17 Travel Tips For Traveling With A Medically Fragile Child

December 22, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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As the parent of a medically fragile child, you know how many additional challenges there are just to maintain your child’s wellbeing. What may seem like a simple task to other parents can be daunting for you. This is especially true when it comes to traveling.

At Care Options for Kids, we know traveling with a medically fragile child is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of traveling tips, plus advice on driving and flying with your medically fragile child.

17 General Tips for Traveling With a Medically Complex Child

1. Plan Ahead

Plan, Plan, Plan; You already know that parenting a medically fragile child means you can never be too prepared. This is especially true when traveling. Consider every possible challenge you might incur on your trip.

Before your trip, take some time to write a master list of everything you and your child will need. Check it twice, and then check it again. Consider every possible challenge that might be thrown your way. It’s important to remember that the creature comforts of your own home might not be available while you’re traveling, so having a backup plan or two is a good idea.

When it comes to planning, having redundancies built into your plans (in case of a medical emergency) is a good thing.

2. Get A Referral From Your Doctor

You can never be too prepared, so it’s always a good idea to get a preemptive referral from your doctor just in case your child needs medical attention while you are away from home.

Before your trip, contact your child’s doctor and ask him or her to refer you to a doctor or specialist in the area you will be traveling to. Consider getting a letter from your current doctor detailing your child’s diagnosis, medications, and limitations. If a medical emergency arises, you won’t have to scramble to find a doctor.

3. Research Lodging Before You Leave

Lodging is an especially important aspect when traveling with a medically fragile child. Before booking your hotel or any lodging, check that the room has everything you need.

Is there a refrigerator to store any medications? Are there enough outlets to charge your equipment? On that note, bring a powerstrip.

4. Pack More Medication Than You Think You Need

Don’t forget any of your child’s medications, be sure to pack more than what you need. We recommend packing extra medication because filling a prescription while traveling can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. While you may not even need the extra medication on your trip, if you do, you will be glad you have it.

5. Locate Where To Get Medical Help Before You Arrive

Before your trip, we recommend locating the nearest emergency room at your destination. Ensure they will be equipped to handle any unique medical emergencies that may arise with your child. This is especially important if you plan to visit a theme park. Make sure you know where the first aid station is and what assistance they can provide.

6. Contact Local DME Dealers Beforehand

If your child uses Durable Medical Equipment (DME), it’s a good idea to contact a DME dealer in your destination before your trip. No matter how prepared you are, it’s always possible that your DME could break or malfunction, so knowing where to turn when you’re in a pinch is a good idea.

Some DME dealers will even provide equipment on a short-term basis, which could save you the trouble of transporting your equipment.

Traveling By Car With A Medically Fragile Child

If you’re planning on traveling a long distance with your child by car or will have to rely on different transportation than you’re used to on your trip, take these tips into consideration. For families who have children with medically complex needs, traveling is a much different experience.

7. Map Your Route In Advance

Depending on your destination, there will usually be more than one route available for you to take. Use a map (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.) before your trip to get an overview of your possible routes.

If traveling by car is difficult for your child, you can consider the different factors of each route, including distance, traffic, and terrain. You can also use this to map out locations to get medical help if you need it along the way.

8. Check Out Rest Stops Beforehand

Not all rest stops are the same. If you need a handicap-accessible rest stop on the way to your destination, research some online before you go and plan your route around your findings.

9. Don’t Travel With Certain Medical Equipment

You already have your hands full, so lightening your load – literally and figuratively – is a great tactic. Some equipment (like Durable Medical Equipment) is better off being shipped ahead of time to your destination. If you won’t need to access any of your DME on your drive, we recommend looking into shipping options. It will be one less thing you have to worry about.

Flying With A Medically Fragile Child

If you plan on flying with your child, consider these tips.

10. Contact The Airline Beforehand

Before you travel by plane with your child, you will need to arrange for special security passage at the airport. We recommend contacting whatever airline you will be flying in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute.

11. Don’t Carry On Certain Medical Equipment

Some equipment (like Durable Medical Equipment) is better off being checked separately or even shipped ahead of time to your destination. You will already have your hands full with your child, so do whatever you can to lighten your load.

12. Don’t Overlook Ground Transportation

Even if you’re traveling by plane, don’t forget to consider ground transportation to and from the airport and to and from hotels.

13. Give Yourself Extra Time

Traveling is already stressful enough. Many people follow the two-hour rule to get through security and to their gate on time, but we recommend giving yourself extra time. This way, you can ensure all of your medical equipment will have adequate time to be checked and you won’t have to worry about missing your flight.

TSA Screening Tips

14. Get The Appropriate Doctor’s Note

Airlines require a letter of medical necessity for certain things like oxygen. If you are traveling with oxygen, obtain a doctor’s note before your trip.

While you are exempt from the 3.4 ounces rule for carrying on medically-necessary liquids, sometimes the process can be made easier by ensuring you have a doctor’s note in case TSA inquires.

15. Talk To A TSA Officer Beforehand

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of flying with a medically-fragile child is going through security. But talking to a TSA officer beforehand can make the process easier.

For example, if your child has a developmental disability, they can be screened without being separated from you – just talk to a TSA officer. Parents can even obtain a TSA notification card describing their child’s condition.

16. Go For TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck can make traveling significantly less stressful for you and your loved one. If approved, you won’t need to take your shoes, belt, or jacket off during screening. You can apply for TSA PreCheck online.

17. Research Medical Transportation Grant Programs

Did you know some airlines offer free air travel and travel assistance for medically fragile children?

Through the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program, the airline provides complimentary roundtrip tickets to nonprofit hospitals and medical transportation organizations. Check out their website for a comprehensive list of participating hospitals and more information on how to apply.

Contact Care Options for Kids For Pediatric Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.