Holidays, vacation, and unexpected trips can put a family on the road for long periods of time. Traveling long distances is hard enough for any child, but it can be very difficult for a child with disabilities or special health care needs.
There can be benefits to traveling by car, such as being able to bring things along you normally can’t take on a plane. Also, there is scenery to look at and talk about with your little one. And you can take frequent breaks and make stops along the way.
The first and most important tip is to make sure the car is road-ready. Have a maintenance check done to make sure your vehicle is good to go. There is nothing worse than getting on the road and having a flat tire, running out of gas or oil, or the radiator overheating.
Second, make sure your child is safe. All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seatbelt fits properly. Typically, this is when they have reached 4’9”, and are between 8 and 12 years of age. You can find out more information at the website CareSeat.org. Also, make sure your child has sunglasses to protect their precious eyesight.
Above all, make the trip fun and comfortable for your family. Pack the child’s own pillow, blanket, favorite snacks, and toys. Your child will appreciate the comforts of home and it will make the trip more enjoyable. If your car does not have a DVD player, a portable DVD player may be an option. If cost is an issue, then games like “look for a state’s license plate” or “looking for state signs” can be a fun game and helps build vocabulary.
Make sure your trip is timed with frequent breaks and restroom stops. You might want to limit your child’s liquids if there are long periods of travel without places to stop and go to the bathroom.
Traveling in a car can be challenging, but is doable and can provide a unique way to connect with your child and provide loads of family fun.
For more tips on making family outings easier, visit the Navigating Daily Life - Parenting Children with Disabilities on this website.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.