Traveling with a disabled child isn’t necessarily simple or easy, but if it’s important to you, it is possible! And to make the process of planning and traveling a little easier on parents of medically complex or disabled children, we our top ten must-haves compiled from real life parents and caregivers who have already done the work to figure it out.
1 | A great child carrier. These can be helpful when pushing a stroller or wheelchair isn’t ideal (like a park or an airport). The two most popular among disability parents Kinderpack and the We Carry Kevan backpack. Both offers a max weight around 80 pounds. If neither of those look ideal, check out our list of the Top 5 Carriers recommended by our community!
2 | An insert for the airplane seat. If your child is over 2 years old, even if they are disabled, they have to sit in their own seat during takeoff and landing. If it’s not possible to bring your car set on the plane, the Kids FlySafe CARES Harness is an FAA approved harness that can help your child sit up on their own seat on the plane. Another option is the Firefly ToGo Seat. It’s not FAA approved, but it can be used in tandem with a regular airplane seatbelt to offer your child extra support and padding to make long haul flights more comfortable.
3 | A portable safety bed. If you’re like many families in our community, your child might have some specific sleep needs, including bed rails or supports. Since you can’t take your bed from home along with you, the Safe Place Travel Bed can be a great substitute! It’s inflatable, made with super durable materials, comes in several colors, and was designed by a disability parent! It offers a safe enclosure that can go on top of a hotel bed that will keep your child from rolling or getting into sticky situations in the middle of the night!
4 | A portable oxygen concentrator. If your child is oxygen dependent, but planning to fly, the Oxygen To Go concentrator is a great option. A member of our community, Caitlin Castro describes it best! “The company we have used for the O2 in flight is called “Oxygen to go” and they’re hugely helpful if you call with any questions. I think the first time we did it I basically called and said “umm…how does this work?” And they walked me through the whole thing.”
5 | A Flying Squirrel and purse hanger for feeding in the car. If you’re driving a long distance, this Flying Squirrel pump holder can easily hook to a purse hanger behind the driver or passenger seat for easy pump feeding. It can make traveling with a tube-fed child so much easier and simpler, especially if there’s only one adult in the car!
6 | Portable energy bank. If you’re camping, or perhaps just want some extra backup for your road trip, a power brick like this or this are must-haves if your child is dependent on machines or devices that need to be plugged in or charged. Don’t forget to bring extension cords, especially if you’re staying at a campsite!
7 | A safe spot for your non-ambulatory child to hang out. Whether it’s the quiet mother-baby areas at Disney (yes you really can ask to use them for your disabled child) or a quiet spot outside that isn’t sandy or dangerous, a spot for chilling is important! One mom used a plastic walled blanket holder for her son and it was perfect! It keeps him and his toys contained and clean, and rolls up into a small bag like a tent! Win!
8 | Supplies for making and storing blends. With so many kids in this community on strict diets or feeding tubes (or both), we couldn’t skip this tip! While it might be hard to find specific formula out and about or full kitchens in hotels, you can always bring along a small portable blender or even full pouch making stations like the Infantino Pouch Station. With these items, traveling with kids on a special diet can be so much easier!
9 | Documentation for everything. Whether you're flying, driving, hiking, camping, or anything in between, make sure you bring documentation on your child’s meds, specific medical conditions, and disability or access needs. You might not need to use it or show anyone, but in case your child becomes ill, or you get any pushback at an airport, you’ll have all the documentation you need. And to make transporting some of this information easier, don’t forget you can keep your child’s medical records on an app like Mejo!
10 | An amazing packing list! It doesn’t matter if you keep this in a digital form, a notebook, a laminated sheet or something else, the key is to make a list (with any or all of these items on it) before you think you might need it, so you have time to double-check it and you can start packing ahead of time! Having everything written out and out of your brain can make the planning part of traveling so much less stressful.
Alright, friends! I hope this helps you as you plan your next trip with your disabled child! If you have any additions we should know about, drop them in the comments below!