Ahhh, traveling with children, it's hardly a vacation for parents. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, traveling might feel like it's just too much to handle. In addition to the normal packing of underwear and socks, you must consider medical equipment and prescriptions. Then there's the accessibility of the transportation and accommodations to think about. It's a challenge, but one you are definitely up for. By planning ahead, you can make it easier, more relaxed, and fun for all.

Step One: The Destination

  • Consider the accessibility of your destination. Does the hotel have accommodations that will fit your family's needs? Will the activities available be suitable for your child? Will your family be allowed to skip long lines? Disney has received the thumbs up from many families of children with special needs thanks to great wheelchair accessibility, and special fast passes may be available to help you avoid long lines.
  • Talk with other parents of children with special needs who have traveled to the same place. Ask about their experience and for any tips they may have.
  • Consider special equipment needs. Do you need to plug in electrical medical equipment and need a special device while traveling in Europe? Will you need back-up batteries?

Step Two: Packing

  • If you have to pack medications, be sure to keep them in their original containers, especially if you are flying. This will help you avoid problems with airport security. The information on the bottles will also be helpful to have in case of an emergency.
  • Pack the everyday essentials for taking care of your child as well as any extra equipment you might need in case of an unforeseen event. You will also want to pack extra medications and necessary items in case of a delayed return flight.
  • Find out the location of the closest hospital, especially if there is one nearby that specializes in your child's condition. Have the printed directions readily available or have the hospital address saved in your GPS device.
  • Prepare for emergencies by having all of your child's health information with you at all times. Don't forget those insurance cards. In the event of an accident, you may be unable to communicate your child's needs to medical personnel. You can tape the information to your child's car seat or put it in his jacket. And even if your child has insurance through a state program and you are out of state, hospitals and doctors will still take the information for payment.

Step Three: Getting There

  • Consider how you will arrive at your destination. Is flying out of the question for you? Is a long car ride too much for your child? Most airlines will make accommodations for people with special needs, although there are rules and guidelines. You'll want the trip to be as comfortable as possible for your child.
  • Avoid the expenses of additional checked luggage by letting the security officers know about the medications and equipment you have.
  • Inform security and airline personnel about your child's condition and if any steps in the boarding process might upset her. Offer suggestions on how to make it go smoothly.
  • Security must be made aware of anything you need to do, such as carry your child through the metal detector. The officer is not to remove your child from her wheelchair — only you are to do that.
  • Be prepared as your child may be subjected to a pat down and any of her equipment may be screened.
  • Secure transportation from the airport to the hotel that is accessible to your child. Don't assume that the car rental company at the airport will have what you need available. Book it ahead of time so that you are ready to go.

Traveling with a child who has special needs is a lot of work, but it is well worth it if you are prepared. The family memories will last a lifetime and the joy your child experiences while spending quality time with you is immeasurable.

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