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Tips for planning a family vacation with a highly sensitive child

Hi, I'm Jill!

I’m a mama-in-training of a highly sensitive son. I love yoga pants, dungeness crab season, and working from my San Francisco flat in my PJs. My mission? To help other mamas raise a thriving highly sensitive child without losing their ever-lovin’ minds!

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Crafting the Perfect Family Vacation with a Highly Sensitive Child can feel like navigating a long road trip with just a paper map, possible but not easy. Every parent dreams of laughter-filled car rides and Instagram-worthy beach days. Yet, for those steering through life with sensitive souls, this dream can quickly fog over into worry clouds. How do you pack tranquility alongside swimsuits and sunscreen? We are here to help relieve some of those worries and give you some tips for planning a family vacation with a highly sensitive child.  

Imagine trying to explain to your neighbor why ear plugs are as crucial as passports in your travel kit. Or why your itinerary looks less packed than a minimalist’s suitcase. Here’s the truth: vacations aren’t one-size-fits-all, especially not for highly sensitive children. Their world is louder; textures more pronounced; emotions run deeper than the Mariana Trench. 

The challenge isn’t just about finding quiet corners in noisy airports or fidget toys that could pass airport security—it’s about crafting moments where these young souls feel understood amidst chaos. But fear not! Transforming family getaways from stress marathons into treasure troves of joy is possible. So, lets dive into those tips for planning a family vacation with a highly sensitive child. 

Children playing at the beach

Crafting the Perfect Family Vacation with a Highly Sensitive Child

Planning a vacation with a highly sensitive child requires some extra thought and preparation. But don’t let that scare you off from taking a much-needed break with your family.

The key is to involve your child in the planning process, choose the right location and activities, and build in plenty of downtime. With just a smidge of effort, making sure everyone has a blast and stays chill can be totally doable.

Involving Your Child in the Vacation Planning Process

One of the best ways to help your highly sensitive child feel more secure about an upcoming trip is to involve them in the planning process. This will give them a sense of control and help them know what to expect, which can go a long way in reducing anxiety.

Kick things off by getting their take on the destination and the fun stuff they’re itching to do. Show them pictures of potential destinations and accommodations to get them excited and comfortable with the idea of traveling.

You can also work together to create a loose itinerary, making sure to build in plenty of flexibility and downtime. Letting your child have a say in the plans will help them feel more invested in the trip and less likely to become overwhelmed.

Choosing the Right Location and Activities

When it comes to selecting a vacation spot and activities, it’s important to keep your child’s sensory needs in mind. Some highly sensitive children may do better in quieter, more low-key environments, while others may be able to handle a bit more stimulation.

When you’re picking out where to go and what fun stuff to do, don’t forget to think about how crowded it might be, the level of noise you’ll deal with, and how much moving around you’ll need to do. A bustling city or theme park may be too much for some sensitive kids, while a peaceful beach town or nature retreat could be just the ticket.

It’s also a good idea to have a mix of structured activities and free time built into your itinerary. This will give your child the opportunity to explore and have fun at their own pace, without feeling overscheduled or pressured.

Essential Items to Pack for Highly Sensitive Children

In addition to the usual vacation essentials, there are a few extra items you’ll want to make sure to pack when traveling with a highly sensitive child. Having familiar comforts from home can help ease the transition to a new environment and prevent meltdowns.

Comfort Items from Home

Bringing along some favorite toys, stuffed animals, blankets, or other comfort objects can provide a sense of security and familiarity for your child. These items can help them feel more at ease in unfamiliar surroundings and provide a soothing distraction if they start to feel overwhelmed.

Don’t forget to pack any special pillows, sheets, or other bedding that your child is used to sleeping with at home. Having their own cozy nest to retreat to at the end of a long day can make all the difference in helping them relax and recharge.

Sensory Tools for Travel

Highly sensitive children may also benefit from having some sensory tools on hand to help them manage stimulation and prevent overload. Noise-canceling headphones can be a lifesaver in crowded or noisy environments, while fidget toys or stress balls can provide a calming sensory input.

Other helpful items might include sunglasses, hats, or light layers of clothing to block out bright lights or regulate body temperature. And don’t forget to pack plenty of healthy snacks and water to keep your child hydrated and their blood sugar stable throughout the day.

Family in front of an RV, sitting on lawn chairs, and smiling at the camera.

