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Challenge: Summer Fun

Traveling with special needs kids-what you need to know

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Vacation! It's summer, a time when many families hit the road.

Since my youngest is now also in school, we join the herds and the masses this year...having to vacation when everyone else does. When he was in preschool, we always took advantage of the lower costs and fewer crowds of the off-seasons or shoulder-seasons. Not this year, sigh. Vacationing with a child with special needs can be trying enough, you want to make sure you are prepared for anything and everything. A little extra work before you go could make your trip less stressful should you encounter an emergency. Here are some of the things I am preparing before we go. If you're hitting the roads for summer vacation or the winter holidays, use this a reminder for special needs travel tips before you go.

  1. Local hospitals or medical centers-We will be in a very remote area. There's not even a CVS for hundreds of miles. But if there is an emergency, where will you go? Do your research online ahead of time and know where to go. Find out if they take your insurance.
  2. Have plenty of medications-Or the availability of refills. Many insurance companies only allow you to refill prescriptions every 30 or 90 days. Double check when yours will run out and make sure you have enough to get you through the vacation.
  3. Consider travel insurance-If your child is medically fragile or medically complex, you should consider travel insurance. If you have planned a very expensive vacation, probably with non-refundable plane tickets, what will you do if you child gets sick and cannot go? Travel insurance will protect you if that happens. Sure, if you don't need it, it seems like a waste of money. But generally it's a small percentage of the cost of the trip. And you'd be surprised at the number of families I know who have benefited from it, including my own!
  4. Call your medical insurance company-Imagine this, something happens and you find yourself at the doctor or ER while on vacation. Even worse, you're in the middle of a stressful moment, trying to get it resolved....only to be told by the receptionist that you've been declined because you are OUT OF NETWORK. Ask your insurance company what the policy is, and what the procedure is should something happen while you are away. Ask them to put a note in your file where you will be and the dates. Ask if they will require referrals.
  5. Call your child's pediatrician-Let them know where you will be, and ask what the procedure is if you need a referral in a hurry.
  6. Be strategic in choosing lodging- I look at hotel restaurants and their menus. I check which mini-markets or like a CVS or Walgreens will be nearby. If your child has food allergies or other issues (you need Ensure, something like that) you want to make sure you know where to get it.
  7. Plan, predict, prepare and prevent-Think of what could possibly happen that would put a damper on your trip. Plan ahead. Food, medications, special clothing, special items....plan ahead for smooth sailing. Call your hotel, arrange for foods, quiet, whatever it takes.
  8. Relax and enjoy! Know that you have prepared for the worst and expect the best. You've done all you can, so relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing that you are prepared.


I hope you have a fun and safe experience!

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