Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Tips for Travelling with the Hyperactive Child

A Trip Out East

My mom belonged to an international crafting association and they were having their annual meeting in Canada. Thing is, it was on the east coast and she wasn’t sure at first how she wanted to get there, she just knew she wanted to attend. After a while, she decided she wanted us all to drive there. It would be a vacation, she said, and she would pay for the motels and meals if I would drive.

Ok, I’m still torn about the concept years later, but it was too difficult to turn down. Here I was homeschooling Butterfly, and there is nothing as educational as travel... sometimes. But travelling with a hyperactive kid with food intolerances was not going to be easy. It was also important that she not be allowed to get too hungry so that her blood sugar dropped. Off I went to the health food store to buy snack food for the journey. Some of the foods at this place are bulk packaged and ingredients aren’t always on them. So I asked, double checking every food item for ingredients that Butterfly oughtn’t have. The woman running the place was rather nonchalant about it all, actually rather cocky, trying to come off as the big expert on the ingredients in some of the snack foods, but it turned out she was just wrong about a couple of them.

~ TIP #1: Make sure you buy travel snacks for a kid with intolerances from some place that puts ingredients labels on the food they sell. If the help is full of themselves, go some place else. Also games for back seat entertainment. The magnetic ones are best because the pieces aren’t so apt to go missing. Of course, movies are great if you have a late model vehicle that’s equipped, or a separate, battery-operated DVD/CD player works too.  Healthy snacks and entertainment, a must. ~

Unaware of all the challenges ahead, we got Mom’s little car packed up with her crafts and our luggage, squeezed ourselves into the space remaining, and off we went, eastern bound. It wasn’t too bad at first. As long as we were in familiar territory, we had a better idea what Butterfly could have to eat. We didn’t do fast food, but shopped for foods at the grocery stores we encountered.

~ TIP #2: Those grocery store rotissiery chickens are not a bad bet because added ingredients are usually on the skin and you can remove that. Starting the trip with baked goods from home is also a good idea, like muffins or sliced and buttered quick bread. Sure, they only last so long, but they’ll give you a good start. ~

Butterfly helped her Nanna decide if each motel along the way was acceptable by checking the rooms with her. Mom demonstrated how to check the bed sheets to make sure they were clean, and to look in the bathrooms, etc., before checking into any motel. It was really rather cute watching the pair of them do their inspection.  Butterfly became quite expert.

Being pretty much confined to a motel room with a hyperactive kid however... not fun.

~ TIP #3: Booking motels before you leave on your trip can be very stressful if something on your trip holds you up and you’re late arriving, or don’t actually get that far. But you can still check on motel facilities with certain chains and their locations before you leave, or even along the way if you take your laptop. Look for motels with swimming and playground facilities for your hyperactive child. It helps keep them busy and wears off some of that excess energy before you all have to settle down for the night. Also look for free internet, so you can check ahead for the next day. ~

So, if the motel had a playground ~ even just a set of swings ~ that was helpful, but some didn’t, so after a day of driving came the walks necessary to burn off some of that energy.

After we passed into unfamiliar territory, things got more challenging. For one thing, we went through a province where the tourist information clerks assumed we just wanted to hit the super highway, motor through, and see nothing. They didn’t ask what kind of route we preferred, they just directed us to the three lane pavement. When we realized there was nothing for miles and miles along this route, we got off and found our own way through towns along the way. These offered picnic areas, small stores for water, grocery stores for food, sights for tired eyes and eventually, accomodation.

~ TIP #4: If you stop for directions or tourist information, be clear about what you're looking for.  I'm not sure why any tourist people would want to just get rid of tourists, but that was the approach we encountered.  Be clear about your needs.  ~

~ TIP #5: Take a cooler so you can buy suitable foods along the way as you find them and keep them till needed. When your cooler paks thaw, cans of unsweetened frozen juice make great, temporary cooler paks and can be made up when you get to the motel, instead of sugary soda pop from the vending machine. Some motels have fridges with little freezer compartments to re-freeze those real cooler paks. If not, and that juice is thawed and gone, remember to take along a supply of sturdy plastic bags to fill with ice for your cooler. Twister ties too. ~

Unfortunately, while stuck on the super highway, Butterfly had been given a snack containing ingredients she shouldn’t have had because of that misinformation. Confined to the back seat, she became crankier and crankier. But she wasn’t alone.  There were a few places along the way where we could have and should have stopped for a breather, a little exercise, something to distract the child. But Mom was anxious to get there and didn’t want to stay for long enough to see an exhibit, for instance. Hubby sided with her... he just wanted to get where we were going. And Butterfly, in reaction, was her own worst enemy when her tantrums drowned out my arguments in her favour. So into the car we got.

~ TIP #6: If you’re in a hurry with a little kid in the car, you shouldn’t be. No child likes to sit in a car for that many hours. A hyperactive kid, for sure not. Leave enough time for breathers, distractions and attractions along the way.  Traveling should be fun, not just an exercise in endurance.  ~

Once we got there and got settled in, there was time to explore.  Unfortunately, Butterfly lost one of her treasured stuffies. She cried and cried, wailing about her loss even as we walked to a restaurant for supper. Hubby even walked all the way back to the hotel with her to see if it had been dropped along the way, but they didn’t find it.

~ TIP #7: It’s helpful to take a comforting stuffy for kidlet to snuggle with at bedtime, but don’t take anything too small that’s easily dropped while walking, or lost in the bed sheets at a motel. Make sure you don’t take too many, and maybe leave some of the faves at home to “take care of the house" while you’re gone. ~

We went into a restaurant in the city where Mom’s event was held. Ordering for Butterfly was problematic of course, but this was a fairly fancy place, so I explained the problem to the waitress and asked if she could have the chef make plain macaroni and cheese, with just grated cheese, for Butterfly. (She was having wheat again at this point, and while I wouldn’t have made wheat pasta at home, it was a lesser evil here.) When she brought back Butterfly’s dinner, she said the chef “helped out" by also putting heavy cream into it to make it creamier. Problem was, some heavy creams had ingredients that were a no-no. Um.. yeah, thanks for the favour.

~ TIP #8: Make sure when asking for special foods that you are precise about what you want in it, and re-enforce that you want only those things in it and nothing else.  Special orders should not be an opportunity for the chef to be creative.  Cooperation is much more valuable. ~

We decided to do some sight-seeing on the way home, and after doing the Cabot Trail, we encountered some cabins we decided to stay at instead of a motel. The great thing about this was that there was a bbq on the porch and a full kitchen inside.

~ TIP # 9: We not only made our own barbeque supper, but I got some flour, eggs, etc., and did some baking for the trip home. I saved some of the leftover eggs for breakfast and hard boiled the rest. They make handy snacks while travelling. So look for equipped cabins along the way to stock your cooler and refresh your food base for travelling. ~

Well, we survived it. We actually enjoyed some of it, especially the sight-seeing, the craft show, the fancy hotel and restaurants, and the cabin. What we could have used was more time, no lost stuffies, and fewer reactions along the way. If you’re contemplating a vacation with a child with challenges similar to Butterfly’s, I hope you find these tips helpful, and you have a great trip.

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