Traveling with children requires planning, preparation and plenty of patience. When your child has special needs, the groundwork can become even more intense. Give yourself and your child a generous dose of grace, along with these tips, tricks and products to help ease family travels and, thus, allow for more bonding moments on the go.
Starting off with a comfortable space is the first place to begin for both short and long car rides. As adults, we can get irritable when uncomfortable; children are no different. Ensuring the seat is accommodating no matter one’s disability is the foundation for an enjoyable stent in a vehicle. Keeping your child’s specific disability in mind, here are a few general options:
RideSafer Travel Vest
The RideSafer Travel Vest is a car seat solution for many disabilities. Created by a father, firefighter, paramedic and child passenger safety technician (CPST), the RideSafer vest allows children to sit comfortably in the vehicle without any extra seats by bringing the seat belt to the correct level for little ones. This vest solves a wide range of issues, whether the child has a physical or behavioral condition. The vest is padded and made from soft fabric allowing it to be comfortable and flexible around casts or other devices that may need extra pelvic room. The vest feels weighted, like a comforting hug, for those with sensory disabilities. It comes with a tether to help children with poor motor control to sit and stay seated properly. The RideSafer Delight has a “Houdini-proof” buckle to keep even the most advanced escape artists from fleeing. As if those features weren’t enough, it is compact to save room in your vehicle while easily transferring to any form of transportation –perfect for traveling!
The vest is approved for ages three and beyond with a weight limit of 80 pounds. It has been crash tested and meets or exceeds all of the standard requirements. This link is a crash test video of a conventional booster seat and the video below is the RideSafer crash test demo. The vest retails for $159.
Churchill Backless Booster
Made by Merritt Manufacturing, the Churchill Backless Booster seat allows for proper head control with a Velcro and head cap system. For proper pelvic alignment, users can upgrade to a hip inflection wedge or stay-put pommel. The torso is supported with a full vest and Velcro system in combination with the vehicle’s seat belt. This seating system is for forward-facing occupants weighing up to 175 pounds, making this a good option for bigger kiddos. While it comes standard with many features, there are upgrade options to make this seat even more customizable and, therefore, more comfortable for your youngster.
Pricing ranges are based on features selected but start at $895.95. Check out this link for an informative tutorial.
Tumble Forms 2 Carrie Seating System
This seat is not solely a car seat but can also be used as a multipurpose seat to assist with daily living routines. The Tumble Forms 2 Carrie Seating system comes with the car seat, tray and footrest. The seat is seamless in a smooth foam making it easily cleanable for messes of any kind. The included tray is perfect to use for snacks, creative activities or to rest electronic devices. The tether strap can be used in vehicles, airplanes or while at home sitting on a couch or in a chair. The headrest and footrest are adjustable for maximum comfort.
Because this seating system is so versatile and easily manageable, it comes with a higher price tag at $1,850.95. An activity base and soft cover are available for additional costs.
Bellt Alert Covers
Born from a mother’s desire to keep her deaf child safe, Nat created Bellt Alert Covers. These covers not only attach to seat belts but pretty much anything that has a strap. Have you ever wondered what might happen in an emergency situation where you were unable to tell medical personnel about your child’s disability? These personalized covers notify anyone who may assist in an emergency with the information they need to know! They can be tailored to convey any special need.
The covers are $16 and take 2-4 weeks for delivery due to high demand.
Car Seat Key
How many times have you hurt your finger or broken a nail trying to unbuckle your child’s car seat? For me, it’s been too many times to count! I am thankful for the peace of mind of safety that comes with the difficulty, but do get frustrated at how hard buckles can be to undo when in a rush. The Car Seat Key is a simple solution. This nifty U-shaped utensil comes on a keychain so it is handy. The key is placed on top of the buckle release button and pressed down with slight pressure, releasing the harness.
It retails for $14.99 on their official website. However, if you are an Amazon junkie and Prime member (like me), you get free shipping and an extra 20% off. Who doesn’t love a good deal and saving money?!
BuckleRoo Seat Belt Buckle Guard
Children typically don’t understand that the rules placed on them are meant to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. Admit that we, as adults and caregivers, can be that way too. Rules were meant to be broken, right? In all seriousness, though, being restrained can be especially difficult for children who are autistic or have ADHD. The BuckleRoo ensures safety for the entire trip. Simply slide the BuckleRoo onto the buckle and latch the belt. When you’ve reached your destination, use a car key to insert into the slender slot and push down. The belt is released from the buckle. Don’t have a car key handy? That’s okay! The BuckleRoo comes with an emergency key attached so your darling doesn’t get stuck.
The BuckleRoo can be purchased online for $9.95.
For children that want a soothing sensory item during car rides, try the SentioCHEWS wearable sensory chews.These chews are made from a pliable material that is FDA approved and free of latex, BPA and metal. They were designed to hold up to aggressive chewing. Each pendant has a rubber feel and comes with a paracord lanyard breakaway necklace. There are four pendant designs to choose from in either red or blue. They can be purchased individually, in a double pack or four pack.
The chews are $9.03 individually and make for the perfect item to place in a travel kit to help calm and comfort your anxious cargo.
More Travel Tips…
If you’ll be traveling for an extended period of time, there are some things you can do to ease the journey for everyone involved.
- Travel at night when possible. This will require a little more planning and effort on your behalf but nighttime travel allows the other passengers to spend a good amount of the trip sleeping which will reduce fussing and the need for extra stops.
- Take a test drive. Before hitting the road for a long trip, try a day trip first. This is the perfect opportunity to prepare for any possible hiccups or gaps in planning.
- Let your child assist in trip planning. Yes, really! Not only will this give him/her a sense of ownership and responsibility for the drive, but you’ll be sneaking in fun learning through map reading and life-skills like packing essentials.
- If you have a hyperactive child, plan stops that allow your munchkin to move and release some of that energy. This could be a grassy area at a rest stop, a park or a restaurant with a play area.
- Help your child visualize the progression of the trip. Thanks to Traveling Mom, taking a few minutes to create this simple DIY project could potentially end the dreaded, “Are we there yet?” String ribbon, yarn or wire from one side of the inside roof to the other side (think from window to window). Draw or print a picture of a car for your child to color and decorate. Punch two holes into the top of the car and string it onto the ribbon. As you drive along the road, move the car along the ribbon to coincide with your drive. Everyone in the car will be able to visually see how much distance is remaining. You could also mark the ribbon with any planned stops along the way for even more visual markers.
No matter how much you plan and prepare, there are bound to be unexpected bumps in the road. Remember to breathe through them because you will get through it. After all, the most important thing is you’re together making priceless memories and strengthening your relationship.
Feature image credit: AAA