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: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1572.shtm
Wings for Autism: http://www.massport.com/logan-airport/about-logan/Airport%20Programs/WingsforAutism.aspx
Photo by Runaround Tech