Five Tips for Traveling with Special Needs Children


As the mother of a child with autism and another with Down syndrome, Gina Badalaty think it’s critical to take her kids on vacation. She and her husband travel to child-appropriate places every summer with their girls, and after 8 years of doing so, they’ve learned a few tricks for keeping their family safe, secure, and sane. Read her advice on traveling with special needs children.

1. Scope out your vacation destination. Without some pre-planning, you will likely run into something unexpected that can ruin your whole trip. Call your hotel and locations you are visiting to make sure they can accommodate any physical, dietary, medical and other requirements your child may have. Google the nearest pharmacies, first aid, and food shops. Make sure your hotel room has a refrigerator if your child has a special diet. Even if your child does not have a physical disability, an inability to wait on line or stay on foot for a long time can ruin any park vacation. Do not be afraid to ask what kind of special needs accommodations they have and ask about strollers for big kids too.
2. Bring toys. Do not rely on any onboard video devices as they can break, work poorly or, on a plane, be non-existent. Make sure the toys are safe, small without lots of parts, and are ones your child likes. Don’t forget to bring something he or she can chew on for sensory-affected kids.
3. Bring snacks. You cannot bring drinks on a plane, but you can bring snacks – this crucial if your child is on a special diet. Make sure you have a way to purchase more snacks and drinks if you run out. When driving, bring a small freezer with you and load up with your child’s favorites.
4. Make a parent-child plan. My husband and I have two kids, so in airports and on planes, we are each responsible for one child apiece. Make sure that you have a plan on how to keep track of your children, what to do for a bathroom break, and who will watch which child. For example, if your spouse suffers from a phobia of flying, you should be the one who keeps an eye on the child who is likely to wander.
5. Be prepared for disaster. Wherever you are, you may want to alert security and the staff to your child’s needs or tendencies. If you have a small child who wanders, make a plan to keep them safe even if you are asleep. Any child can open an inside lock, so we’ve learned from experience to put loud and heavy obstacles in front of our room or house doors. If our daughter wakes up and tries to escape, we’ll have the benefit of a loud metal object dropping or hear her trying to move a heavy table.

Gina Badalaty is a happily married mother to two special needs girls who lives in Pennsylvania.She works from home as a web designer, mommy blogger, blogging trainer, and aspiring novelist.Since surviving a stroke at age 33, she counts every day is a blessing and an adventure.She is passionate about finding and telling compelling stories that touch the spirits of parents everywhere.You can visit her at or follow her on Twitter: @ginabad.