A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs

A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Posted on April 14, 2016   •   Written by

children with special needsExcerpts from the book: Starbrite Traveler: A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs

All children benefit from traveling. Travel is full of teachable moments. Children with special needs are no different. Travel provides opportunities to practice and improve social and communication skill and promotes cognitive growth.

Families traveling with a child with special needs may avoid traveling due to the unique complexities. Many parents are concerned that they will not be able to secure the required special provisions and accessibility for hotel accommodations, attractions, and modes of transportation. When traveling with a child with special needs, planning prior to leaving for the vacation is key. Below are a few tips that we have found helpful throughout the years.

  • Check the age of a cruise ship. Newer ships tend to have better wheelchair/walker accessibility and medical equipment for children with mobility issues.
  • Make an early request a wheelchair accessible room. Many hotels/cruise ships only have a limited number of available rooms/cabins.
  • Special Needs at Sea delivers equipment and supplies directly to cruise ships, if needed.
  • Inquire about vacation trip insurance that includes airlift coverage in the event of an emergency.
  • Request an orientation tour of the ship or hotel in order to familiarize your child with the public spaces on the ship.
  • Bring your own extension cord in the event the ship or hotel is unable to provide one to charge a wheelchair.
  • Motorized wheelchairs and mobility scooters cannot be taken on tenders. For a list of ports of call where the cruise ship docks at the pier check with the cruise line.
  • Prior to leaving for vacation, locate an equipment supply store near your hotel in case of equipment breakage.
  • When traveling internationally do not plug your wheelchair into the hotel’s razor plug. It can only accept 15-watt appliances and will blow a fuse and destroy your equipment. A universal charger is available for wheelchairs and scooters from Soneil.
  • If your child is interested in snorkeling, but has a physical disability that will prevent swimming, an inflatable raft with a window is the way to go. Your child can lie on the raft and use the window to view the underwater world.
  • Prior to air travel, be sure to review Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations for equipment requirements, dimensions of wheelchairs, medical portable electronic devices, ventilators, respirators or regulations regarding batteries.
  • If your child requires a wheelchair on the plane, request an “airplane specific wheelchair” when booking to enable him to maneuver the aisles and lavatory.
  • Use gel or foam-filled batteries in your scooter or power chair to avoid the requirement to remove standard acid-filled batteries and pack them in a special container.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all medical portable electronic devices to be marked with manufacturer’s label.
  • If your child has a visual impairment, inform hotel staff.
  • Request an additional room pass key so that your older child can gain independence entering the hotel room and your younger child can have fun using hotel keys. Place a small piece of tape on the card running in the same direction as the visual arrow to help with placing the card into the door slot.
  • Sign language interpreters and other access options are usually available at museums, amusement parks, and other facilities with advance notice. Be sure to contact all places you plan to visit to request interpreters or other access options.
  • Pack extra batteries and tubing for your hearing aid. Take a portable dehumidifier, hearing aid blower, or HAL-HEN super Dri-Aid container with you to prevent moisture problems, especially if your destination has a warm, humid climate. Important: Once hearing aids absorb moisture, they are not functional until all moisture evaporates.
  • Avoid buffets, as there is a high risk of cross contamination.
  • Use a sheet specifically made for airplane seats to protect your child from contact with any food residue left on the seat.
  • The TSA requires that an epinephrine pen be in its original package with the printed label attached. A physician’s note or prescription must also accompany this pen.
  • For information about managing food allergies on vacation visit this comprehensive website.
  • Create chef cards describing your child’s food allergies by downloading and printing pre-made chef cards for the following food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, shellfish, fish, seafood, eggs, wheat, soy and gluten free intolerance. It is best to print cards on bright colored paper or card stock so it stands out from the other orders. You can also create your own cards.
  • Purchase a portable battery operated Motion Detector Alarm System to use on the doors in your cabin. This is especially important if you are in a cabin with a balcony. This system will sound if a door is opened.
  • Travelers may call TSA Cares (1-855-787-2227) a helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

For additional information and tips about traveling with a child with special needs visit Abeon Travel.


Jesemine JonesIda KeiperJesemine Jones (right) and Ida Keiper (left) have a combined five decades of educating children with special needs. Jones is a school social worker and Keiper a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience as a special education teacher. They are co-founders of Abeon Travel, a travel agency specializing in travel for families with special needs. They are also co-authors of Starbrite Traveler: A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs, Starbrite Traveler: Destinations For Kids with Special Needs – East Coast Edition and Autism and Travel.

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