PLAN AHEAD FOR STRESS-FREE SUMMER TRIPS: Tips for Children with Learning and Behavioral Challenges


by Dr. Zach Petter, D.C.

Traveling with school-aged children can be stressful for any family. Add extra needs like sensory sensitivities often associated with ADHD and behavioral disorders, and travel gets even tougher. Attempting to coordinate a child’s sensory, dietary and energy needs while traveling can make any vacation or holiday seem more stressful than a full-time job. Here are some tips to help ensure that your family enjoys stress-free time off this summer:

Choose Travel Times Wisely

Take your child’s specific struggles into account and schedule accordingly. If your child has ADHD, you’ll want to try to avoid your child’s most high-energy times. For example, leave later in the morning after he or she has had a healthy dose of exercise, or plan your travel time during your child’s typical downtime, if possible. For a child with a sensory processing disorder, you’ll want to schedule your travel times when airports or freeways are least crowded; too many people and too much noise can cause meltdowns. If your child craves structure and routine, break down the trip into increments your child can understand.

Dress For Success

Stay ahead of sensory meltdowns and discomfort by dressing your child in soft, comfortable clothes when you travel. Be sure to bring along sunglasses and earplugs for those with hypersensitivities to their surroundings. If your child has problems communicating or tends to wander, make sure he or she is wearing an ID bracelet or identification sticker that includes medical information and your mobile phone number.

Bring Activities and Snacks

Plan ahead so boredom and hunger won’t be part of your child’s travel experience. Bring along some small travel games, books and art supplies that don’t require batteries. While electronic activities can be great, they can also lead to meltdowns if they fail to work properly or if the battery runs low. When possible, bring healthy protein-packed snacks and water when you travel so your child stays full and satisfied. Avoid sugar-heavy foods and drinks that can cause a sugar high and the inevitable sugar crash.

Call Ahead

Take your child’s specific needs and sensitivities into consideration when choosing a place to stay. Whether you’ll be staying at a hotel or with family, call ahead to discuss sleeping arrangements, special dietary requirements and any other concerns you may have. When choosing a hotel, you may want to inquire about any renovations at the facility that could bother a child with noise sensitivity. If your child uses a weighted blanket, you may want to call the hotel to find out if they have a heavy blanket your child can use.

Dr. Zach Petter and his wife Amanda own the Brain Balance Achievement Center of San Antonio. The center helps children reach their academic, behavioral and social potential through a unique drug-free, whole-child approach. The Brain Balance Program utilizes customized sensory motor and cognitive activity plans, coupled with nutrition guidelines to address the root cause of most learning and developmental disorders. The San Antonio center is located at 1742 N. Loop 1604 E. Suite 121. For more information and additional resources, call 210-620-7378 or visit

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