Welcome to part one of our travel series, where we will be covering a variety of topics on travel and access that will better prepare you for traveling with individuals with disabilities. You can read more on this topic in the following articles in the series:

Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can follow the series and come back to it for easy reference when you need a refresher.

It’s time to start planning for vacation if you want that perfect destination for relaxation and fun.

A lot of travel sites detail where to find fun activities for children and families. Businesses are more aware of families’ needs than they have been in the past. In fact, travel destinations, hotels and theme parks compete for travel dollars from families. That means better accommodations and amenities for everyone.

We have assembled some specific suggestions to help you organize your thoughts and supplies for traveling with children with disabilities. Locate the resources specific to your family’s needs and use them to simplify the path to total relaxation on vacation.

Here are some general items to consider packing to make traveling with children with disabilities a little easier and more fun.

Power options

How many hotel rooms have you been in where there are four outlets, and 2 of them are in the bathroom? Consider purchasing a brightly-colored multiplug outlet if your family requires battery operated devices such as phones, tablets, communication devices and laptops. Why use a brightly-colored outlet? It will stand out visually and help you remember to pack it when you leave the hotel.

Box of gallon-sized zip-top bags

Having extra plastic bags is never a bad idea as long as they are far out of children’s reach. Zip-top bags are great for transporting: wet clothing, sandy shoes, half-eaten snacks, extra sets of supplies and more. Heavy duty zippered plastic bags could hold communication boards for easy water-resistant communication supports, too. Use zip-top bags to shield electronics from sand or moisture or even to keep cords and chargers all in the same place. Don’t have room for the entire box of bags? Take them out of the box and use a hair tie to keep the bundle together until you need them.

Extra diapers and wipes

With travel delays and traffic jams, additional items for comfort ensure a more pleasant journey. Travel demands different schedules for everyone on the trip including children who are learning, practicing or struggling with toileting skills. Consider packing extra diapers and wipes so that everyone is comfortable. If luggage or bag space is limited, consider using the outside pockets of suitcases for storing extra diapers.

Favorite entertainment and backup plans for diversion

Media and entertainment options are different at home than they are during travel. Consider using locally stored media instead of streaming so that you don’t have to rely on internet access to view favorite shows or movies.

Specific eating utensils or drinking cups

If you are staying at a motel, hotel, friend’s house or apartment, you can locate or request additional towels and toiletries, but they may not have a sippy cup or sports bottle for a person learning how to use an open cup or glass. Further, if your stay includes a furnished apartment, the supplies provided probably will not include specialized or favorite daily supplies.

Additional considerations for travel
  • Call each destination on your trip before heading out to ensure children are permitted, as well as items you may need to bring: strollers, liquids, snacks and bags. Although children may be allowed, strollers may not be. Likewise, sealed bottles and sippy cups may be allowed, but not cans or 20-ounce soda containers. Shoulder bags may be allowed, but backpacks may have to be checked into a cloakroom.
  • Investigate data options for phone and internet while you travel. If you think you will travel through or to places with spotty internet or cell service, ask your cellular provider about options. Planning for the expense could be far less costly than assuming all coverage is the same. Alternatively, consider turning off items that use data until you reach your destination. Then connect to what is hopefully free Wi-Fi!
  • Notify your bank that you will be traveling. Tell them which days you will be away so your credit and debit cards will not activate fraud alert notifications or usage freezes during your trip.

There is so much planning to do when traveling. It may be helpful to create and print some checklists as planning guides until you feel like an expert.

Finally, when your trip is over, consider reviewing and rating restaurants and venues on travel sites for children, families, accessibility and accommodations. Other travelers will appreciate and benefit from your experiences!

About the Author
Anne Johnson-Oliss has spent more than 20 years in the special education field as a teacher, supervisor, sales and marketing professional and business leader. In addition to teaching at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, Anne has authored five books and is an experienced presenter at national and international forums. She earned a Master of Education degree from Wright State and holds several certifications in education and business.