When you have a special needs child you get tons of special benefits – but you must do some special planning, too. Every aspect of your trip to Disney World must be carefully considered, including the drive there and back. Check out this exhaustive list of 70+ Tips and Tricks for Special Needs Road Trips or check out our favorite tips below.

Invest in a long-term cooler

orlandovacation_child-reading-mapIt’s common for special needs kids to have special dietary restrictions. Many parents don’t realize how far coolers have advanced. No longer do you need to stop every few hours to add ice to keep food cool. Instead, buy a cooler that plugs right into your cigarette lighter or USB port of your car. It’ll stay powered and cool for days at a time.

Provide visual support to anxious kids

If your child is a person who doesn’t like uncertainty, and is likely to get anxious on a multi-day car trip, consider providing them with visual support. Older kids may appreciate a map with the route clearly marked out, along with planned stops along the way, so they know exactly what to expect. Younger kids can be presented with a picture book that shows photos of what the adventure they’re about to embark on.

Take a shorter practice trip

One harsh reality many parents have learned the hard way is that children who can handle a 20 minute trip across town can’t necessarily handle many hours in the car. If your kids aren’t used to driving for long distances, try a trip that’s just a few hours before you head out on a multi-day road trip. Not only will you get them used to the idea, but you’ll have a better idea of what sensory materials and other tips will work best for you when you take off.

orlandovacation_child-carseat-activitiesBe ready with distractions

You should plan to stop regularly along the way for potty breaks, to stretch your legs, and to simply break up the monotony. However, even with regular stops kids can get antsy. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to immediately find the best way to settle them down and distract them. Come prepared with many options, including media like movies on iPads, as well as tried and tested car games like iSpy.

Bring comforts from home

One of the easiest, simplest ways to keep your kids happy is to have their comforting, favorite items from home. Perhaps their favorite stuffed animal, the pillow they sleep with every night, or their favorite games. These familiar objects can be a lifesaver if they get scared, nervous, or anxious staying in a strange hotel.