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Safety and Wellness

Holiday Travel Tips for Children Who Have Special Needs


‘Tis the season to be jolly but that can be a tall order when you’re dealing with holiday travel issues. Airports are crowded, security lines long, traffic is snarled. We’ve all been there.  

The most recent PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC) annual Holiday Outlook report shows 47% of all consumers surveyed will travel this holiday season. 

Parents traveling with family members who have a disability are often dealing with extra issues and concerns. The holiday season often means traveling to see friends and relatives. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to decreasing stress and getting rid of your bah humbug. 

Gillette Children’s pediatrician and complex care physician, Uyen Truong, MD.

Gillette Children’s pediatrician and complex care physician, Uyen Truong, MD, has travel tips for families.

Plane Travel Tips

“Our families really do become expert planners, and travel planning is no exception,” says Gillette Children’s pediatrician and complex care physician, Uyen Truong, MD. “As the holiday season comes, it’s good to take some extra time to consider the needs of the child and the family to make travel less hectic and stressful.” 

Dr. Truong has personal experience. She’s been in a wheelchair since age 10 and knows the ins and outs of navigating travel, and she readily offers advice to make trips easier.  

If traveling by plane, here are some important tips:  

  • Check out the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) website and telephone hotline to find out more about the TSA Cares program. It connects passengers with a TSA representative who can answer questions about preparing for the security screening and the flight. The TSA recommends that you call the hotline about 72 hours ahead of travel so TSA Cares can coordinate support for passengers. The toll-free hotline is 1-855-787-2277 and here is the TSA passenger support website.
  • There’s a special security line at airports to assist people who have disabilities. Using this line can make security clearance less of a hassle.  
  • Children who have a disability can leave their shoes on when going through security. 
  • You’re allowed to bring more than the allotted carry-on fluid if it’s clearly labeled as a liquid medication for your child.  
  • It’s a good idea to bring a doctor’s note to explain your child’s health issues.  
Anna helpes her daughter, Annika, on a special accessible van for safe transportation.

Annika is a Gillette patient and her mother, Anna, is an expert at transporting her via van.

Car Travel Tips

If you’re traveling by car you can make your trip more enjoyable by following a few tips.  

  • Plan to make extra stops along your journey. Stretching and getting something to eat or drink can help elevate the mood. Kids with low muscle tone might have to use the bathroom more frequently and are more likely to suffer car sickness. Be prepared.  
  • Plan your seating arrangement to make sure everyone is comfortable. 
  • Bring some good music, books on CD, games or other distractions to make the time pass. 
  • Call hotels ahead of time to make sure they can accommodate your family.  
  • Don’t forget to pack medications, equipment and comfort items. 

Consider sending a letter to family and friends to let them know about your child’s needs and suggest ways people can interact with your child—quiet play, reading or singing. It’s also helpful to tell your hosts about your child’s dietary needs and the medical equipment you might bring.  

If you have concerns about certain aspects about your child’s health, check with your doctor prior to your travel date. 

Taking a moment to prepare for a holiday travel adventure can help make the season merry and bright.