Tips for Vacationing with your Special Needs Toddler

Vacationing with a toddler is daunting; add a few special needs into the mix and it can be downright frightening. My husband and I have gone on a few vacations with our three and a half year old ball of energy and there’s things we’ve gotten right, and things we’ve certainly gotten wrong. I have a list of my absolute must dos every time we vacation with our daughter.


If at all possible, look into vacation rentals on Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, or For the price of a nice hotel that’s somewhat spacious, you can rent a two or three bedroom condo, house or cabin that includes a kitchen, eat in space, multiple bathrooms and a family room. Our family needs a kitchen since we need to count the protein allotment in our daughter’s food every day. Guessing the amount of grams she eats or the protein included in a meal isn’t always available at restaurants and requires a lot of prior planning. For our family, making her meal before we go to a restaurant is how we can get around that and we often need access to a stove, microwave or oven to do that.

72075eca-127e-45bb-affb-b3bcdde11a08_1.3fcf5aa58c133227a7c0bdfc7581b8aaROAD TRIPS

We just did a road trip to Augusta, GA with our newly potty trained toddler. At any given moment, she might ask to use the restroom at a gross rest area along I-95. Our daughter also has difficulty holding herself on the potty, and you better believe falling into a toilet at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere was at the top of my list of things that better not happen. So we brought this potty topper along. The last thing I cared about were the looks I might get hauling the potty topper into a restaurant or rest stop. She stayed dry on an 8 hour car ride and peed every time we stopped. That’s a success!

Panda headphonesACTIVITIES

Our little one isn’t entranced by much, but Daniel Tiger on the iPad came through in a big way. That combined with these little panda headphones made our daughter enjoy her ride and allowed the adults to talk, listen to a podcast or enjoy the silence.

The headphones actually fit over the ears and are soft like earmuffs. The reviews said it was the only thing some sensory sensitive kids could stand wearing and I was shocked our daughter allowed them to stay on her head for hours. If your kids like to color, the color wonder activity books are great since the markers only work with their paper and don’t show up on anything else.


71R-40DHDvL._SX522_Currently we have this booster seat that we travel with on road trips. It’s super helpful at our vacation rentals and can attach to any regular chair. But before our daughter could hold herself up in a seat like this, there were a few trips that required a high chair or a rocking chair and those things can’t be easily packed away. If you ever need the comforts of home, but the items are too bulky to pack, check out baby rental sites like You can rent cribs, high chairs, strollers and car seats and have them delivered and even set up prior to your arrival. Many of these places work with property managers of vacation rentals and can help lessen the stress of setting items up or waiting for delivery at your destination.


When driving, make sure you’ve got plenty of snacks and activities and add an extra two hours to how long your GPS says it will take to get there. Prepare to stop, prepare for things to take longer than it used to before you had kids. Don’t set your expectations too high, be realistic and realize your child hasn’t done this a million times like you have.

We haven’t ventured to flying yet, but have a vacation planned for 2017 that will involve air travel. I imagine that even though our daughter will be four when we travel, we will likely bring the car seat and strap it into the plane seat. This will allow for her to stay secure in her seat and provide something comfortable that she’s familiar with, as well as a guaranteed sleep option. I’ll likely be purchasing this travel cart in case we need to run to a gate and I need to strap my girl in for fast transportation, or in case she gets too tired to walk the entire length of an airport. Before you fly though, check the FAA and your airline to make sure your car seat is compatible.


Have you had any success traveling with your toddler (special needs or not) that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it!

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