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Five Tips for Train Travel with Special Needs Children

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I love to travel by train – usually. I can work all the way and my wasted time is minimized. Plus, typically train travel is very economical. This summer my kids and I travelled to Montreal and Ottawa by train. That’s a substantial amount of time spent riding, and also a lot of transferring to different connecting trains. We travel every year by train together at least once. As some of my readers know special needs kids require a bit more planning when travelling anywhere, in any mode of transport. I have one anxious child, and another with a brain injury called FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and SPD (sensory processing disorder). I love to travel with my entire family but I take certain steps to try and ensure that the ride is smooth and safe.
Five Tips for Train Travel with Special Needs Children
1. Keep a Bag of Tricks: I do this when I travel anywhere with my kids. Paper, crayons, markers, a Nintendo DS or iPad and gum. I try to remember snacks too. The bag of tricks sometimes is small treats from the Dollar Store to keep kids interested and occupied.
2. Medicine: Always remember the medicine stays within arm’s reach. Never ever pack medical supplies or medicine in the suitcase where you can’t easily access. Obviously Epipens and meds for allergic reactions are even more crucial. It’s important that I can reach the kid’s medicine when they need it. Also you never want to be in a situation where luggage is lost or stolen and the medicine or medical supplies vanish too. That’s stress nobody needs. (Obviously keep any diapers, PullUps or a change of underwear in a bag if needed.)
3. Layers: Bring Hoodies, or zip on zip off sweaters regardless of the time of year. It’s easy to get cold on a train or plane and little people’s temperatures fluctuate wildly. Easy jackets on and off make a world of difference. Blankets and stuffies sometimes are worth it. Any comfort object that might help.
4. Prepare Seating Arrangements: Travel by train lately has become challenging with regards to seating. Assigned seats mean that groups and families sometimes are not seated together. I always call the night before train travel and ask to clarify that my family is seated together. Nothing is worse than children seated away from parents, unless it is special needs children seated apart from their parents. That’s anxiety inducing for everyone. Confirm your seating the night before you travel.
5. Rehearse: Prepare them for what will happen. When my daughter was small we had social stories. Simple stories that helped her to understand what happens next when. My kids benefit by hearing we are travelling together. You should always be able to see Mom or Dad. We will get on the train in X city and then we ride two hours and then we get out and we will have some food on the train. You get the picture. Knowing what to expect goes a long way towards reducing anxiety. Knowing what to expect for train travel can make everything go smoothly.
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Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.