7 Perks to Traveling with Your Special Needs Child
Traveling with kids is hard; “like between a rock and a hard place” hard…or “between rest stops on the interstate” hard. Traveling with a special needs child can feel insurmountable; your house is an oasis, It is home base, It’s where you hit the reset button at the end of the day. To leave familiar territory can sometimes feel challenging. I’m a homebody at heart, I’d be happy in my “hobbit hole” with occasional jaunts into the open air. So why try? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, everybody needs an adventure. We all need to shake things, up to shake the dust off. Our kids need to see new things, eat new foods, sleep in new places and feel wind or waves or mountain air. We need it, too. It’s worth the hassle, but here’s the thing: The strange and amazing thing that I’ve come to realize when I start to fear what’s out my front door: is that it’s actually easier to travel with a special needs child. There are perks, unexpected “kindnesses” and adventures reserved especially for you. Spring break is coming, Summer is coming; here’s to embracing the wanderlust and celebrating the doors that open when you travel with your child with special needs.
1. Handicap Parking
There is “no circling the cement jungle” at a snail’s pace for us. At the restaurant, gas station, hotel, airport and the amusement parks that perfect spot always awaits us. You are a VIP wherever you go, because your child deserves VIP status.
2. Early Boarding
Forget to get to the airport hours in advance to wait in the line and cross your fingers that you’ll be in the beginning of “Group B.” Forget vying to avoid the seat at the back that smells of the lavatory and shares direct contact with the food cart. Families with small children and children with special needs proceed to the gate like “we’re walking the red carpet”. There is no “first come, first served for us.”
3. Disney Access Service Card
I might just go to Disney simply for this one reason. “This magic card” gets you to the front of every ride in the Magic Kingdom because the Magic Kingdom understands that your child with special needs can’t always wait hours in long lines, meltdown or needs to be able to skip the line full of sweaty, sun-screened, stressed-out people.
4. Kindness of Strangers
This one is true and not just on vacation: Everybody genuinely wants to help. They want to open doors and say “hi”, and help you with your bags and wait patiently while any and all of your kids have meltdowns when you’re trying to order dinner. People are nice, nicer, in fact, than I give them credit for. Vacations always remind me of this.
Most families throw caution (and their regular nap and feeding schedules) to the wind on vacation. Sounds lovely, until it’s not. When someone’s stomach aches or no one’s eaten a vegetable in three days, or taken a nap in four days, it isn’t lovely. Special Need’s parents are good at keeping a semblance of a routine for their kid’s sake, especially away from home and it makes everyone a whole lot happier.
Special Need’s parents are master packers. We are Tetris champions when it comes to fitting all the equipment, luggage, and emergency supplies in the trunk of a car. We carry stashes of snacks, and Band-Aids and medications on us at all times. Packing for trips is a breeze because we have to actually do it every day of our lives. I don’t even need a list anymore; the list is emblazoned in my brain, you won’t catch us leaving the prized blanket or “lovey” by the wayside.
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We are planners by nature, or, if not by nature, by circumstance. Swimming, biking, hiking, Broadway shows, and roller coasters and Lego parks take research and a game plan…if you want to do them right. We know how to research and pick the best time of day, the best walking path and the best “attraction” to suit our children’s needs. We are the best social coordinators and event planners of all time; we could sell our services, but we are clearly putting them to better use.
Photo Credit: MariaDubova
For more traveling tips & links
- Traveling Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs
- Encourage Traveling for All Without Limits
- Traveling with Special Dietary Need
- Free Access Pass to America the Beautiful
- Kids with Special Needs and Family Travel
- More than a Diaper Bag: Practical Tips for Car Travel with a Special Needs Baby
- Where to Purchase Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Foods and Some Favorite Brands