Travel and Kids With Special Needs, Part 1

Travel season will be here soon. Guest blogger, Kathy Kuhl, is at Different Dream with 3 tips about how a gratitude change makes travel and kids with special needs more fun.

School will soon be out for the year, and that means the summer travel season will soon be here. Guest blogger, Kathy Kuhl, is a mom with first hand experience traveling with challenging children. She dropped by Different Dream to offer advice about how to change our attitudes to make summer travel and kids with special needs easier. She’ll be back in a few weeks with more suggestions for parents.

Travel and Kids with Special Needs, Part 1

A young businesswoman walked by me at San Diego airport. She turned, looked at the baby in my arms, smiled, and said, “She’s absolutely perfect.”

I thanked her, but felt compelled to say, “She cried all the way from New York.”

“She’s beautiful,” the woman repeated and walked on.

Why do we dwell on the worst parts of travel with kids? How can we have better attitudes?

Travel with children can be tough. Even if your car runs fine, if everyone stays healthy, if you don’t miss any flights or lose that beloved teddy bear, it is stressful. Kids miss their routine. They tire more easily.

How can we enjoy travel with challenging children?

1. Give thanks for our children.
As New Orleans’ Saints tight end Benjamin Watson wrote, when we travel with our kids, we forget to be thankful. After he and his wife got their four kids under seven through TSA and onto a plane, Watson admitted that he was “a bit perturbed that his kids were acting like… kids.”

For us with children with special needs, it’s harder. Our kids may have sensory issues that make it hard to cope with noise and unfamiliar sensations. Because our son with AD/HD couldn’t tolerate long drives, we rarely drove more than three hours a day. How much more complex travel can be for those managing mobility issues.

Food sensitivities complicate travel, too. We plan and pack extra. But if your child needs protein, or gluten-free, or amine-free, and you’ve run out, what do you do?

It took a stranger to remind Benjamin Watson that his kids are a blessing. A flight attendant told him it was “so great to see a big family,” explaining that he and his wife were childless after twenty years. Ouch.

Yes, our children are blessings to thank God for.

2. Give thanks for safe travel.
On some horrible days, our children may behave like heavily disguised blessings. But we cringe at the thought of them getting hurt. Safe travel is a blessing we usually take for granted.
My recent trip to West Africa pointed this out. Our buses broke down three times in 260 miles and 110 degrees. We were thankful for shade while waiting, for water, and for arriving, finally. Instead of saying “Bienvenue”—“welcome”—the West Africans say “Bonne arrivée!” literally, “Good arrival!” Arriving is good.

3. Recognize who’s in charge.
Travel with kids shows us we aren’t really in charge. Though we plan carefully, things go awry. Travel exposes our limitations. I forget things and I don’t plan perfectly. Travel also exposes the limits of our power and character. Mommy can’t always make it better. Will I remember not to snap at my husband and nag my kids? Will I remember that God is in charge, and be content? Will I trust he will work everything out for good?

In the next post in this series, I’ll look at more ways to make your travel easier with challenging children.

Your Thoughts About Travel and Kids with Special Needs

What are your best tips about travel and kids with special needs? Leave them in the comment box. And come back in a few weeks for the final post in this series.
Travel season will be here soon. Guest blogger, Kathy Kuhl, is at Different Dream with 3 tips about how a gratitude change makes travel and kids with special needs more fun.


Kathy Kuhl is the author of Encouraging Your Child, Staying Sane as You Homeschool, and Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner. She advises parents to help them teach exceptional children at home. Visit her website and blog at






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Travel season will be here soon. Guest blogger, Kathy Kuhl, is at Different Dream with 3 tips about how a gratitude change makes travel and kids with special needs more fun.


  1. ecodrew ecodrew
    May 20, 2016    

    Thanks for this post, we have a trip with our 2 kids (1 with SNs, 1 NT, both adorable and awesome) coming up, and we’re looking to it with nervous anticipation. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the blessings of travel, I needed to hear it.

    On a semi-related note, I wish more people understood why babies cry on planes – their developing ears can’t equalize the pressure very easily, so they may be legitimately in pain (on top of the noise, disruption in routine, etc). I used to travel a lot for work, and I mentioned this whenever I would hear someone complaining about a baby on board. More often than not, the person was surprised and had new-found patience for crying babies on planes.

  2. May 20, 2016    

    Andrew, I’m so glad the post was a timely one for you. Thanks for your insight about why babies cry on planes. Now more people can share that news with passengers and help them foster patience. Jolene

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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