Traveling with children in tow can be difficult. Between carrying extra luggage, managing small babies and getting through security, family trips can have a little stress mixed in with the fun. 

Exploring the world with family when you have a child with special needs can seem more daunting. However, many parents have succeeded in showing their child the world. If you have a child with special needs and feel anxious about embarking on a travel journey, here are a few tips to ensure your little one has the best experience.

Give TSA and Your Hotel A Heads Up

special needs
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto

If you believe you and your family will need special accommodations while traveling, do not hesitate to give the airport a call in advance. Some airports have systems in place for special needs children. By giving them a heads up, you can proactively work with the airline to ensure your child has what they need for a safe and comfortable flight.

You also can call your hotel before you arrive to let them know about your child’s needs. They may have additional accommodations to make your arrival and stay more comfortable. 

Participate in Wings For Autism 

Wings For Autism is a great program many airports have adopted to assist Autistic travelers. The program allows families to conduct “airport rehearsal” to prepare for plane travel. The rehearsals will allow you and your child to practice walking through TSA and boarding the plane. It also gives airport staff a chance to familiarize themselves with your child before the big flight. You can find a list of upcoming Wings For Autism training here

Keep The Familiar Nearby

special needs
Photo credit: Vlada Karpovich

Some special needs children can panic in unfamiliar and new spaces. Having familiar items on hand is a great way to help them while traveling. These items can include stuffed animals, toys, electronics and other travel size things that the child often uses at home. It also can include items that bring the child comfort in times of distress. It’s important to have them on hand when traveling as a family. 

Don’t Panic

Although traveling can be joyful, it can also bring a lot of stress, which could lead to panic. When maneuvering through foreign destinations with special needs children, that panic quickly can turn into fear. Remember, when things get shaky, do not panic. Instead, lean into the next tip many parents say have saved them while traveling with children with special needs. 

Ask For Help

Special needs
Photo credit: Andy Barbour

Parents of special needs children are accustomed to always being one step ahead. Feeling like you’ve missed the mark on being proactive can lead to anxiety and sadness when traveling. To combat this, many parents say they’ve become more willing to ask for help. This can include seeking support from airport staff, hotel concierge or other travelers who may be with you.