The winter holidays are right around the corner, bringing with them family time, traveling, and sometimes extra levels of stress. Though vacations can be a magical period, travel can sometimes complicate the journey — as can taking extra care to ensure your special-needs child is safe, behaving, and ready for long flights or car rides. Luckily, we’ve assembled a list of tips, activities, and ideas to help keep your child entertained and your stress at bay while traveling this holiday season.
1- Pack snacks
And lots of them! Stock up on some of your child’s favorite treats of the healthy and sweet variety. Use them to dulcify your child should they become cranky, or make the treats a reward for good behavior. The snack serves as a nice and simple distraction during long journeys while also motivating children to stay on their best behavior.
2- Give them gum on airplanes
We all know how strange and new it can be to experience popping ears on airplane ascents. Pack some gum — find your child’s favorite kind — and give them a piece before liftoff and touchdown. When sharing the gum, explain why it’s needed to keep your ears happy as pressure changes when you go higher in the air. Calm your child while educating them!
3- Don’t forget medications, and bring extra
Does your child have any unique medical needs? Bring pills and medicines aplenty — you never know if your flight will be delayed or if traffic will slow down your driving. The worst thing that can happen during a particularly stressful voyage is a necessary medicine shortage. At the very least, bring some Tylenol or Advil just in case children (or parents) are in need.
4- Bring a blanket and other comfort items
Make the journey as homey as possible. That means bringing along a favorite doll, stuffed animal, blanket, or whatever else may act as a source of comfort for your child. Airports can be stimuli overload, so whatever you can do to keep your child secure and at ease will go a long way.
5- Prepare for bathroom breaks
If you’re flying, try to book an aisle seat as to not disturb your neighbors. If you’re driving, tack on some extra time to your estimated trip so you can stop once or twice for a quick pit stop.
6- Bring activities to keep busy
Does your child like tic tac toe or hangman? Do they have a favorite game to play or movie to watch? Brings pads of paper and charge up electronic devices so your child is ready to sink their teeth into an activity for an hour or so during extended travel periods. Be sure to play with them if you’re not driving — show them you’re engaged and keep them entertained. With any luck, all the mental energy may help lull them into a restful nap!