Traveling with a special needs child is a unique challenge that parents of normal children will never understand. Whether you have a master’s degree in gifted special education or are simply doing your best with a unique little one, you may worry that travel with a special needs child is beyond you. By preparing ahead, however, you can make the experience better for your entire family.

Call Ahead to Find Out What’s Offered

Many places have special areas or offerings for children with special needs. Dollywood, for example, is designing a calming room for kids with autism. Royal Caribbean offers accommodations for autistic kids and their families. Disney offers a full range of services for their special needs guests. Whether you’re choosing a destination based on their offering for guests with disabilities or designing your own vacation, check with your destination to see what they have to offer for your child.

Pack Carefully

Your child may need a host of special items to handle their disabilities, from specific types of body wash or towels for their sensitive skin to that favorite blanket that they can’t sleep without. Make your packing list carefully and err on the side of caution. It’s always better to have an extra of something than it is to discover when you reach your destination that you don’t have enough of something important. Make sure that you keep track of those items while you’re gone! You don’t want to leave a precious stuffed animal or vital medications at your destination.

Try a Travel Agent

Choosing a travel agent who has experience preparing trips for individuals with disabilities can make it easier for you to relax about the trip and enjoy the experience with your family. Try to find a travel agent who has been there, done that, and can offer tips, tricks, and appropriate destination advice.

Think Ahead

You probably have several specific concerns about traveling with your special needs child. Think ahead about what could happen. For example, your child should wear an ID bracelet or other device that identifies their disabilities and provides others with the ability to contact you if you’re separated. Think about what you’ll do if there isn’t food available at a particular location that your child can eat. Imagine a scenario in which your child has a total meltdown and you need to make a quick exit. By preparing ahead of time, you can reduce your stress during your trip.

Traveling with a special needs child is stressful in a way that no other parent can understand. Be brave! As you venture out and try new destinations, you’ll learn to love the experience of traveling with all of your children, making memories that will last a lifetime.