Roadtrips With Medically Complex Kids

Road trips offer an adaptable family travel experience which is appealing when traveling with a child with medical complexities. Flexible schedule, plentiful packing space, comfortable seating, and the ability to accomodate necessary adjustments as they arise are just a few of the perks that car travel can bring to your family’s trip.

Written by Becky Oakley

Becky is a Family Nurse Practitioner who has dedicated her life and nursing career to caring for children with life-changing diagnoses and disabilities. Becky adores her six children, who inspire her daily. Brades’ Place is named after her medically complex son, Brady, who taught her that children with unique traits do amazing things every day.

Published May 31, 2022

Planning Ahead

Centering your planning on your child’s needs, tolerances, and limits is key to successful travel.


How much time can they spend in the car before they need a break?

Changing positions, delivering scheduled medications, and bathroom needs are all examples of reasons to schedule planned breaks. Map out your route ahead of time, and keep rest stops and other care needs in mind.

What is likely to go wrong while driving, and what will I do if it does?

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Thinking through what might go wrong is an important step in planning ahead. Knowing that you have a plan will put your mind at ease. Consider your child’s symptoms, and what you will do if they need an intervention while on the road; for example, if your child is prone to pulling on their G-tube, plan for what you will do if they pull it out while you are driving. Contingency planning can give you confidence that you are ready to handle what comes your way.

Vehicle Tips

Organizing the vehicle

Keep the items you will need to access frequently (medications, feeding, hygiene, suction) in a specific, easy to reach location and commit to return them there when not in use. Small bins under van seats and door organizers on the back of bucket seats are great storage places. Consider arranging bins or bags by task, one for respiratory care, feeding/G-tube care, hygiene, distracting activities, etc. Use rear or trunk storage for items you won’t need while driving.


Keeping an eye on things

Rear-view mirror extensions give you a safe view to the back seats, helping you keep one eye on the road and the other on what’s happening in the car.


Having the necessities

Add your own essential items to packages of wipes, small trash bags, various size zippie bags, plastic cups, scissors, and charging cords. When you need them you will be happy that you have them!



Positioning in the car

With mobility or muscle tone concerns, add a second car seat safety system to your everyday car seat system. Alternating between them increases comfort and car time tolerance. If safe for your child, using an approved EZ-on vest system with a body pillow for positioning support can significantly improve comfort in the car.


Seat belt security

Seat belt buckle covers are a great tool to be sure seat belts don’t come off when they should be on.



Old phones or tablets are great on the road devices when pre-loaded with games and videos (Disney+, Netflix). Download content ahead via wifi of time so your child will have full access even without an active phone or data plan. Don’t forget the headphones.


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