Cleveland occupational therapy

Cleveland Occupational Therapy Road Trip Tips for Kids

Summer vacation travel plans have no doubt been stifled by coronavirus concerns. For the first time in two decades, AAA didn’t issue a Memorial Day travel forecast. And while it’s expected a record low will be vacationing this summer than in years past, our occupational therapy team knows some families are still planning trips to get away, yet still incorporate social distancing.

Fewer flights are being booked as some families are opting instead to travel by car. Some excursions may include road trips to lake houses, beaches or mountain cabins, RV adventures and camping. For those with little ones, particularly those with special needs, it will be important to come prepared. (Of course, that’s true whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not.)

But our Cleveland occupational therapy team has some tips to help everyone keep their cool – and have a great time!

Tell Kids What to Expect.  In general, kids are going to handle travel a lot better when they know what to expect. This is especially true for a child on the autism spectrum, ADHD or other conditions. Let them know they are likely to be in the car for a long time, they may get bored, they may occasionally need to wait in a line, etc. Describe places you might stop, what your ultimate travel destination is and all the plans you have made for once you get there. New experiences and places can be very unsettling for children. Social stories might really help (especially if they’ll need to wear a mask in certain public spaces). You might even work on a loose, day-to-day schedule. Make them a part of the planning process.

Pack a travel bag. Think of this as your “Mary Poppins Bag of Tricks.” Depending on their age, interests and abilities, pack lots of little toys, games and books. Look up games you can all play together in the car, like “I Spy” or a license plate game. Pack a few surprises too! The goal here is to always have something to do (and it’s Ok if it’s not exactly the most educational). Some screen time is probably fine in this context, and time with headphones on can even be good for their sensory diet.

About that sensory diet… You can ask your child’s occupational therapist if they have some ideas for on-the-go sensory toys, but these could be anything from chew necklaces to squishy balls to hand grippers to clothes pins (for gripping) to pipe cleaners. Don’t forget too at rest stops (preferably those with some outdoor space): Give them a decent break and make sure they do some “heavy work” if possible, such as bear crawls in the grass or stair climbs.

Don’t forget the fun. Although traveling with a child who has special needs may require some additional planning, don’t forget the reason you’re doing this in the first place: To help everyone enjoy some stress-free time, experience new things and make memories. It’s been a very tough year for many, so this is important to keep in mind. If things don’t go exactly as planned, do your best to model ways to deal with unexpected scenarios (deep breaths, stretching, listening to music, etc.).

If you have questions about preparing for an upcoming road trip with your child, our occupational therapy team is happy to help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

AAA Travel: Pandemic Will Suppress Memorial Day Travel but Travelers Already Planning Future Trips, May 2020, AAA

More Blogs:

All I Want for Christmas is: Sensory Toys! See Akron Occupational Therapists’ Top Picks, Dec. 19, 2019, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog

Brecksville ABA Tips on Traveling With a Child Who Has Autism, May 8, 2019, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog