Tips to Make Your Trip Go as Smoothly as Possible
After a long stretch of time spent mostly at home, many families are looking forward to traveling again—whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a long trip over the holidays. These tips are designed to ensure that children who are deaf or hard of hearing have what they need to be safe and enjoy travel.
Trips can produce equal amounts of excitement and anxiety. That’s especially true after a year of limited opportunities to socialize. Make sure to communicate in advance with children the when, where and how of travel. For younger children, use visuals, such as a wall calendar, to help convey how long they’ll be away. If it’ll be a new experience, such as a first plane ride or trip to the ocean, make sure they know what to expect.
If you’re staying in a hotel, know that they all must have some selection of rooms that conform to ADA accessibility guidelines—but they’re often booked early. As soon as you book, call the hotel directly to let them know you’d like a room with visual alarms.
Headed out of town on a plane? Tell the airline you’re traveling with a child who has hearing loss, and you’d like early boarding. (Most have a dedicated phone line for disability services, but you may have to hunt for it on their website. Or call customer service and ask for the department that handles ADA-related requests.) With early boarding, the flight crew will know your child has a hearing loss, which could be important if there’s an emergency, and you’ll have more time to settle in.
Packing and Caring for Hearing Tech
When in doubt, pack it! You’ll never regret having extra batteries you ended up not needing, but if you need something you don’t have it can ruin a precious vacation day. (You don’t want to have to tell your child they can’t use the awesome hotel pool because you didn’t pack the waterproof sleeves for their cochlear implants. No one walks away happy from that conversation.)
Consider the different equipment necessary for different types of trips (e.g., an overnight in a nearby city versus a week-long camping trip)—and adjust based on your child’s age and interests. With that in mind, here’s a list of the most commonly needed items to consider adding to your packing list:
Extra batteries (Note when traveling abroad: not all disposable batteries will be easily available overseas. Consider bringing more than you usually need.)
Drying device for hearing technology
Your child’s Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT, e.g., a Roger Mic or Minimic) and its charger. Even if you don’t often need it at home, they come in handy on a noisy plane, train or long car ride.
If your child is bringing a laptop or gaming device, pack any accessories they use to stream sound (this may or may not be the same as their HAT).
A surge protector for plugging in several items if necessary—hotel rooms often have few electrical outlets
Spares of any parts prone to breaking. (Your child has a cochlear implant? Pack an extra cable.) If you don’t have spares, be sure to save contact information for your child’s audiologist and the name of a local durable goods provider on your phone. If something does break, you’ll have an easier time getting a replacement.
A spare retention device (headband, cord, etc.) for younger children who wear hearing aids
Extra power packs if you’ll be camping or staying somewhere with unreliable electricity
A battery charger for rechargeables (and appropriate power adapters for your chargers if traveling abroad)
Pack these devices separately from other items in your luggage in a hard-sided, waterproof case—this will prevent a spilled coffee or unclosed water bottle in your tote from destroying your child’s technology. The device manufacturers often provide cases, but an easy workaround is a sealable bag kept in a secure, padded section of your luggage. (Traveling by plane? See a related tip below.)
Whatever travel mode you use, use your child’s HAT to communicate with them. Travel is often loud, and in a less familiar environment, it’s that much harder for a child with hearing loss to understand what’s being said. Using a HAT can make travel much less stressful for the whole family.
If traveling by plane, make sure your child’s hearing technology accessories (e.g., DM/FM systems) is in a bag small enough to be carried on—if you have other medical supplies or medications, pack them in the same bag. Under no circumstances should you check this bag—there’s too much risk of it being delayed, lost or damaged. Airlines allow an extra free carry-on for medical supplies, but you may have to show that’s what it is. Cochlear implant manufacturers provide a card to that effect. If you have one, bring the hard copy, but also keep a picture of it on your phone in case the original gets lost.
People often wonder if it’s safe to go through security stations with cochlear implants. It is—the metal detectors and scanners used by security won’t damage the devices. In fact, it’s safer to wear them through security than to put the devices in the bin to be X-rayed—that can damage the devices.
However, implants may set off the alarm, so it’s usually easier to tell the guard your child has an implanted device and ask for them to use a hand wand. (This is another time you may need the card from the device manufacturer.) Warn your child beforehand that when they go through security, they may hear a beep and/or buzzing sound. But it won’t hurt, and it won’t damage their device.
At Your Destination
Wherever you’re staying, just like at home, you’ll want a designated spot for overnight charging, drying and storage. Set that up shortly after you arrive.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your child’s hearing journey is. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to incorporate listening and spoken language strategies into your trip. In a new location, activities like identifying new plants, listening for different wildlife sounds or describing the nearby skyscrapers are language-learning opportunities that won’t feel like work to your child.
If you’re visiting loved ones, take a minute to describe what you’re doing—and why. Listening and spoken language strategies may not be familiar to them, but once they have some understanding of the process, they’re likely to join in, which can help your child.
Trips also present great opportunities to help children practice self-advocacy skills. Rehearse with and support them in ordering for themselves at a restaurant or snack bar, and have a short explanation prepared to explain their hearing technology if asked. Older children will also feel empowered by being responsible for carrying their extra batteries.
For families taking longer trips, caregivers may be concerned that children will lose ground in learning progress. In these situations, consider asking your listening and spoken language professional about teleservices, or connecting remotely while away. Learn more about Clarke’s teleservices at our website.
Finally: Traveling with a child who has hearing loss may take a few extra steps to ensure you’re prepared, but it shouldn’t hamper your enjoyment of the trip. Relax, and have fun!
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