On the Road Again – Tips for Road Trips for Kids with Special Needs

Summer is in full swing and for many folks, this means a family road trip. Note – I differentiate between a family trip and a vacation – vacation implies a relaxing getaway while family trip – well, maybe not as relaxing, but can still be fun and full of special moments.

Traveling with a family member who has special needs can add additional considerations and preparations, but whether you’re taking a quick weekend trip to a favorite spot or a lengthier adventure somewhere new, these helpful tips will hopefully allow for smooth sailing!

Before you hit the road

  • The good news about driving is that you can take your time and stop along the way. Check out your route before you go, including rest stops, food options and possible construction delays. If you’re traveling in the US – the US Rest Areas site can be helpful. There are also plenty of apps you can download if you’re in a pinch and need to find things while already on the road.
  • Make sure your car is ‘road trip ready’ – most service stations will do a fluids and tire check free or at low cost.  Our AC went out on a long road trip and I still sweat just thinking about it!
  • Give your children as much as information as you can upfront about length of trip, where you’re going and how many stops you’ll make along the way. Perhaps share some videos of your destination. My son likes to follow the map on our phone so he can visualize where we are headed – side bonus is that he always lets us know when a police car is ahead!
  • Talk to your doctor about any special considerations: prescriptions and medications, names of medical facilities that they’d recommend near where you are staying.

Avoiding ‘bumps’ along the way

  • You should see our car when we’re getting ready for a road trip – it’s amazing that we can even get it out of the driveway! While I don’t recommend the extreme over-packing method that we seem to rely on – another helpful aspect of driving is that you can typically bring more things from home that you might need at your destination. Think about your car packing strategy – what do you need to be able to get to quickly versus what can be stored in a car carrier or trunk. If you’re stopping overnight on the way to your final destination, a small hotel bag with just the essentials is helpful versus having to unpack and repack the full car.
  • Pack a cooler with any foods that are must-have items for your family – maybe you have allergies or food sensitivities to consider. Worried about food going bad, consider this plug in cooler
  • Don’t forget lovies, blankets or other comfort items that might help if your child becomes overstimulated.
  • Road trips can be tough on any child when it comes to boredom. Think about downloading a new book or purchasing some new toys just for this trip.  You can check out a free trial on Audible or other apps for podcasts and e-books.  These lap organizers can come in handy for holding a tablet and other fun activities.

Even with all the planning and lists in the world, sometimes the best laid plans do go awry, so the best advice is to just try and be flexible and roll with those moments that aren’t perfect. We all have visions in our heads of what the ideal trip looks like and it can be hard to adjust and manage when something doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s those imperfect, unplanned moments that we all remember most! Don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed and for more in-depth tips for traveling, check out this Special Needs Travel Guide.

Bon voyage!!

*We are not being compensated for any of the products listed.



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