Once you have decided on a travel destination, you need to consider how to travel. The decision to travel by car, plane, bus, or train will depend in part on your child's needs. In most cases, there is no one single transportation choice that is best — each mode has its benefits and drawbacks.
Travel by Car
Making a trip by car is often the first choice of families with a child with special needs. A car (van, SUV) gives parents the most control over travel details that will impact their child, such as:
Frequency and timing of stops
Availability of transportation throughout the trip
Ability to take more things
Familiarity of the vehicle
Use of DVD players and radio
Ability to talk without disturbing other travelers
Some families find air travel a good match for their needs, particularly when time is an issue or when traveling long distances. A parent traveling alone with one or more children also has some support from airline personnel.
Travel by plane, however, does have some drawbacks. An airplane is obviously a small, contained area. In general, passengers are quiet and stay in their seats. This can be frustrating for a child who needs to move around. You can avoid some of his discomfort by planning additional physical activity before boarding the plane. Give him the opportunity to walk to the boarding gate or at least around the waiting area.
Early boarding is available from every airline if your child requires additional time or help. Plan to arrive early enough to sit in the preboarding area near the gate. When early boarding is announced, you will have the least distance to go and your child will not be overwhelmed and frustrated with the group of waiting passengers.
Allowing your child to help carry a small bag or backpack can provide the “weight bearing” needed to tire him out and to help him sit quietly on the plane. Note that the bag he carries should be moderately heavy for him. The goal is not to have him carry the family luggage for the trip.
Travel by Bus
Travel by bus can be a cost-efficient mode of transportation, but it is often more restricting than air travel. With high-back seating and a single aisle to the bathroom (if there is one), some children feel too boxed in. Buses do make scheduled rest stops, but not stops for the travelers' requests. The parent(s) traveling with a child with special needs will have little or no assistance getting him on and off of the bus.
Travel by Train
Travel by train has been a popular and necessary choice in Europe for many years. Its use in the United States has varied throughout our country's history. It seems to be on the rise now with the escalating cost of gasoline.
Travel by train offers a mass transportation option with lower fees than airfare and more conveniences than bus travel. Train conductors assist passengers with physical needs and parents with young children as they board and exit the train.
Although other passengers are in the same car, there is more room to move about. Some seats are arranged so that four people may face each other, with a table in the center. This offers a convenient means of having snacks and engaging in other activities (games, coloring, simple puzzles) to pass the time.