Travelling with your SEN Child
It is that time of year when many families will start thinking of a summer holiday. Travelling with your special needs child need not be a barrier to a fun filled time for all. With some additional planning, you too have stress free holiday this year!
- Make an accurate and honest list of your child’s needs so that you can give airlines and tour operators plenty of notice of your exact requirements. Many airports in the UK are now ASD friendly, so it is worth it to ask in advance for any additional support your child may need
- Create an inventory of equipment you need to take with you or hire from your tour operator. Label all items and take photos in case they become lost or damaged.
- If your child has allergies, have food allergy cards printed by Allergy UKthat can be handed to hotel and restaurant chefs.
- If your child has a medical condition, ask your GP if they are happy for them to travel. Ask for a Fit to Fly Certificate. If your child’s condition changes frequently, you’ll want a last-minute letter, the week you’re travelling. Other children, whose conditions do not change, can have open-ended Fit To Fly letters that are not time-sensitive.
- Ask your child’s doctor well in advance for any medication you will need for the holiday. If your child needs to bring syringes or a large amount of medication it is necessary that you travel with a note from your GP
- Obtain special clearance from airlines if your child needs to take liquids on board. Take a prescription and doctor’s note and clearly label any medication you are packing. Find NHS guidelines for taking medication abroad here.
Sensory Processing Disorder and Travel
- Role play in advance using toy trains or boats, boarding passes and read books about travel.
- Choose a quiet resort, villa or travel out of season when the crowds will be less overwhelming. Similarly, night flights are easier to manage than those in the day.
- For children who are fascinated by transport, get an I-Spy checklist book. Ask if your child can talk to the train guard, pilot, etc.
- Consider paying extra to check into an airport lounge where it is less noisy, or take your child to a special play area while you wait at airports.
- Ear defenders or noise-cancelling headphones can help minimise the frightening din of travel.
- Let you child make choices, such as where to sit, what to wear and which activities to take. This gives them the feeling of having more control.
- Take familiar, comforting items as well as new toys to spark interest.
- Consider using your own mobility car.
- Some disability tour operators (for example, Accessible Travel and Leisure) can arrange for accessible transfers and recommend adapted accommodation. Many hire specialist equipment.
- Keep an eye out on eBay for cheap, second-hand, collapsible chairs. They can get damaged during transit and it is best not to risk the one your child relies on.
- CARESis a harness seat (approved by the Civil Aviation Authority) which provides stability to children with mobility issues on board planes.
- The Firefly Go To Seatis approved for use on Easy jet, Air Canada and Thompson holiday flights.
- Try Before You Flyoffers cabin assessments in a replica fuselage so you can run through the practicalities of flying before you travel.
- Virgin Atlantic offers its own special needs seat that fits into the normal seat and harnesses the child in place.
- For your in-flight bag, include enough nappies, wet wipes, mini toiletries and spare clothes and a towel in case of travel sickness, plus loose comfortable clothing – even pyjamas.
- Take a cool box with tempting (and familiar) snacks and drinks. Little boxes of raisins take little fingers a long time to eat and pass the time nicely.
- If your child needs an accessible toilet, plan your toilet breaks using the Changing Places interactive map.
- Take your child’s car seat to use in taxis and transfers at your destination, or hire one for the other end.
- If your child has a blue badge, take it along with the AA European Parking Card for People with Disabilities, which includes details of regulations in 19 countries and a translation for each.