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Spring Ahead on the Planning

Spring Break Travel Tips for Families of Kids With Disabilities

Spring is in the air! In the coming weeks, schools will be out for a week, and making the most of the break is on the mind of many families. Planning with a child with disabilities can be challenging. While we welcome the chance to have an adventure or spend more time with our families, planning should bring excitement, not hassle. Here are some tips and tricks to have a memorable week, whether you plan to travel near or far.

Be Brave! Many families with children with disabilities are scared of trips too far away from home. The thought of trying to do sensitive medical procedures “on the road” or deal with changes in routine – which may lead to behavioral episodes in front of a crowd or family – is simply too overwhelming to contemplate. Unless your doctor or specialist has specifically ruled out travel, don’t let your fears take over! Everyone needs to get away once in a while and a little planning and preparation can put many fears to rest.

Role Playing: Practice role-play before the trip. If your child has never flown, for example, visit the airport and talk through what will happen when you start your trip there. Or if you’re traveling by rail, visit the train station to get acquainted, so that is one less “new” thing. If your child has sensory issues, consider the smaller, low-rise hotel properties, since they tend to be quieter. Request a room at the end of the hallway, away from the elevator, because it will be quieter and have less passing traffic.

Be Prepared for Medical Emergencies: Build a “travel pack” with items you may need in case of an emergency. Your travel pack might include:

  • A list of any medications your child is taking and a copy of each prescription.
  • A physician’s description letter of your child’s condition and needs in case of an emergency.
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, and office hours of you home physicians/specialist.
  • Health insurance cards and phone numbers (be sure you’ve reviewed your insurance policy before you travel because many require prior approval before out-of-town emergency rooms or doctor’s visits).
  • Phone numbers of any necessary medical supply companies in the area you are traveling to.

Think It Through: Think about how travelling will affect your child and their normal routine, what they eat, things they do, all that. Remember, even though trips are fun, they are also anxiety-producing. Consider planning some sensory regulation activities and some different things that help keep everyone calm. For example, drive during times of less traffic, such as nighttime. Also, if you are visiting family, prepare them for some of the quirks or different things that might be going on with your child.

Don’t Be Shy: During your travels, you’re bound to run into peope who don’t know what to do or how to react to an individual with disabilities. As diplomatically as you can, let people know what you need. Most people will be more than happy to help. If they offer you a room or seating accommodation that just won’t work, politely decline, and explain again what you need and why. Look at this as an opportunity to do your part for disability awareness!

Pack Snacks: Reduce snack time and mealtime stress by packing familiar foods, drinks, and snacks. Many theme parks, beaches, and other venues may not offer food items for your child’s pallet and/or specific diets needs. If a crowed dining area is overstimulating, you can always set up a picnic tailgate or find a calm quiet place to eat instead.

Springtime activities: If you are going to do an Easter egg hunt or a big activity this spring, remember to always have a way to “graciously escape.” Graciously escaping means parking in a place where it is easy to get to your car or positioning yourself in an area where you can pull your kiddo away. Sometimes they do fine in an activity if they are not around a lot of other kids.

Don’t Expect Perfection: Traveling, like everything else, is an acquired skill. If your first trip doesn’t turn out perfectly, don’t give up! Sit down and analyze what went wrong. How could you have prepared differently or more effectively? Which of your destinations and stopovers worked well? Which ones just need to be crossed off your list? Just remember, every trip is a learning experience for you and a precious family memory for your children, whatever their needs! Safe travels


Many places in the Richmond area are completely accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Garden walkways and paths are mostly hardscapes, with main walkways comprised of aggregate concrete, sealed concrete, paving stone, asphalt, and brick. Outside they have ramps available anywhere there are stairs, such as the Fountain Garden and into the Conservatory. Kroger Community Kitchen Garden and Children’s Garden have pathways with ADA-accessible mulch. The Children’s Garden wheelchair-height planting beds are filled with sensory-stimulating plants. Wheelchairs and strollers are available for guests to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.

Flying Squirrels at The Diamond

Baseball games return on Friday, April 7! Accessible seating is offered behind home plate at the top of sections 110 and 111 as well as along the third-base line at the top of section 120. Elevator access is also available. For assistance securing accessible seating, please email [email protected], call 804-359-FUNN (3866) or chat with a representative in person at the Flying Squirrels ticket office.

Children’s Museum of Richmond

Special Nights are back! The downtown location of CMoR hosts a FREE night for families with children with disabilities on the third Friday of each month from 5-7 p.m. Check their calendar for more information:

Beyond Boundaries

Provides outdoor adventures for individuals with disabilities, including white water rafting, boating, rock climbing, fishing and more. Visit for more information.

For more information about these tips, contact Lisa Coates, SOAR365 Director of Children & Youth Services, at [email protected] or (804) 665-1237.

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