What to consider when travelling with a child with special needs

July 13, 2017 Published by

Travelling with SEND children can seem daunting, but it is well worth the effort as the benefits far outweigh the extra planning that needs to happen. 

Of course every child’s needs are different so not all of this will apply to your family, but we hope you will find some useful tips here.

Planning ahead



Before travelling, you need to be totally honest with yourself and make a list of your child’s specific needs. Contact airlines and your accommodation in advance and let them know what your needs will be, so they can be planned for.

Choosing a destination


Picking a suitable destination to travel to


It may be a good idea to choose a quiet resort (if you can travel out of season, this will provide a much calmer experience).

When choosing a location, make sure that you are within easy access of a medical centre; check out the facilities and whether they are suitable for your child’s needs.  Make sure you have an appropriate level of travel insurance and if you are travelling within the EU, remember to take your EHIC form.    

If you are flying


Consider checking into an airport loung

(Credit: Concorde Room by Altair78 licensed under CC BY 2.0)


Night flights can be a good option as they will be less busy.  You might want to consider checking into an airport lounge for a small extra cost, to get away from the general hustle and bustle.

If appropriate, it is a good idea to check with your GP and ask if they are happy for your child to travel – they will issue you with a Fit to Fly Certificate.

Medication and equipment

If you are flying, you will need to obtain special clearance from airlines if your child needs to take liquids onboard – take a prescription and doctor’s note and clearly label any medication you are packing.  The NHS have some advice on their website on whether or not you can take your medicine abroad.

You should give your doctor plenty of notice if you need an advance on any of your child’s medication. If your child has medical needs that mean they need specific equipment, check whether it can be hired before taking your own.  If you do take your own make sure that it is all labeled; it is also a good idea to take photos just in case they get lost or damaged.

Dealing with the change in routine



It’s not uncommon for children to struggle with new routines and environments, for example, some children on the Autistic Spectrum, or children with anxiety.

Try role-playing different scenarios before the trip: at the airport, getting on the plane, boarding the boat, etc. You could also read books about travel or watch clips on YouTube.   

What to pack

This will vary greatly depending on the needs of your child. Some key things you might want to tick off however are:

  • Noise cancelling headphones, so your child can listen to games/videos/music and block out their noisy surroundings
  • Mobile or tablet device (fully charged – don’t forget the charger!) – these can be a godsend in difficult times. Try to retain control over screen time (e.g. having a break every half an hour) if possible, but don’t feel guilty about being a little more relaxed about the rules if it helps everyone feel a bit calmer
  • Favourite toys/comforters/fidget toys to distract your child and offer some familiarity

We hope you have a wonderful family holiday! If you need more advice take a look at The Disabled Travel Advice website which has lots of information on holidays, day trips and travelling with SEND.

Photo Credit:

Boys on a Plane by Juhan Sonin Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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