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Vacation Planning with Special Needs Kids

How to get from A to B without going (C)razy!

Family vacations are supposed to be fun…right?! For some of our families the opposite has been true. They’ve experienced epic meltdowns, missed flights, had to cancel planned activities and made some very unpleasant memories. WE DON’T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU!  Here are some recommendations to help make your next trip less stressful and more memorable (in a good way).

Planning activities that keep your child busy are going to be a lifesaver.  Travel games, a tablet with new games and/or movies, books and new toys are always good options. Don’t forget headphones and make sure everything is charged.  Space out games/activities throughout the trip and save the good stuff for when you really need it.

Don’t forget to bring snacks. There’s nothing worse than a hangry child! You may be able to grab food along the way but it’s always good to have some favorite snacks as a backup.  Have your child take a break from whatever activity they’re doing to have a snack. This helps space things out so they’re not getting bored. A few suggestions for snacks: Gum is great because it lasts for awhile, but it doesn’t help with hunger. Chips help with hunger, but they go quick. Candy can definitely make them happy, but it can also hype them up. Use candy in moderation as a motivator (example: if we can make it to mile marker 105, then you can have a Kit Kat bar). Beverages can also be great motivators, but limit them if you don’t want to make frequent bathroom stops.

If you’re traveling by car and things are going well, DON’T STOP! Put off food and bathroom stops until you absolutely need them. When you do stop, have your kids get out, walk around and stretch their legs.  If your child has an issue with stealing or will become upset if you don’t buy them everything at the gas station, only let them out at rest stops. Rest stops typically only have vending machines with limited selections.

If you’re traveling by plane, pick a good travel time. If your child isn’t a morning person, don’t book a 6am flight. If they typically go to bed around 7:30, don’t book a 9pm flight. Traveling with a tired kid is never fun. Try to book non-stop flights.  It’s helpful if you can book with an airline that lets you pick your seat ahead of time. If not, sometimes it’s worth it to pay the extra money for early boarding so you can guarantee a good seating arrangement.

Lastly, if you’re following the FAIR but FIRM program, remember that TIMES can be done anywhere (in the car, on a plane, at a restaurant, in the hotel, etc.) as long as your child follows the rules of the TIME. If your child gets consequences while traveling, you can have them clean off the windshield, clean out the car, or help carry and/or unload luggage. If you run into any problems reach out to your behavioral consultant. We’re here to help you!

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