Family Vacation Ideas
Jennifer Rainey

5 Family Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families

Thinking about these family vacation tips when traveling with a child with special needs will improve your experience. Consider things that will allow you to bring as much routine and familiarity as possible to your trip. Chaos is dysregulating for everyone, so anything you can do to provide a calm environment will benefit your family.

Here are my tips:

  1. The first family vacation idea is to make a list of what you need to bring with you ahead of time.  Cross things off as you pack instead of trying to do it from memory. This idea might seem obvious since many typical families do this as well.  But forgetting something at home, like medications, could make or break a trip for our families.  So this step is extra crucial for us. This way, you’re guaranteed to have all the essentials.  You will not end up miles away from home without your child’s comfort item. It will help them sleep or be the life jacket they need to participate in water activities safely. I learned this one from experience!
  2. Another of my family vacation tips is to choose accommodations that meet your specific needs. One size does not fit all when choosing where you will stay on vacation. So consider your child’s and family’s particular needs when making your decision. For example, if your child doesn’t sleep well when traveling, consider accommodations with separate sleeping and living areas to allow other traveling companions to get some rest. Many hotels have “suites” with two rooms you can use to accomplish this. If wandering off is a potential issue, a hotel room with only one exit to monitor may be a better option for you. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the general “lay of the land” as much as possible beforehand so you can be aware of any potential safety issues, such as pools or other water, and have a plan in place for how to manage them. The more variables you can account for ahead of time, the less stressful it will be for everyone.
  3. Bring a little bit of home along with you. Think about the things you depend on throughout your child’s day for routine and bring some of them with you to help them regulate. For my son, taking his blanket from home is vital. Another example is to pack familiar foods/snacks or know where to find them if you don’t have room in your car, especially if you have a picky eater.
  4. Also, another one of my family vacation tips is to think about sensory needs. Many of our children have a variety of sensory processing challenges that can make being in unfamiliar environments difficult for them. Sights, sounds, and smells that a typical person can take in stride may be disruptive for our kids. Hence, paying attention to how those things may impact their travel experience.  Bring along items that may help them cope with the onslaught to their senses. Possible ideas for this are essential oils, a white noise machine, calming music, fidgets, or anything that helps your child regulate/feel safe and secure. Think about the sensory experience of traveling/sleeping in a new place. You may need to bring your sheets if your child is sensitive to the smell of other laundry detergents.  Or you may need to bring a sleeping bag or air mattress if your child is more comfortable lower to the ground. For some tips on how to create a sensory travel kit for your child, check out this post from Understood.
    5. The final of my family vacation tips is to include your child in the planning process as much as possible.  Also give your child choices. Including your child in the decision-making for a trip can help them be more comfortable with what to expect.  This will allow your trip to go more smoothly. Being away from home can make things feel out of control.  This is especially stressful for one who thrives on familiarity and routine. Giving as much control of what is happening around them as possible can help prevent behavior challenges from arising. You can include anything from choosing an activity for the day or choosing what food they want to eat.

 

About the Author

Jennifer Rainey is a Parent Mentor VitalGuide on Vitalxchange, a digital platform that empowers and enables parents to make informed decisions & engage actively in their child’s care by providing them personalized parenting ‘prescriptions’ that match their needs. Check out her Vitalxchange personal page for more personalized family vacation tips and other topics such as homeschooling, recreational activities, and spelling to communicate.

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