How to plan for a successful day out with children who have additional needs

Organising a day trip in our house is like planning a military operation.

With a six-year-old and a four-year-old with additional needs, anything less than SAS-style planning is likely to lead to arguments, tears and tantrums. And that’s just me. 

It’s not possible to plan for every eventuality. However there are several steps we usually take to increase the chance of a successful day out.

 

Plan ahead 

Choose the activity or venue you’re going to carefully. Don’t get talked into going somewhere you know your child is going to hate. If they are scared of heights, nervous in crowds or sensitive to noise, consider if you can mitigate some of these triggers by using ear defenders, going at a quieter time etc. 

Check out the accessibility policy and what ticket options are available. Do carers get in free? 

Contact the tourist attraction to see what help and support is available both to help you prepare and when you get there. 

Show your child pictures from the tourist attraction’s website or a YouTube video so they can see where you’re going. 

 

How will you get there? 

Which mode of transport is most likely to keep them calm or entertained? How easy is it to get there by public transport? Is there parking close by? How much will it cost?

 

Photo

Take a picture of the kids before you leave the house in case you lose them in a crowd and need to describe what they look like. Put a band around their wrist with your mobile number on. Don’t put their name on it, though.

 

Evidence

Take evidence of disability, such as a DLA or carers letter for ticket concessions or theme park fast passes.

 

Eating out

If you’re going to be out over a meal time, plan ahead. If you want to eat in a cafe/restaurant and can’t book a table, consider going early – 11.30 – to avoid queues and crowds. 

Contact the restaurant to see if you can book, if you need to check dietary requirements or reserve a quiet corner. 

We tend to make a picnic, even if it’s cold and wet, so we can be in charge of our own destiny. Lots of places have indoor picnic areas but even if they haven’t, we’ve been known to eat in the car or brave outside in warm clothing and waterproofs. 

 

National Key Scheme

If you need to use an accessible toilet while you’re out, consider getting a radar key from the National Key Scheme. Buy a region list or download an app for details of disabled toilets in the area you’re visiting.

 

Emergency bag

Pack a bag with everything you might need for the day, including a change of clothes, wipes, ear defenders, distractions for when you’re waiting for food or queuing to get in somewhere, drinks and snacks. 

 

Engage

If, like mine, your kids are easily distracted and lack concentration, give them a list of things to find and tick off when they’re out and about. Or give them a specific job to do. Victoria from Starlight and Stories says she always puts her daughter in charge of taking pictures.

 

  • What’s your top tip for planning a day out?

 

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