Travel Tips for Tactile Sensitivities

Spring break is coming! For many of us, spring means enjoying the sun over our heads and the sand under our toes. Many sensitive children, however, find trips to the beach or other exotic locations unbearable. This month, we’re going to focus on some common tactile triggers you might encounter on vacation. 

No matter what your child’s particular triggers are, remember that preparation is key. Have her help you problem solve, plan, and pack as much as possible. Try new clothing or toiletries at home and make sure she has a chance to give input on each item. Above all, be honest about what to expect in your new environment and give her as much control over her own comfort as possible.

Keep reading for some common tactile triggers and a few tips for tackling each. Also, be sure to check out our previous article for some more general tips on traveling with sensory needs.

#1 – Sunscreen, lotion, and other toiletries

  • Make sure to test every new product at home before you leave.
  • Pack enough for your entire trip–you might not be able to find certain items elsewhere.
  • Experiment with different types of applications–sunscreen sticks, shampoo bars, etc.
  • Minimize the need for sunscreen by using sun shirts, hats, and protective clothing.

#2 – Unfamiliar or uncomfortable bedding

  • Bring pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, or stuffed animals from home.
  • Make bedding smell and feel familiar by bringing your own laundry detergent.
  • Bring a favorite blanket to act as a barrier/comfortabel layer under the sheets.

#3 – Sand and unusual textures or temperatures

  • Experiment with different types of shoes–open vs. closed sandals, water shoes, etc.
  • Minimize exposure by wearing pants or gloves while playing on the beach.
  • Try playing on different parts of the beach–loose, dry sand vs. wet, packed sand.
  • Bring ice packs, hand warmers, etc. to help regulate temperature.

#4 – Insect repellant and bug bites

  • Minimize exposure by wearing long sleeves and pants when possible.
  • Experiment with different types of applications–wipes, wristbands, clips, sprays, etc.
  • Use bug zappers or burn citronella candles or sticks when outside.
  • Experiment with alternative repellants, such as essential oils.
  • Pack hydrocortisone cream or ointment to soothe bites and stings.
  • Be aware of your location–bugs are more prevalent by the water or in wooded areas.

#5 – Being crowded or bumped in public places

  • Call ahead and see if your destination has accommodations for sensory sensitivities.
  • Practice waiting in line at the grocery store or other crowded location.
  • Practice deep breathing and anti-anxiety techniques. 
  • Talk it out–remind your child that people who might bump into her are doing it accidentally and are not trying to be rude or hurtful.

Spring Break Tips: Traveling with Sensory Needs

The holidays are just barely over, but Spring Break is already coming up fast! Whether you’re planning on relaxing at home or flying off to Disney World, accounting for your child’s sensory sensitivities can feel overwhelming–but, with a little extra thought and careful planning, it can be done!

See below for a few of our favorite tips on tackling spring break and traveling with sensory needs.

Tips for Traveling with Sensory Needs

  • Don’t stop at online research. Call up the resort, park, or club and talk about your child’s specific needs and available accommodations. (Disney, for example, has a wide variety of services for patrons with disabilities.)
  • Keep your routine as intact as possible. If you can, rent a house or Airbnb instead of getting a hotel room. This will give you more control over meal prep, baths, and sleeping arrangements.
  • Practice good transitions. Take the few minutes between activities to make sure your child has a bathroom break, a snack, or even just a few deep breaths.
  • Pack for your child’s sensory triggers. Helpful items might include noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, smelling jars, or a picky eater’s favorite snack.
  • Plan your stops. If you’re driving, pack a cooler and eat at rest areas or parks instead of restaurants. Build in time to let your child run around and burn off excess energy.
  • Keep your own expectations in check. Leave plans open-ended whenever possible. Rather than trying to stick to a rigid schedule, try to do just one or two things each day.
  • Make sure your child knows what to expect. Print out maps, brochures, and photos from Google or Yelp and go over them together. Practice waiting in line and develop strategies for dealing with overwhelming situations.
  • Build in downtime. Each member of the family should have time to go for a walk, read a book, or do whatever calms and centers them. Remember, taking time for yourself will allow you to be more present and able to fully enjoy your time together.

Some Tips for Staying Home

  • Keep your routine as intact as possible. If you do need to change up your family’s schedule, talk to your child about how this week will be different than usual.
  • Take day trips. Shorter, focused outings are generally cheaper and allow you to maintain more control over meals, timing, etc.
  • Look for less trafficked alternatives to popular destinations. Check out smaller train or art museums, or go see your local minor league team instead of the Cubs.
  • Know when other schools are on break. Keep in mind that play places and other popular destinations will be much, much busier than usual.