11 Tips for Traveling With Kids With Special Needs

This piece has been medically reviewed by Samantha Eaker DNP, CPNP-PC, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.

Everyone loves to get together with friends and family or even go on vacation during the holidays, but if you have a child with special needs and incontinence, long car or plane rides can be challenging.

Get 11 tips from our medical experts to make your family travel go smoothly this year.

Why Travel Can Be Challenging for Kids With Disabilities

Holiday travel in and of itself can be stressful for everyone! And, when you factor in children, stress levels can increase dramatically. Children with special needs also experience stress when traveling, whether it’s due to a physical or emotional challenge, depending on their unique needs.

Depending on which type of special need your child has, they may have different triggers or challenges during travel.

Developmental Disabilities

Special needs such as autism, Down syndrome, etc. may make travel stressful for your child due to things like:

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Diapers and pull-ons for children ages 3+ with special needs, available through Medicaid.

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  • Changing routine.
  • Sensory sensitivities.
  • Experiencing too much excitement that leads to stress.
  • Social phobias.
  • Managing incontinence (loss of bladder or bowel control).

Physical Disabilities

Special needs such as Cerebral palsy, Spina bifida, and more may make travel difficult for your child. This may be due to:

  • Needing to get a walker, wheelchair, or braces in and out of airplanes or cars.
  • Stress when transferring into a new environment.
  • Getting through things like airport security.
  • Managing incontinence.

11 Tips for Successful Travel

We asked our experts for the best tips on how to make disability travel easier, from finding more accessible travel to talking to your family members about stressors. This way, your travel experiences with your special needs child will be less stressful for all those involved!

1. Prepare Yourself

Prepare yourself for travel by identifying:

  • Where you are going.
  • Exactly how you are going to get there (e.g. by car, train, airplane, etc.).
  • Where you will be staying.

If you are traveling internationally to a country where you do not speak the language, perhaps learn a few key phrases surrounding bathroom usage in the native dialogue.

2. Prepare Your Child

If possible, prepare your child for the travel you’ll be doing by explaining to them:

  • What your traveling will entail if they can comprehend the information.
  • Changes in schedules. These can be stressful so trying to limit the stress by exposing them early to anticipated schedule changes should hopefully reduce the risk of travel hiccups as well as incontinence accidents.

3. Plan Your Route & Lodging

Once your travel plans are determined, decide how you plan to go about getting there. Once you know your routes, factor in bathroom breaks if incontinence is an issue.

4. Identify Bathrooms & Plan Regular Bathroom Breaks

This may help decrease the chances of accidents occurring.

  • Plan for extra stops on your itinerary.
  • Factor breaks into your travel time accordingly to prevent missed connections and other unplanned events.
  • If you are using air travel, consider sitting near the bathroom or in aisle seats to make bathroom access easier, especially for children who are wheelchair users.

Do the same (identifying bathrooms, changing locations, etc.) when you reach your destination. Look into the accessibility and resources of where you’re going to lodge to ensure they fit the needs of your child.

5. Pack Thoroughly & Generously

Remember the following things when packing for travel with your child.

  • Make a list and check it several times.
  • List out what supplies are needed to ensure you don’t forget to pack anything! This includes:
    • Medications. Speak with your child’s healthcare provider if they’ll need extra medications for the trip.
    • Incontinence supplies.
    • Clothes and extra pairs of clothes that might become soiled.
    • Anything else your child may need (noise-cancelling headphones, games, puzzles, etc.).

Remember accidents happen! The stress of traveling and change in schedule can impact and perhaps worsen incontinence. Pack extra clothes and incontinence supplies, and consider this when packing as this may take up room in your travel bags. You may need to pack fewer or more supplies depending on where you are staying and what resources are available there.

6. Take Free Diapers or Pull-Ups

Instead of paying for incontinence supplies out of pocket- which costs some families hundreds of dollars each month- get your loved one’s products 100% covered by insurance! Your child may qualify if they have:

  • A diagnosis for incontinence.
  • Medicaid coverage.

Aeroflow Urology offers pediatric diapers, pull-ups, and accessories, like gloves and wipes.

If your child does qualify, we’ll...

  • Give free samples to help you find the perfect size for your child’s body and unique needs.
  • Send your child a month’s worth of incontinence supplies at a time.
  • Remind you when it’s time to refill your supplies by sending a friendly email or text message reminder.
  • Deliver your child’s products in unmarked boxes right to your door every month.
To see if your child qualifies for free diapers, fill out our 2-step Eligibility Form today. It takes under 5 minutes.

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7. Give Yourself & Your Child Grace

Remember that regardless of how much you prepare, there are likely to be blunders and hiccups. Give yourself and your child grace. By preparing as best as you can, such oversights can be limited or avoided.

8. Avoid Bladder Irritants & Prevent Constipation

Certain foods and drinks can irritate your child’s bladder. Try to avoid these before traveling.

  • Caffeine
  • Soda
  • Tomato-based products.
  • Chocolate
  • Spicy foods.
  • Artificial sweeteners.

Constipation can cause incontinence by pushing up against your child's bladder, so avoid foods that cause it, such as:

  • Fried or greasy foods.
  • Junk foods.
  • White breads, pastas, etc.

9. Keep to Your Regular Bathroom Schedule

Keeping your child on the same bathroom schedule while traveling and at your destination will help them avoid accidents.

10. Pack the Right Items

Use this packing list to ensure your child will be ready for travel.

  • Incontinence supplies: Includes diapers, bladder pads, wipes, gloves, catheters, booster pads, etc. You will also want to pack extra incontinence supplies in case of accidents.
  • All of the other medical supplies your child requires.
  • Extra clothes in the event accidents occur.
  • Wet/dry bags, trash bags, or something to put soiled clothes in.
  • Wipes and clean-up supplies.
  • Medications
  • Medical records. Have these accessible in case of emergency or if required by airlines, hotels, etc.

11. Locate Urgent Care Centers

If your child is medically fragile, it may be advantageous to locate pediatric urgent care centers or emergency rooms near travel locations if you need to seek emergency medical care. 

Dr. Samantha Eaker

Samantha Eaker, DNP, CPNP-PC is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in pediatric urology. She is a Medical Advisor and Author for Aeroflow Urology. Dr. Eaker received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgetown University and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently practices in North Carolina, serving children and adults with congenital and acquired urologic problems. She is passionate about providing personalized care to and advocating for her patients. Primary care trained, Dr. Eaker enjoys the continuity of care that pediatric urology provides. When not in the clinic, she is most likely to be found traveling with her husband, playing with their Great Dane, or staying active on the Peloton and throughout local state parks.


Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.