Family Travel is never easy. Between delayed flights, lost luggage, public tantrums, and that one thing you forgot to pack that suddenly your child can not do without, travelling with your family can go sideways…fast.
For a family managing special needs, travel can be extra hard. Learn our Top Travel Tips to make travelling with a family with special needs as simple as possible.
Begin with a Win: Travel Essentials
When your family members have complex needs even every day life holds challenges. It can be overwhelming to think about the must-have Travel Essentials for a family with special needs. Start simple with packing your family’s regular travel items.
- Packing List: Packing lists and great tips for family travel are easily found. Check out blogger Lizzie Lau Travels Travel Packing Tips or 25 Travel Tips for Travel with Kids which include good reminders like making sure to slow down and giving your children choices.
- Offer Choice: Print a packing list for each family member to gather their own personal essential items.
- Clear Expectations: How many t-shirts or pjs needed? Can you do laundry? Or better yet, finally give in to their request to wear their favourite shirt every day? How much space can be for special requests like toys or books?
- Start Early: Battles over the favourite shirt that isn’t washed or the HUGE stuffy your child thinks he needs will happen. Deal with these challenges long before it affects the trip or your family’s capacity to travel.
Prepare for your Special Needs Family’s Challenges
Your child’s challenges are your family’s reality. Truth is, your family has some extra tasks to prepare for successful travel. Many kids with ADHD and/or ASD struggle with remaining flexible, especially in the face of things unfamiliar and the absence of routine. Do everything possible ahead of time to meet those challenges.
- Prepare: Identify your child’s biggest challenges that could make travelling difficult. What triggers those challenges? For example, a child with Sensory Processing Disorder could be set off by loud, busy airports, the bright light on the plane, or uncomfortable clothing on a long trip.
- Personalize: Adapt travel choices for best chance of success. Is your flight too early or arrive too late with kids guaranteed to be too tired? Is there a way to maintain routines? Adequate room to provide a quiet space when needed? Can you bring your own food?
- Plan: Together, Choose and List the strategies your family will use to face the challenges you identified. Having a concrete plan will help your family in the moment, when everyone’s ability to respond positively to challenges may seem as distant as home.
- Prep: Pack essential items needed for your Plan. For the above example of SPD, pack ear plugs or headphones, sunglasses or eye mask, and wear comfortable clothing.
- Practice: Test your strategies and your magic bag of items before your trip. Plan a weekend family getaway – even to Grandma’s house. Spend a day at a local attraction. Role Play often leading up to trip.
Happy Kid. Happy Trip.
Let’s face it! All kids are ready to throw down when they are tired, hungry, or – the big one – bored. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadian parents say one of their main concerns when travelling is keeping their kids entertained. For a child facing additional challenges, a distraction that keeps them happy is key.
I remember the days when the travel activity bucket was a huge, cumbersome thing packed with things to keep the littles happy. These days, just a tablet provides so many activity options and can keep everything, and everyone, under control while on the go: from homework stuff like math drills and language practice, colouring and art activities, video games, and even offline viewing on Netflix of their favourite movies and shows.
When so many things are complex for a family managing special needs, I am all for keeping the entertainment strategy simple.
From the tried-and-true shows you can rely on like Beat Bugs and Luna Petunia to calm any meltdown, to discovering new show obsessions like Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters, Netflix downloads are a must-have travel essential for parents and their kids. So when it’s time to go on a trip together, one thing is for sure: when Netflix at home becomes Netflix on the go, everyone stays content, distracted and, most importantly, NOT bored.
No matter if it’s for your littlest one, pre-teen or anyone in between, there are Netflix shows for everyone in the family to pack in their carry-on. And it’s not just Netflix originals, check out the ‘Available for Download’ menu on the Netflix app on your mobile or tablet device and browse all of the titles available to take with you whenever and wherever you want.
How does Netflix keep your family sane and entertained while on the go?
Disclosure: I am so darn happy to be a part of the Netflix Stream Team! #Netflix #StreamTeam #sponsored. I receive promotional items and a Netflix subscription in order to find great content that I can share with YOU. As always, all opinions are my own.
But really, who doesn’t love Netflix?