Nov 9

Summer is slowly coming to an end and families are still making time for one more vacation before school starts again.  Traveling with kids can be difficult for any family, but those who have a child with behavior challenges, ADHD, Autism or a Sensory Processing Disorder may have added stress when it comes time to travel. Follow our tips to help anticipate and plan for your child’s needs to avoid vacation meltdowns.

  1. Practice your trip
    Role play what your family might experience during travel: sounds at the airport, going through security, sitting close to people on public transportation. Some children may also benefit from seeing the route and schedule of the trip. These types of priming help children be prepared and understand what to expect.
  2. Talk about expectations
    Before your trip, sit down with your child and discuss expectations during your trip. Explain what behaviors are expected and what they can do if they start to feel overwhelmed.
  3. Bring a “sensory kit”
    If your child has sensory sensitives, it is always a good idea to have a kit nearby in case of over-stimulated or under-stimulated moments. Some of our favorite sensory items include: noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget toys, white board and markers, magnets and play dough.
  4. Pack familiar items
    Many children find comfort in the familiar, so bringing a few familiar items can help reduce the stress of all the newness that comes with traveling to a new place. Examples: toiletries like shampoos and toothpaste, and home items like their pillow and nightlight.
  5. Let your child help pack
    By allowing your child to have some control in packing, they will feel more comfortable in the clothes they have packed. Providing an opportunity for your child’s independence is a good way to prevent future stress.
  6. Plan for extra time
    Parents of children with disabilities have learned that things might not always go as planned. Reduce your personal stress by planning additional time in your travel schedule.
  7. Bring a visual schedule
    Many children benefit from having a visual representation of what is to come. This will reduce the worry related to the unexpected. Read our tips on making a visual schedule here.
  8. Stop for break times
    Plan for 10-15 minute breaks every few hours to provide time for your child to have a break from sensory input, or to increase their sensory input. Try finding a quiet place to rest if your child needs a sensory break, or do a few exercises with your child in a parking lot or park to raise their energy.
  9. Look for quiet places
    If you’re traveling through the airport and need to wait for your plane to depart, find a more remote place to sit to reduce sensory input. If you’re traveling by public transportation, find a seat that is in a less crowded area. By taking the time to plan ahead, you will reduce the chance of a sensory meltdown.
  10. Try to follow similar routine
    By maintaining a similar schedule to what your child is used to at home, you are providing a comfort of expectation to your child. Follow the same rules that you enforce at home. Try to keep the same sleep schedule as your child does at home.

If you are interested in receiving professional, customized ABA services for your family to help with behavior challenges, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Disorders, ADHD or related disorders, contact us at

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