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Tips for Traveling with a Special Needs Child

Traveling with small children is always a challenge, but the joys of travel and spending quality time with family are too good to pass up.  With that said, the difficulties of taking trips with kids are multiplied if one or more children happen to be living with special needs.

Depending on their age, condition, and type of care required, children with special needs can tag along with minimal supervision or need constant attention on the road. These and other hurdles can present challenges to families planning vacations, but they’re nothing that can’t be overcome with planning and insight.

With this in mind, the following are five travel tips for parents of special needs children:


Many special needs children are either too young or require too much care to travel safely. If this is the case, consider respite care services in your area. Several agencies provide respite care in NYC and other major cities, giving parents the chance to find a qualified provider. What’s more, nobody needs to feel guilty about leaving their loved ones behind since these services provide exceptional care and attention. In many ways, respite care can be just as fun and exciting to your special needs child as the vacation will be to your other offspring.


Just because you think it’s okay to bring your special needs child along for a trip doesn’t mean they’re up for the adventure. It’s crucial for parents to consult their child’s pediatrician prior to booking a vacation with them included. If anything, your doctor should be able to provide helpful tips and suggestions for taking proper care of your child while traveling. They may also be able to recommend any additional medications and treatments that could be of use.


In many cases, the destination will determine whether a child with special needs can come along for the trip. Check online before committing to any bookings or reservations. Some places that seem off limits – like theme parks – are more accommodating than you might think. On the flip side, cities like Paris are notoriously challenging to traverse in a wheelchair. Simple online research is often enough to discover if a potential destination is appropriate for a child living with special needs.


Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, all airlines, hotels, and restaurants must provide accommodations to those with special needs. Parents of special needs children can count on these legal requirements to help them travel with minimal hassles and inconvenience. If you encounter a situation where there seems to be minimal or nonexistent compliance with ADA regulations, reach out to staff to check if requests are required for access.


Parents of special needs children don’t need to be told their kids are more normal than most people realize, but it’s still worth a reminder. Providing toys, snacks, and puzzles is essential for keeping kids entertained and satiated on the road. It’s no different for kids with special needs. Parents can save themselves a lot of hassle by not overthinking things.

Planning a vacation with kids in tow is never simple. Things get even more complex if one or more children are living with special needs. With that said, going on vacation with special needs kids is not impossible. Even if it means finding a safe and reliable respite service back home, there’s no shortage of options available. Hopefully, your child can travel with the rest of the family. If not, there’s an option for that too. But in either case, it’s safe to say everyone can have fun and return home in better spirits than they were beforehand.

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