Travel with your child with special needs

by Catherine Shorrocks. Top tips for successful travel with your child with special needs.

Child with colourful shapes


Like all children, those with additional needs benefit greatly from new experiences away from home.

The idea of travelling with a child who needs extra support may seem daunting but, with careful planning and a positive attitude, you will be surprised what can be achieved.

Planning is the key to successful travel, so it’s worth spending some time thinking carefully about how your child’s specific needs can be met during journeys and while away from home.

Draw up a list of potential difficulties, such as wheelchair accessibility, queues at the airport or your child’s reaction to a change in routine, then consider how each of these can be addressed.

By contacting airlines and hotels with your specific requirements, and by planning long car journeys carefully, you may be able to sort out solutions to potential problems in advance.

Extra information

There are lots of things you can do to prepare your child for their travel adventure. Playing with toy cars, trains and planes, looking at picture books or reading stories about holidays and travel are all ways of helping them understand what to expect.

Your child may benefit from a visual reminder of the sequence of events they will experience. Use symbols or pictures to show, for example, taking a taxi to the airport, checking in, boarding the plane, take off, landing and arrival at the destination.

On long car journeys, a portable DVD player and a supply of favourite DVDs can be a life-saver. Watching familiar films and programmes will combat boredom and help your child feel secure. Choosing the DVDs together before you go is another good way of preparing your child for the trip.

How to make a magic moment

Holidays make for great family memories and are full of magic moments. These can be revisited time and again if you take camcorder footage or photographs while you are away.

On your return you could put together a short film or a book of photographs to look at with your child. Don’t forget to include pictures of the journey - an important part of your travel experience.

How CBeebies can help

Programmes like Come Outside, Little Human Planet, Something Special and Same Smile help develop your child’s curiosity about the world beyond their home environment.

Watching Nisha and the bears set off on their bike, or Auntie Mabel and Pippin jump in their plane also helps them understand that different types of transport can be used to reach new places.

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Top tips

  • Your
  • child may be eligible for free or reduced price travel on public transport -
  • contact your local council for detailsMake
  • sure you take out a travel insurance policy which takes account of your child’s
  • additional needsSome airlines will provide a
  • specially-designed chair for disabled children - make inquiries well in advance
  • of travelDon’t
  • forget your child’s favourite toy, bedtime story book or comforter - it will
  • provide an important link with home

Parent's tale

When we took our son on his first flight, at the age of six, we were a bit apprehensive in case he found the experience overwhelming. 

We tried to prepare him by pointing out planes in the sky (luckily we live in a flight path!) playing with a toy plane, looking at pictures and talking about the journey. 

In the end we needn’t have worried - he enjoyed every minute of the flight, especially when he was served the in-flight meal. He sat there with a big smile on his face - I think he appreciated the absurdity of it all!

Laurence, Manchester

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