Managing Travel Stress for Sensitive Children

Even with the best-laid plans, travel can be stressful for highly sensitive children (and their parents.). The key is to build in extra time for transitions and be flexible if things don’t go exactly as planned.

Creating a Calm Travel Environment

One way to help minimize stress on travel days is to create a calm environment in the car or on the plane. Bring along some soothing music, audiobooks, or guided meditations to help your child relax and tune out any overwhelming stimuli.

You might also consider using essential oils or calming scents to promote relaxation. A few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball can work wonders in a stuffy airplane cabin.

If you’re doing a road trip, plan for plenty of rest stops along the way so your child can get out and move their body.  And if you’re flying, try to book a window seat so they can lean against the wall and create a little cocoon of personal space.

The Importance of Routine and Downtime

While it’s tempting to want to pack in as many activities as possible on vacation, it’s important to remember that highly sensitive children need downtime to recharge. Try to stick to your child’s usual sleep and meal schedules as much as possible, and build in plenty of short breaks throughout the day.

If your child is used to having a quiet hour in the afternoon, make sure to schedule that into your itinerary. And don’t be afraid to cut activities short if your child starts to show signs of overstimulation or fatigue.

It can also be helpful to alternate busy days with more low-key ones. After a day of sightseeing or adventuring, plan for a quiet day at the hotel pool or exploring a nearby park at a leisurely pace.

Activities Suited for Highly Sensitive Children on Vacation

When planning your vacation activities, look for options that provide gentle stimulation without being too overwhelming. Outdoor adventures and creative pursuits are often a good bet for highly sensitive kids.

Nature and Outdoor Activities

Spending time in nature can be incredibly soothing for highly sensitive children. The fresh air, natural beauty, and peaceful surroundings can help them feel grounded and centered.

Plan activities like nature walks, beach combing, or stargazing that allow your child to explore at their own pace. Many state and national parks also offer ranger-led programs designed for kids that provide a gentle introduction to the natural world.

If your child is a bit more adventurous, consider activities like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or horseback riding. These types of adventures provide a sense of excitement and accomplishment without being too overstimulating and they make amazing memories!

Quiet Time Activities

In addition to outdoor adventures, make sure to plan for plenty of quiet time activities that your child can do independently or with the family. This might include things like:

  • Reading books or listening to calming music
  • Drawing, painting, or other art projects
  • Playing board games or doing puzzles
  • Watching a favorite movie or TV show
  • Taking a relaxing bath or shower
  • Journaling or writing stories

The key is to choose activities that your child finds calming and enjoyable, and that don’t require a lot of external stimulation. Having a few go-to quiet time activities in your back pocket can be a lifesaver when your child needs a break from the excitement of vacation.

 
Key Takeaway: 

 

 

Planning a family trip with a highly sensitive child? Get them involved in the planning, pick calming locations and activities, pack comforting items, and plan for downtime. This way, everyone enjoys a stress-free trip.

 

FAQs in Relation to Tips for Planning a Family Vacation With a Highly Sensitive Child

How do you travel with a highly sensitive child?

Pick quiet spots, bring comfort items, and plan for plenty of breaks. This strategy keeps stress low.

How do you deal with an overly sensitive child?

Acknowledge their feelings, maintain routines, and offer calm environments to help them feel secure and understood.

Are HSPs Neurodivergent?

No. Being highly sensitive isn’t classified as neurodivergence; it’s more about deep processing of sensory input.

How do you help a highly sensitive child during meltdown?

Stay calm, remove them from overwhelming situations gently, and give them space to express emotions safely.

Conclusion

Planning thriving family vacations with a highly sensitive child isn’t just about dodging sensory landmines or packing an extra suitcase for comfort items. It’s about redefining adventure through their eyes—finding joy in quiet corners of nature and making room for downtime along with exploration. 

Vacations can turn into the perfect retreats where kids who are especially sensitive not only get by but actually flourish. By involving them in the planning process, choosing locations wisely, managing travel stress effectively, selecting appropriate activities, and being prepared for sensory challenges—we’re setting sail toward smoother horizons. 

Remember: success lies not in the absence of challenges but in how we adapt our sails to navigate through them. Every tip shared here serves as a compass guiding you toward planning those summer months successfully. So here’s to transforming trepidation into triumphs—to crafting those laughter-filled car rides and beach days worth framing! 

Tips for planning a family vacation with a highly sensitive child

Jill Gilbert

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