Using Picture Books to Prepare for a Family Trip

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Many kids with special needs thrive on a routine. (And, really, so do many typical-developing kids…and adults!) When the routine needs to change for a family trip, it can help drastically to prepare in various ways.

Of course, picture books can help with that!

When we go on a planned family trip, I usually gather 3-10 picture books about our destination or a related event. We go through these books and a few accompanying activities 3-7 days before we depart. Doing so helps build foundational knowledge about our to-be new surroundings, which, in turn, can enrich what my children learn while we are there.

Using Picture Books to Prepare for a Family Trip - tips for kids with special needs and typical-developing children {}

Read Now for a Better Transition Later

A little preplanned reading helps our kids:

  • know what to expect,
  • learn what the environment might offer,
  • preview what new sensations might be felt,
  • learn what activities take place in this new environment,
  • have chances to practice new introductions,
  • with time to adjust to the idea of new environments or routines,
  • by giving opportunities to practice new skills that might need needed, and
  • through gaining new vocabulary to learn and use.

Read Now for Better Understanding Later

We’ve read books before we’ve gone on trips to the mountains, to the beach, to see a certain kind of animal/exhibit at the museum, and before various holidays. Many these books have expressed the how and the why behind new places and events, which helps our kids be more interested in traveling somewhere new, as well as be more prepared for changes in routine and environment.

Read Now for Better Retention Later

Both my child with special needs and my typical-developing child love to read about something new in a book, then go experience that something new. When we do so, I often here my daughter say, “This is like the ____ in the ____ book!” My son will show excitement when he makes the connection from book to real life.

Since we often try to include educational activities along with those books, I can incorporate prewriting skills, math skills, science basics, and literacy aspects all while preparing for a new trip or event. (Check out my Field Trip Ideas boardSummer Activities board, and Book-based Education Activities board on Pinterest for a few ideas for accompanying activities.)

The more we practice new skills or repeatedly encounter new information, the better we are able to retain and then apply that information. More application means more fun!

How does your family use books to prepare for a big trip or event? 

About Caroline Flory

Caroline is a wife, homeschooling momma to two undeserved blessings (one of whom has special needs), writer, picture book fanatic, decaf coffee drinker, former public school teacher, and major library advocate. In addition to writing posts on special needs here at The Library Adventure, she blogs about family, faith, and books at Under God’s Mighty Hand. (including free printables!), contributes monthly to a couple of other sites, and loves to connect on Twitter.


  1. […] Read my post at The Library Adventure today for ways that picture books help transition, understanding, and retention better before, during, and after a family trip. I’d love to hear your ideas on how you prepare for a family vacation or road trip in the comments at The Library Adventure! […]

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