Developing Independent Travelers One Ride at a Time

Children need to start developing navigation and travel skills from a young age. When traveling with your child, knowing the available support options is important. Utilizing the support resources together can help you transfer the responsibility of independent and safe travel to your child more easily. 

Traveling by Ride-Share Services  

Ride-share services, such as Uber and Lyft, are becoming popular options for transportation. Here are resources and skills you can practice with your child before they use them independently. 


  • App Accessibility: Ensure that the ride-share app chosen is accessible with a screen reader or other technology needs. Help your child gain confidence in navigating the app and its features. 
  • While children under 18 cannot have their own ride-share app, you can support them in becoming familiar with the app on your phone.  
  • Emergency Contacts: Add emergency contacts to the app. Discuss when and how to use these contacts in emergencies.  

Requesting a Trip 

  • Verifying Vehicle Information: Ask for verification of the requested car, such as matching the license plate, car mode, and driver’s name, which the app provided. 
  • Driver Identifications: Ask the driver their name if they do not introduce themselves.  
  • Share Trip Information: Provide travel routes to a trusted friend or family. You can use share location or other apps to ensure your child’s location is shared. 

In the Vehicle 

  • Seat Belt: Ensure the use of a seat belt when traveling. 
  • Communication: Model and encourage communication with the driver. Communication can include a preference for where to drop off or any assistance needed. 
  • In-Car Safety: Remind your child to remain aware of their surroundings and to trust their instincts. They should ask the driver to stop in a well-lit, safe area if anything feels uncomfortable. 

During the Trip 

  • Maintain Communication: Keep lines of communication open between you and your child during the trip. Encourage them to text you if they feel uneasy or if routes change. 
  • Navigation Apps: Model for your child how to use a smartphone; they can use a navigation app like Google Maps or Apple Maps to track their route in real-time and ensure they are on the correct path.  

Exiting the Vehicle 

  • Confirm Destination: Remind your child to confirm the destination before exiting the vehicle.  
  • Belongings: Model and double-check the vehicle to ensure you and your child collect all personal belongings before exiting. 

Feedback and Ratings 

  • Driver Rating: Encourage your child to help provide feedback and ratings for the trip. Ratings and reviews are important for the driver and other future riders. 

Emergency Situations 

  • Emergency Contact: In case of an emergency, ensure your child can call or quickly connect to local authorities or their emergency contact. 
  • Driver Behavior: Remind your child to end the route and/or utilize an emergency contact if they feel uncomfortable with the driver’s behavior.  

Building Confidence 

  • Gradual Independence: Gradually allow your child to take more responsibility for their ride-share trips as they gain confidence and experience. 
  • Practice Runs: Conduct practice runs with your child until they feel comfortable with the entire process, from requesting a ride to arriving at their destination.  

Traveling by Train 

Accessibility Features 

You can begin gathering train accessibility information by checking the train company’s website. Start by visiting the official website of the train company or railway service. Look for a section dedicated to accessibility, often found under headings like “Passenger Services” or “Travel Information.”  

Features may include: 

  • Priority seating for passengers 
  • Audio announcements for stops 
  • Braille signage and tactile maps 
  • Wheelchair ramps and lifts, if needed 

Contact Information 

Find contact information for the train company’s customer service or accessibility department. Customer service can help address specific questions or concerns. 

  • Contact Information: Find contact information for the train company’s customer service or accessibility department. Use it to address specific questions or concerns. 
  • Travel Guides: Some train companies provide detailed travel guides for passengers with accessibility needs. Guides often include step-by-step instructions for navigating stations, boarding, and getting assistance. Accessible guides are helpful to have before travel to support your child’s awareness of the train station prior to travel. 

Support from Staff 

  • Contact the Train Company: Reach out to the train company’s customer service or accessibility department and explain any accessibility you or your child may need.  
  • Explain Needs Clearly: Communicate the specific needs (some people will think accessibility means only for mobility needs). Needs may be assistance to locate seats, navigate through the station, or receive audible announcements. 
  • Request Assistance: If your child needs assistance, request it in advance. Advanced requests will help the train station prepare accessibility support. Your child may feel more confident and comfortable with travel knowing support will be there.  
  • Confirmation and Details: Ensure you receive confirmation of the arrangements and any specific instructions for you and your child for the day of travel. Arrangements may include knowing where to meet staff at the station and how to identify them.  

