Logistics for a Trip with Your Child Who has Sensory Issues

Organization and preparation for traveling with your sensory sensitive child.

By Carolyn Dalgliesh

The secret to any successful trip is the planning that occurs ahead of time. With this in mind, here are some general guidelines:

Do What You Can for Yourself and Your Sensory Child Ahead of Time

Think about what you can do before you go that will make your travel time or vacation experience more enjoyable. If you are staying with family and traveling by plane, consider shipping a few things ahead of time or emailing a family member a list of a few things to have on hand that might make a big difference in your child's experience (for example, books on a favorite subject from a local library, or special/favorite foods to have in the house).

Location, Location, Location

Pick the best place to stay for your family. If you have family members who get easily overwhelmed with even the most polite, calm visitors, or family members who might have a lack of understanding of your sensory child's situation, consider staying in a hotel. You really will be setting everyone up for more quality interactions if you can follow your gut on this one without emotion.

Keep Consistencies Wherever You Can

Be conscious of building in some daily consistencies for your sensory child. Consider staying in the same hotel chain whenever you travel. many hotels have great family suites with similar layouts in every location. If the suites come with a small kitchen, this can allow you to have one meal a day in the same place (not a loud restaurant). If your kids love swimming, find one that has a pool at every location; this alone can create some excitement. If you stay with family on a regular basis, consider staying with the same family members at the same home each visit. You can have a regular bedroom for your child, the same chill-out spot, and the same local attractions to visit - all things that will become routine and comfortable for them.

Create a Home Away from Home

This is one piece that can make overnight travel initially challenging. Our sensory kids will be in new experiences with new people all day and be coming "home" to an unfamiliar place at a time when they will need to regroup. You need to come up with a few ways to create a "home away from home." Think about what soothes and supports your sensory chid at home and come up with ways to make travel versions of these supports.

Create a Chill-out Zone on the road. Have a plan in mind at the hotel or the house you are staying in for a chill-out zone for your sensory chid. This an be as simple as bringing some travel versions of favorite snugglies, blankets, books, and handheld sensory toys in a separate area so when they need a break, they know where to go.
Relaxation at Bedtime. Try to create the same routine/systems that you do at home for on the road. Bring favorite music, a favorite book, and/or a favorite blanket. Tap into those things that work at home for bedtime as you will need a few of those tools while traveling.

Investigate the Lay of the Land

Before you go, spend some time learning about what is available to do around where you will be staying: parks, museums, movie theaters, arts and crafts places, and s on. This will help you be ready for action when you and your hosts need a break from each other, your typical child and your sensory child need a break from each other, or you need a plan for an unexpected open day with nothing scheduled.

Caroline Dalgliesh is a professional organizer and the author of The Sensory Child Gets Organized. This excerpt is copyright and reprinted here with permission of the publisher.