Traveling with a medically complex child can be quite challenging, sometimes making family vacations a daunting task. However, a little extra planning can go a long way to enjoying a successful vacation.

Parents who  have “been there” share their tips for traveling with medically complex children. Part 1 focuses on trip planning ideas and suggestions to consider prior to departing on that long awaited vacation. To prepare you and your child for a happy, joyous vacation, here are ten ideas to help get you on the road and enjoying a well executed vacation.

Ten Trip Planning Ideas and Suggestions:

1. Discuss With Doctors – First and foremost, discuss your travel plans with your child’s primary doctor(s). Review diagnosis, medications, equipment, and other items your child might need while traveling. Also review nutritional supplements, extra water, special snacks, fidgets to hold for anxiety, or other items to assist your child and better ensure a happy and safe travel for everyone.
2. Research Travel Needs – What will you need to travel safely with your child? The internet, your child’s primary care doctors, and others who have traveled in situations such as yours can be very helpful resources.
3. Locate Key Medical Facilities – Where are the closest urgent care centers, hospitals and pharmacies at your travel destination? If your child needs very specialized care, determine which facility would be best equipped to handle a medical crisis. If you are traveling to a foreign country, review phrases you might need to know if you must seek medical care.
4. Develop a “Medical Travel File” – The goal is to have all key medical documents in one, easy-to-access, place. Documents might include the following:

  • A medical letter from your child’s primary doctor(s) detailing your child’s special medical needs.
  • A copy of of your child’s current medications, including dosages, from your pharmacy. If you use more than one pharmacy, or mail order, be sure to get these too.
  • A medical dosing schedule, including both prescription and OTC medications. This can also double as a packing aid to ensure you don’t leave any meds behind.
  • A list of key medical staff and pharmacies familiar with your child. If you use an online medical records access program, include the necessary access details.
  • A list of the nearest pharmacies, urgent care centers, and hospitals, complete with address and phone numbers, for your travel destination.

5. Make Copies of the Medical Travel File – Place copies in several locations, including your personal travel bag as well as other travel bags. Traveling with extra copies will come in handy if you misplace the primary copy.
6. Keep Key Items on Hand – Place medically necessary items that your child will need during travel in your personal bag – one that will be with you at all times. Also include any OTC medications and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. You might also consider putting the whole family’s OTC and prescription medications in this same bag.
7. Mask or no Mask? If you have a child with immunity issues, ask your child’s doctor if a mask is recommended for air or train travel.
8. Special Considerations Onsite? Determine if you will need anything special from your travel lodging. If you require items not necessarily included with your lodging (example- a refrigerator at a hotel), call ahead to make plans for those items to be made available.
9. Transition issues? Review trip plans with your child via the internet, brochures, picture books, maps. Check out travel guide books from your local library. Show her the hotel you will stay at, the activities you plan to do. If you are a member of AAA, ask for a AAA trip tixs and review it with your child. Involving your child with developing the itinerary can go a long way to easing travel anxiety.
10. Secure Optimal Seating Arrangements – If traveling by Airplane, call ahead to determine how to secure bulkhead seating. If it is an option, upgrade to business class for the extra leg room. If traveling by Train, review train configurations for the availability of booth-like seating and determine if you can reserve one in advance. These booths have two pairs of seats facing each other, and typically have more room and privacy.
Airline Travels – Special Note:

Traveling can be a stressful time for someone with a disability. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a new toll-free hotline, 855-787-2227, to provide information for passengers with disabilities and medical conditions and their families before they fly. The TSA recommends calling 72 hours in advance to learn what to expect at security checkpoints. They will also be able to coordinate your security screening ahead of time when they know about your disability. This is a great resource for families traveling with a child with a disability. Plan in advance, and know exactly what to expect at specific airports.Do you have any special travel planning ideas or suggestions you’d like to share? Please let us know in the Comments section below.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Traveling with A Medically Complex Child – Ten Tips for A Successful Vacation.
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