Documents and Preparations 

  • Keep all correspondence, confirmation emails, and other travel and arrangements documentation together. 
  • Familiarize your child with the train station layout and any relevant information before the day of. 
  • Encourage your child to have a copy of their confirmation and essential contact numbers ready and easily accessible during travel.  

Traveling by Bus 

  • Visit the Bus Company Website: Start by visiting the official website of the bus company or public transportation agency. Look for a section related to accessibility, services for passengers with disabilities, or travel information. 
  • Accessibility Features: Inquire about the specific accessibility feature provided by the bus service, which may include: 
  • Priority seating 
  • Audio Announcements  
  • Braille or tactile signage 
  • Low-floor buses with ramps or lifts if wheelchair accessibility is needed. 
  • Route Information: Access specific bus routes you and your child plan to use.  
  • Online Resources: Look for online resources such as maps and travel guides dedicated to passengers with disabilities. These guides often contain step-by-step instructions for using the bus system. 

Support from Staff 

  • Contact the Bus Company: Reach out to the bus company’s customer service or accessibility department through phone or email. Clearly communicate the needs of your child and available assistance options. 
  • Pre-Planning Assistance: Inquire about pre-planning assistance for your child’s bus travel. Some bus companies offer this option to help a smoother travel experience. 
  • Bus Stop Assistance: If your child needs assistance at bus stops, ask whether staff can help them identify the correct bus, board safely, and get settled. 
  • Real-Time Information: Inquire if the bus company provides real-time information about the bus arrivals and departures. Information may be available on their app or website. Take the time to have the app downloaded onto your phone and show your child how to navigate the app or use the website. 

Preparing for Travel by Bus 

  • Discuss and help your child become familiar with the layout of the bus stops they will be using, including nearby landmarks.  
  • Using the bus company’s app or website to access real-time updates on the bus route and information may help your child travel confidently. 
  • Plan for a backup option if there are unexpected changes to the route or schedule. Preparing for these occurrences will help ensure you and your child arrive at your destination as needed.  

Traveling by Air 

Research Airplane Service Accessibility 

  • Airline Selections: Start by researching different airlines and their accessibility policy. You may also find which airline is most accessible by searching within Facebook groups. 
  • Airline Website: Visit the airline’s website and locate the accessibility section. Look for information about services, facilities, and policies. 
  • Access to Aircraft Information: Consider looking into specific aircraft for information about the layout, seating arrangements, and restroom locations to help plan your trip. 
  • In-Flight Entertainment: Check if the airline offers accessible in-flight entertainment options, such as audio descriptions for movies or TV shows.  

Booking the Flight 

  • Contact Airline Customer Service: Reach out to the airline’s customer service or accessibility department to discuss specific needs for your child. 
  • Special Assistance Request: There is usually an option to request special assistance during the flight booking process. This is an opportunity for you to provide information about your child and what assistance they might need based on what is offered. 
  • Documenting Requests: Make sure all accommodation requests are documented and confirmed through email or other documentation. 

Preparing for Departure 

  • Travel Documentation: Ensure your child and you have all necessary documents.  
  • Notification at Check-In: When checking in at the airport, remind the airline staff about the assistance request and specific needs. 
  • Security Screening: Explain to security personnel about your child’s accommodations, any assistive devices they may have in their carry-on, and their cane if they have one. 

Boarding and Deboarding the Plane 

  • Usually, they allow those needing extra time to board first. If your child is comfortable, communicate with the cabin crew any needs your child may have during the flight or when deboarding.  

Airport Arrival and Grand Transportation 

  • Ground Transportation Accessibility: Research ground transportation options at the destination airport if necessary.  

Teaching and empowering your child to develop their travel skills will allow them to experience places beyond their home and town. Like any journey, there will be bumps and roadblocks along the way. Remember to encourage your child to speak up and start taking ownership of small parts of travel to build their confidence early on. Practice routes to help them feel comfortable, have an emergency plan in place, and enjoy each destination.