July 23, 2014

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Things You Might Not Know: Travel Tips for Children and Adults with Special Needs

Do you have plans to travel with your loved one with special needs this summer?

Traveling with a child or an elderly family member with special needs presents a unique set of challenges and things to consider. To help your vacation run more smoothly, we’re sharing the following travel tips.

Choose your destination wisely. You’ve heard it said: Location, Location, Location! Consider your loved one’s likes, dislikes and sensory issues when selecting a vacation spot. For example, if your loved one doesn’t like crowds and noise, a vacation to the Big Apple or other urban area would probably not be the best vacation destination.

Consider a mock flight. Many airports and airlines offer mock flights that provide children with autism a flying experience without ever lifting off the ground. Participants pack their bags, ride to the airport, pass through security, and continue through the whole flying process including boarding, “flying” and deplaning. Contact your local airport to learn if such a program exists in your area.

Make special requests with your airline while booking the flight. You may inquire about seats in the front of the plane for easier access or bulkhead seats with extra leg room. If your elderly loved one is traveling alone, request a wheelchair with an attendant to help maneuver your loved one through the airport.

Pack medications, medical records, and a letter from your loved one’s doctor. Gather your loved one’s medications and a copy of his or her medical records. Make sure you have enough medication refills for the length of the trip. Request a letter from your loved one’s doctor describing his or her medical condition, which will help when you’re requesting special accommodations such as an upgrade or seat change.

Pack the comforts of home. A familiar snack, blanket or toy can help ease the anxiety of an interrupted routine for a loved one with special needs.

Call TSA Cares. Travelers may call the TSA help line at 1-855-787-2227 to ask for special needs travel assistance. Call approximately 72 hours ahead of your travel time so that the airports will have time to implement your requests.

Use designated airport security lanes. All U.S. airports offer expedited screening to passengers 75 and older that allows them to move through security without removing their shoes or jacket, and many airports have lanes specifically for use by passengers with disabilities and medical conditions so they don’t have to wait in line.

Request special accommodations. In addition to airlines, trains, cruise lines, hotels and many theme parks also offer special accommodations for guests with special needs. Contact any places you plan to visit ahead of time to ask about any allowances they make for people with special needs.

Prepare for an emergency. Ask your loved one’s doctor for a referral at your destination that will be able to provide care for your loved one in case of an emergency.

Preparing in advance will reduce some of the stress of traveling and help you enjoy the time you spend with your family while on vacation.

Sources:
Traveling With a Special Needs Child
Air Travel Tips for Seniors With Special Needs
A Special Needs Pre-Flight Checklist