Planning a family vacation, whether it’s a day trip or a road trip across state lines, can take a lot of work and preparation, even more so if you have a child with special needs. Many families of children with special needs fear that traveling is too much work or just isn’t possible. Others are disheartened by the lack of inclusive activities for children.

Some parents have had bad experiences while others are simply too overwhelmed by the thought of travel planning. Every family deserves to go on vacation, regardless of the length and location. A family trip can be educational, fun, and a bonding experience full of memories.

Here are some tips to help take some of the stress out of planning a trip for you and your child with special needs:

Ask Around

If you don’t already, it’s a good time to make connections with other families of children with special needs. Even if you all have different experiences and abilities, you may share similar challenges. Whether you make connections in your community or online, ask how other families travel. What worked, what didn’t, and if other parents have helpful advice.

Don’t Fear Traveling

Maybe you and your family took a vacation and everything that could go wrong did, making you swear, “Never again.” As a parent of a child with special needs, you are most likely encouraging and telling him or her to not give up. It’s time to take your own advice and give traveling another try. Learn from your bad experiences or mistakes. Don’t assume that it will be bad again.

Be Positive

If you are full of doubt, you’re not going to feel confident or even excited about traveling or planning a vacation. Slowly but surely, more parts of the country are recognizing the importance of being inclusive to children of all abilities. This means that there are more places to visit and things to do, with fewer challenges or stressors.

Go With the Flow

As soon as you have talked with your child’s doctor about traveling, made special arrangements for transportation, and started your packing list, don’t forget to be flexible. You already know the importance of being flexible and dealing with “curve balls” on a daily basis, but some people worry about making their vacation flawless. You may run into some problems, you may not.

While it’s important to have a backup plan or two, it’s equally important to recognize that your family deserves a fun (and even spontaneous) getaway.

It’s OK to Overly Prepare

When some people try to “go with the flow” they think it means they should work on being less prepared. As a parent of a child with special needs, you know that there are some things you can never be relaxed about or forget. It’s okay to overpack or make sure you have doubles of everything you need.

If being prepared makes you feel confident about your trip planning, that’s perfectly fine. Planning a trip is important and even more so if you have a child with special needs.