The doors open; we buckle in; the journey into the unknown begins - the family road trip. A legend of the modern times, the summer road trip carves some of the greatest and worst memories we have as families. As we choose to be tortured and delighted all at once, families pile into cars, vans, trucks, and trailers on a mission to seek out the new land such as the Grand Canyon, or the old such as your last, great, living aunt. Whatever the reason, special kids and all families relish the opportunity to take control of the landscape ahead; set the GPS; and not look back for days or weeks as we travel by the tried and true way of the land.
In this series, we've been looking at the ways traveling with special needs children can be a huge benefit to all. The kids get out and see the world and tackle new experiences and the world has the chance to meet our special needs kids. In the last in this series, we roll down the window to look at some of the ideas on how to make traveling with special needs children not only possible but fabulous.
Of all the modes of travel, vehicles give us the most control. We can stop when there is an exit; snack when we darn well feel like it; and sing to the MP3 player out loud and the only people we bother are our friends and/or family. There are a few challenges, as with any travel, so here is a list to help make that classic summer vacation as successful as we can.
1. Preparation: Most likely, this is the longest traveling time of the three modes of trave: planes, trains, and automobiles. A pack of toys, diversions, and DVDs help lighten the hourly load of boredom that could lurk around the next exit. At a thrift shop, it's easy to find fun, small odd toys that can put in a special gift bag and brought out when the going gets a little rough.
2. Bring Food: The road trip is the only place where almost constant snacking should be allowed. I get motion sick easily and nibbling helps lower the queasy factor. For my son with Down syndrome, he is easily entertained with a small snack. It allows me to pace the miles ahead. So nibble away as the road beneath you unfolds.
3. Stop for Food: Give in to stopping for a meal with kids. It serves all sorts of purposes: rejuvenates, potty breaks; and a lift for the spirits.
4. Stop at Rest Stops: We bring balls to kick around at rest stops. It's the meal stop without all the food. In addition, the stops help air out not only the people, but also the car!
5. Music Player: I love giving a music player to my son. My teen, (I don't have to worry about her being in charge of getting her music together), but I have to do some planning for my son, so I record his favorite songs. It's a great way to practice listening to language on his own terms (and with his own listening device) and hearing it clearly. I give him small ear phones because he likes to hold them up to his ears. This works on his pincers in addition to keeping him occupied and looking like a big kid.
6. Audio CD: Old fashioned, yes, but it is loads of fun. Of course it might take some agreement and depending on the age of the kids, a few might keep doing their own movie or music, but if a few people want to join in listening to an old fashioned story, it's tons of fun. And, you can't believe how the time passes.
7. Limit the Daily Time on the Road: We adults know we can drive 12 or 16 hours a day, but kids can't. My son just doesn't understand after a certain point exactly why he is still buckled in. Book a hotel before or start calling when you have a city in sight. The time in a hotel might be some of the best memories you'll have.
8. Make a Memory Book: Or photo album or movie - just about the inside of the car. You'll have plenty of great vacation pictures of the beach or grandma of course, but the time you spend in that car will be something you will be surprised how much you cherish.
Special Needs Travel Tips for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Preparing for a Successful Flight Part II: Travel with Special Kids Travel with Special Kids Part II: To Infinity and Beyond Part I: Traveling with Special Needs Kids and Living to Tell About It: Yes, It’s Possible!
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