she is a frequent speaker to mother's groups. Susan is a volunteer and co-chair for the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism which assists financially disadvantaged families who need help providing services for their autistic children. In 2010, Susan assisted in creating an adaptive dance program at a local dance studio for little girls with special needs which has grown since its inception. Susan lives in Boston and is married to Jonathan Parziale, Director at NaviNet, Inc. in Boston, MA. They are the parents of an 8 year old daughter with Autism.

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