How to travel with kids with Autism and other special needs

Tips for Traveling with Kids with Special Needs

Nov 6, 2019

As we approach the holiday season, many of us are preparing to gather with friends and family near and far. For many of us, that includes travel – either a long car ride or a flight. We know that traveling with kids requires a little extra energy (and planning!), and traveling with kids with special needs may require a little more on top of that.

At Innovative Behavior Options, we’d like to share a few tips to help make your holiday travel with kids with special needs as seamless as possible.

Plan ahead for success 

As with so many things in life, a little planning can go a long way! Many children, and especially those with special needs, like to know what’s happening around them and what’s coming next. To prepare for the trip, make a calendar with a countdown. Being able to look ahead and knowing when the trip will happen will minimize surprise.

We also like to make a schedule for trips and include some choices to let the child have some say in what the family does. It can be hard when visiting others, but calling relatives or friends ahead of time to discuss a broad plan can remove some discomfort for your child and make it more fun.

And when traveling with any child – whether in a car or on a plane – it never hurts to bring along a few movies or videos. Make sure to download anything you need ahead of time so WiFi isn’t an issue.

Practice makes everything more comfortable

Flying can be stressful, even for adults, and an airport is a big, busy, unfamiliar place. Children with special needs, especially children with Autism, may be overstimulated by all the noise, lights, and people that come with a trip to the airport.

Ideally, the day you’re scheduled to fly won’t be your child’s first airport experience. Do a tour ahead of time, showing your child fun, familiar details that will make him or her more comfortable, and, if possible, do a practice run with the airline. TSA has also put together a kid-friendly animation you can watch on their website to prepare for security. During your airport visit, you can re-watch the video while watching TSA screen other passengers.

Find the familiar

Traveling to a new place (or on a new mode of transportation) doesn’t mean leaving behind all of the familiar comforts of home! Make sure to bring along some of your child’s favorite snacks and activities to keep him or her busy during a long car ride or flight. Favorite snacks and activities can help both keep them entertained and surrounded by something familiar.

We also love the idea of getting kids involved and letting them make choices. Let your child help pack their own bag and pick out a few toys to bring – having clothes and toys they’ve selected themselves provides a lot of comfort.

Of course, whether you’re in a plane or a car, plan on taking stretch breaks and don’t hesitate to lean on those downloaded movies to provide a little extra entertainment. Traveling with kids with special needs can be challenging, but the rewards are great!

At IBO, we love using ABA therapy to help our clients thrive in all that they do. If you have a child with Autism or other special needs, we’d love to partner with you to help you and your child meet your goals. Check out our website or give us a call at 770-250-0093.


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