Summer Travel Tips for Parents of Sensory Sensitive Children

Posted by Shannon on Jun 4th 2024

JUNE 5, 2024

Summer Travel Tips for Parents of Sensory Sensitive Children

Don’t let summer travel stress you out as a parent of a sensory sensitive child. This post covers proven tips to make your family vacation or reunion a success, from packing hacks to dealing with triggers on the road.

Kids playing on a jungle gym outdoors

Summer is here and it inevitably brings a season of travel, including things like out-of-town weddings, family reunions, vacations to the beach, national parks, or amusement parks. As parents, it is always a challenge to plan entertainments for children, but parents of sensory sensitive children have added challenges. When traveling with your children, remember these tips to help vacations and other trips go smoothly. Bon Voyage!

Travel Planning

Plan Ahead of Time

Make a detailed itinerary and make sure your children understand each leg of the journey. For children that have anxiety, it may help to rehearse parts of the trip. Take some short practice runs in the car to help the child become accustomed to entertaining themselves in the car. Visit the airport in advance and point things out to your children. Watch planes land and take off. When your trip arrives, the travel expectations you have for your children will feel more familiar and comfortable.

Give Yourself Extra Time

If flying, be sure to arrive at the airport well in advance. Although, it does mean extra time at the airport, it will ensure that you have time to make any necessary adjustments. If you are driving, leave extra early so you can plan to stop several times along the way to stretch your legs or even visit interesting sites on the road. If you are not in a hurry, the trip will be more enjoyable for all.

Travel with Help

IIf possible, you should plan on at least two adults traveling with your party, especially if you are bringing more than one child, or a special needs child. When things get rough, an extra person who can help with baggage, check-ins or even truck-stop bathroom breaks will help things go more smoothly.

Accommodations for Children

If you are using commercial transportation, call ahead to see what accommodations are in place for children. Take advantage of anything that may be helpful in keeping your children comfortable and entertained.

Travel During Sleep Times

Many children have an easier time traveling while they sleep. If possible, plan to leave at night or when your kids are used to taking naps

Children at airport looking out of the window out at the tarmac

What to Pack

Electronic Devices

Tablets, phones or other electronic devices provide touch, visual and audio input for children. Remember a set of headphones and a pair of sunglasses to help those sensitive to bright light. Download age-appropriate games ahead of time, or make sure your data plan will be sufficient for your entire trip. You can also bring a data hotspot. Ensure that all your devices are charged and that you’ve brought extra chargers, especially if you are sharing devices with your children. You won’t want to be in a jam if the kids used up all the battery playing games just when you need your map app to get you to your next stop.


Pack plenty of healthy, low-sugar snacks that your children are familiar with and enjoy. Chewable and high-protein snacks are great choices, as well as things that do not need a lot of prep and can easily be eaten on the go. You never know when a flight will be delayed or if the next restaurant is not for another 100 miles down the road.

Special Needs Foods

If your child has special dietary restrictions, be sure to bring things you know they can eat. Special needs foods may be harder if you don’t know the area as well as home.

Insurance Cards

Just in case you need to visit a doctor while out of town, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you. It will make the process much easier and you’ll be able to save your concerns for your sick child.

Bring Extra Clothes

Most likely, if flying, you’ll need to check bags. Or, if driving, you may have a very packed trunk with multiple bags. Easy access to an extra set of clothes for each child will make getting through any mishaps easier and stress free. Socks tend to disappear easily, so don’t forget a few extra pairs of SmartKnitKIDS socks, too.


Bring along a Compresso-T. If your child struggles with ADHD or anxiety, the Compresso-T will help them to feel more calm, which is especially helpful when they have to remain in their seat during a long car or plane trip.


Pack several small sensory input toys that will keep your children’s attention for longer periods of time. Choose things that are easy to pack and pick up, but also things that your children already enjoy. Good examples are Rubix Cubes, rubber band balls and Play-Doh. You may want to have a few things to play with in the hotel, as well as, for downtown.

Swimming Gear

Most hotels have a pool and your children will probably gravitate to it. Or your trip might include a visit to a water park. Be sure you have all the necessary suits, goggles, and life jackets.


Pack a first aid kit. Make sure each child has a proper car seat. Bring all medications your children take daily.

Young girl looking out of airplane window while coloring

Establish Ground Rules

Create Realistic Expectations

Know what your children can handle and what they will not be able to handle. You may need to add extra stops into your itinerary or perhaps travel over multiple days. Don’t pack too much into your day to overwhelm kids.

Discuss the House Rules

Make sure your children know what will be expected of them at all locations—how to behave on a plane or in a hotel or even what special rules Grandma has at her house. Knowing what is expected up front will help them to follow along with your expectations.

Make Memories

Pack Your Sense of Humor

Make the trip fun for you and your kids. Laugh with your kids and tell jokes. Make up road trip games to play together along the way. It will make the trip more fun, enjoyable and memorable for you and your kids.

Visit Local Sites for Children

Help your kids create a memory of their adventure. Visiting a playground, children’s museum or other children’s attractions while on the road will not only give them something fun to remember during your travels, but will also give your kids a chance to burn up some energy they’ve accumulated along the way.

Children at an aquarium


Stay Calm and Expect Changes of Plans

Remain Calm

Don’t let yourself get discouraged with minor setbacks. There will always be things that happen—a speeding ticket or a missed connection during a layover. Take each day in stride and enjoy your trip as best as you can.

Expect Changes in Plans

It’s okay if you don’t make it to everything you wanted to do with your kids. If you stay calm and continue to have fun with what you do make it to, your kids will build happy memories of your travels. If you stress about changes, they may, too, and that’s what they’ll remember about your trip.

Reward yourself for a mission accomplished and announce to your kids, “We are there!” Maybe it will even be before they have asked, “Are we there yet?!”


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This is only general information and is not meant for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Always consult your physician or other health care provider about all health concerns, conditions, and recommended treatments.