Naturally, stress accompanies traveling, whether traveling with a child who has medically complex needs or not. When traveling with children, especially those who have medically complex needs, it can be overwhelming. When traveling with children with complex medical needs, travel itself becomes an entirely different ball game. Whether traveling by air or by car, there are many details to work out. Not just travel-related but also making sure your medically complex child has all the things they need for a safe and healthy trip.
At ChildrenFirst, we strive to provide helpful tips and resources for parents and caregivers of children with medically complex needs. In this article, we provide 7 tips to help you have a smooth trip when traveling with a medically complex child. Preparation is key! Along with a few other things.
The better you plan ahead; the less stressful traveling will be. Though many things can still go off plan no matter the preparation, like delayed flights or hotels overbooking themselves, preparing what you can, will help things go as smoothly as possible. Researching local doctors and mapping out your travels are two ideal things to plan ahead.
Locate doctors in the area that could treat your child in an emergency. Go ahead and get a referral from your doctor before leaving to travel just in case. Children with complex medical needs require more care at a specialist level. It is always good to find out where doctors are located if while traveling, something unexpected occurs and you need to be seen; you will be all set.
Locate the local hospital so you know how far from your hotel it may be should an emergency arise and you need to go to the ER. If you are heading to a theme park or such, get an idea of where the first aid station is. Determine what assistance they may be able to offer your child, even if it is as simple as just needing to pop in for your child to have a break or to recharge your child’s equipment.
When driving, it is always best to map out your way ahead of time. When traveling with children who have medically complex needs, this is especially important. Look for handicap-specific rest stops so you get the most out of your stops. They may have better offerings tailored to your needs. You may also want to note any hospitals or medical specialists related to your child’s needs if you have an emergency when traveling along your route.
Confirm with your hotel any necessary items you will need, such as a refrigerator for medications and such. Bring a power strip, so you have extra plugs to charge all of your equipment (depending on the medical issues your child has.) There is nothing worse than realizing you do not have enough plugs for all of your child’s needs and you have run out to buy one. Also, if you have booked a specialty room with a roll-in shower, it is always best to confirm with the hotel a few days in advance to make sure nothing has changed and that room will be available for you upon arrival.
Does your child use Durable Medical Equipment (DME)? Contact your local DME Dealer at your arrival destination. Though you may have packed and planned ahead, should something break or have been lost along the way, it is excellent to know where exactly to go in a jiffy. If you need to bring larger medical equipment with you on your travels, consider seeing if the DME Dealer offers short-term rentals. Renting some of the equipment you will need once you arrive will cut down on how much you must bring. You can also ship any medical equipment you will not need in your travels, just at the destination. Sending some items ahead of time will help to lighten your load of things to carry during your journey. This is especially helpful when flying!
Ensure you have organized any medication into daily doses. This ensures there is enough for the trip. Sill bringing extra, just in case some get dropped or spilled. Make a list of all the necessary things you will need for the journey to avoid forgetting anything. Lists are great and such a helpful tool, especially when traveling.
Bring comforting items for your child. Like a favorite pillow or blanket they love. This will help your child feels safe and like they have a little piece of home along with them for the trip. Traveling can cause additional stress on them as well. The more you show your stress, the more they will, in turn, feel it, so remember no matter what the trip may bring, try to maintain a sense of calm for your child.
Routine is typically a big deal for children who have complex medical needs. When traveling, it’s possible that routine will be disrupted. Try to stick to their daily schedule as much as possible. Especially when it comes to eating and sleeping, this will play a huge part in not throwing them off of their routine entirely.
For those specifically flying with medically complex children, there are a few extra things to note.
Contact the airline you have booked ahead of time to confirm any special security you would need to go through and how to arrange pre-check to lessen the pains of going through TSA. Pre-check means you do not have to take off your shoes or jackets, making it much easier for your group, including your medically complex child. Have a doctor’s note for medical necessity, especially for any medical equipment, such as oxygen that you will be traveling with. Your child will be exempt from the liquids rule for medicines, but again having a doctor’s note will make security easier to get through.
Plan for extra time navigating the airport and TSA, as you do not want to have to rush and stress over your flight time. Talk to a TSA agent before entering security to help make the process easier on your child. They may assist in making sure you do not get separated from your child, especially if they have developmental disabilities. The agent may also be able to help you obtain a TSA Notification Card that describes your child’s condition. Ensure you have plenty of time for medicine breaks, bathroom stops, TSA, and getting your medical equipment through security. All of these things have a tendency to take a bit of time.
You will need to plan your transportation to and from the airport ahead of time. Will you drive yourselves to your home airport and back or have a car service or a shuttle assist you? Once you get to your destination, how will you get to your hotel? How will you get back to the airport once your trip is over? These important questions need to be discussed and booked in advance. You will also need to make sure they are wheelchair friendly and have room for all the necessary medical equipment as well as your luggage.
If you are traveling for a life-changing or life-saving medical procedure, your child may qualify for a medical transportation grant! These grants offer complimentary roundtrip tickets to non-profit hospitals and medical transportation organizations. Companies, such as Southwest Airlines, provide this fantastic service. Find more details here!
Traveling with your medically complex child can be less stressful if you plan ahead! With special preparation and extra planning, you can make your trip go as smoothly as possible. Use these tips to help plan and prepare for your travels so you can focus on why you are really traveling in the first place. Whether for leisure or medical reasons, your child’s health is important, and making your child comfortable and making sure they have all the necessary items they need is imperative. From packing extra medicines to securing pre-check and doctor notes for security to planning specialty transportation arrangements and renting DME at your destination, plan ahead and you have got this! These tips will help you best prepare for traveling with a medically complex child.
Skip the overwhelm when it comes to traveling with a child with complex medical needs. There is some great pre-trip planning that you can do to ensure your travels go as smoothly as possible.
Parenting a child with complex medical needs comes with its challenges. Fortunately, ChildrenFirst is here we are here to assist you and encourage your child to reach their full potential. Contact us today and discover how ChildrenFirst can benefit you and your child!