Traveling with Pediatric Medical Complexities

Vacationing improves your mood, reduces stress, and even temporarily boosts productivity. People who travel are more satisfied with their physical health and well-being. Vacationing even increases creativity. Do these benefits apply to those who live with serious pediatric illness? Of course!

Traveling also has the ability to take you out of your daily routine and into new surroundings and experiences which can reset your body and mind. Especially for children, traveling inspires curiosity and adventure, and offers opportunities to be brave. It cultivates growth as a family, makes families more adaptable, and creates opportunities to lean on each other. Is traveling quite a lot of work for you and your child? Absolutely! Want to tackle it in bite-size pieces and start local? Awesome, try a staycation! Ready for the trip dreams are made of? Start now. Enjoy these tips, leave plenty of time to prepare, and have an amazing time!

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

Explore expectations

As with most things, deciding what is most important to you with traveling is the place to start. Why are you taking this trip? What do you hope for with this trip? What is most important about this trip? What might this trip improve, reduce, or provide? What are the most important things you want to happen on this trip? What would be the worst thing that could happen on this trip? Exploring these questions as individuals and as a whole family creates a solid foundation for the travel decisions yet to come. Understanding each other’s hopes and expectations can help us make better decisions when planning the trip and increase each person’s capacity to enjoy the trip through flexibility and helping accomplish each other’s hopes. Happiness increases up to 8 weeks prior to a well-planned trip; grab all 8 weeks by planning ahead!

Choose your mode of travel and trip details

As you make decisions about your travel, take a look at every option. Tools like a ‘pro & con’ list and letting go of previous decisions or judgments will really help you sort through important questions like where you want to go, how you want to get there, and who should go on this trip. Do you want to go to the beach? Is your child’s equipment airplane friendly? Does a ‘trip of a lifetime’ get you excited or do you want to get away and just relax? Deciding the style of vacation (beach, national parks, amusement park, cruise) and mode of travel (plane, car) is worth the time to really sort it through.

Maybe you have ‘deal breakers’ like never changing briefs of a larger child on an airplane, or your child can’t tolerate being positioned upright for more than 30 minutes. Sort out decisions you are unsure of. Keep decisions realistic and lean on others to help make your travel happen. New to travel with your medically-complex child? Try local travel for the first time! Choose a fun hotel and activities within a few minutes or hours of your home to vacation for a few days. Another important decision requiring careful thought is who comes on the trip. Sometimes at-home respite for your medically-complex child allows for rejuvenation and focus on other family members, and sometimes having the whole gang together is perfect.

Check out these articles for more information on plane travel, road trips, and staycations:

Plane Travel With Medically Complex Kids

Roadtrips With Medically Complex Kids

Staycations With Medically Complex Kids


70% of stress related to a well planned trip occurs in the preparation phase, so let us help guide you along. Medically, check with your doctors, prepare for if symptoms to worsen, and arrange for extra medications and equipment that is portable. Pack by either person or task, and use lists to be sure you have everything you need! Contact your health insurance to learn what out of area benefits look like in case something happens. Call ahead to your airline, hotels, and attractions to discuss your specific needs. Search online to learn from other family’s experiences with your activities and destination.

Medical needs

Medical problems may arise while on vacation, just like they do at home, and with solid preparation you can manage them just like you do at home. Input from all medical team members is critical, each specialist could voice unique concerns about how the travel might affect your child and, as well as add solutions. Have practitioners formalize orders, prescribe extra medications, help you anticipate medical challenges and how to react, discuss planned activities and potential challenges (rollercoasters with hypotonia), and even connect you to colleagues where you’re headed if you need care while there. Organize all your child’s medical information and keep it with you digitally and on paper. Plan for extra medications and extra supplies, batteries for powered devices, portable equipment, tube feeding food to be shipped ahead, etc. Start early, keep notes, etc.

Check out this article for more information about medical preparation for your trip:

Medical Information And Planning For Travel


Having the right items and knowing where to find them keeps the focus on the fun, the people, and the wonderful memories you ‘re making on this trip. If the thought of packing brings stressful feelings, start early and do it piece by piece. Make a detailed list of supplies and items, triple check it, and consider shipping items ahead to your lodging if you are short on space. Use packing cubes and see through ziplock bags (2.5 gallon+) to start and stay organized through the whole trip. Don’t forget your equipment cords, battery banks, baby and cleaning wipes, extension cords, power strips, and extra copies of your medical papers. Pack all items for the first night together so you can get some rest quickly after a very full day.

For more information, read our article on packing:

Packing To Travel With Medically Complex Kids


Where you stay will become your home and away from home; choose somewhere that is as accessible and accommodating as possible. Call locations before selecting and ask lots of questions about the facilities to ensure that you will be able to have access and what you need. Bring extension cords, power strips, device power cords, and portable equipment for sleeping needs, such as bed rails, wedge pillows, or even sleeping tents. If you’re staying with family set some time aside to discuss plans and each other’s concerns. This will encourage open communication, critical to being great house guests! When you get to your lodging take some time to settle in. This helps kids feel at home, lets you know where medical equipment is, and identifies early any supplies you might be missing.

For help choosing the right place to stay on your trip, check out this article:

Where To Stay When Traveling With Medically Complex Kids


While traveling, being flexible is critical. Remembering your personal goals for the trip can help keep even frustrating times full of new memories, stronger relationships, laughter, growth, and stronger connections to people, places, and your child.

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Staycation With Medically Complex Kids

Staycation With Medically Complex Kids

Local vacationing may fit your family’s needs best.
Staycations can provide many of the benefits
of distance travel and might be exactly
what your family or child needs!

Staying local doesn’t have to mean staying at home.
Checking in to a local hotel or renting an AirBnB can help
create that vacation ambiance without the hassle and expense
of traveling far from home. For parents who feel uncertain about
vacationing far from home with their medically complex child, staycations offer a less stressful experience that lets you push your boundaries without overextending yourself.

Plane Travel With Medically Complex kids

Plane Travel With Medically Complex kids

Air travel can get you to your
destination with just a few hours
in-flight! With planning, extra time, and assistance from TSA and airline staff your family can fly right through the air travel experience with your medically complex child.

Packing To Travel With Medically Complex kids

Packing To Travel With Medically Complex kids

Packing well is essential to a great trip. Having the right items (and knowing where to find them) helps keep the focus on the fun, the people, and the amazing memories you’re making!