Tips for Traveling for your Child’s ACL Surgery

Tips for Traveling for your Child’s ACL Surgery

I was lucky that we have a very qualified pediatric ACL surgeon in Colorado for the type of surgery my daughter needed.  But with only a handful of truly expert surgeons in this specialty, that isn’t true for all parents.

Most of the parents in the Facebook Group for parents of kids needing ACL surgery have traveled out of state to get the best doctor possible for their kiddo.  The following is a summary of their tips for making the travel as smooth as possible with a kid recovering from major surgery.

surgery tools

Specifically many of these tips were from parents who traveled to Boston to have surgery with Dr. Kocher, but I imagine they’re fairly universal.

Before Surgery


  • Ask for a medical discount and if you can have seats with extra leg room for the return trip.
  • Request a wheelchair meet you curbside before departure and at the gate when you land at home.


  • You will need to book a hotel room for about 2 to 5 days depending on surgeon.  Your surgeon’s staff will help you with suggested locations and duration to plan for your stay.
  • Ask for a wheelchair accessible room and avoid stairs.  First floor if possible.
  • Make sure hotel knows you will need a wheelchair after surgery to get to your room.
  • Ask for the medical rate.  Many hotels will give a significant discount (upwards of 50% in some cases).
  • Check into family houses such as Ronald McDonald House that serve the hospital.  For Boston, there are 2 that cost about $30/night and are very nice.  They are on a first come, first serve basis so book early.  Boston Children’s Hospital has a link on their website.


  • Arrange for an ice machine before you leave because you will need it immediately upon returning home.
  • Bring your brace and crutches with you.
  • Select a physical therapist and make a minimum of 2 appointments before leaving for surgery because you start PT immediately after getting home.
  • Call school ahead and arrange for homebound teacher.  Boston Children’s Hospital can fax a letter for paperwork directly if you inform them. This was a great aid (free too).
  • Start talking to your child about physical therapy, its necessity and how important it is right away.  Get them prepped for it to be hard work and yet has to be done.
  • Arrange for home care or to work from home in advance – plan on 2 to 4 weeks.


  • You will meet with Dr. Kocher on the day you arrive or the next morning and surgery will be scheduled for the next day.
  • Feed your child well the day before because they won’t be able to eat the day of surgery.
  • They will likely keep your child overnight and perhaps a second night depending on how quickly he/she is able to meet the physical therapy milestones such as managing stairs and crutches.
  • Your child will have a large wrapped bandage, the ice machine cuff and a large brace on them when they leave the operating room and for your travel home.  Plan to bring very loose stretchy pants such as sweatpants or pajamas or even shorts and a blanket.
  • Borrow/take 2 pillows with you from the hospital to help keep your child’s leg elevated during transport.

Travel Home After Surgery

  • Take two pillows with you from the hospital to help keep the leg elevated.
  • Call the airline before you head out to arrange a wheelchair to meet you curbside.
  • Fill the ciro cuff with ice at the airport – ask one of the food vendors and they’ll usually be happy to provide it for you.
  • Call airline and request the seats in the front row with the extra leg room because your child’s leg will be at full extension and unable to bend.  If both parents travel, consider have child lay across your laps with head on one lap and leg on the other lap so that the leg can be elevated during the plane ride.
  • If you drive, bring lots of pillows, a bowl/bucket just in case your child gets nauseous, and lots of movies and board games.


Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have other questions or join our Parents Facebook Group for Kids having ACL Surgery.  Hope these tips help!

More Pediatric ACL Surgery Posts

Post 1 – ACL torn, Meniscus torn, bone  bruised – now what?

Post 2 – Best doctors for pediatric ACL surgery

Post 3 – Update on daughter’s ACL surgery

Post 4 – ACL Surgery Update

Post 5 – Recovering from ACL Surgery – the Week After

Post 6 – 4 Months after Pediatric ACL Surgery

Post 7 – Tips for Traveling out of Town for Your Child’s Surgery


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