Summer is of course the most popular time of year for family travel to enjoy the sunshine before the new school year starts and the weather turns colder. Check out our tips to make your next trip a little more autism-friendly and relaxing for the whole family:

  1. Previewing
    Before leaving on your trip, make a social story or a picture book that will explain and illustrate what to expect on the vacation. Include where you will be going, how you will get there, who will be with you, and places you will visit. Give this to your child at least one week in advance so your child has time to process the upcoming journey. Depending on your child’s cognitive level, you can also preview the vacation by doing an Internet search together of places you will visit. Your child, if high functioning, could help plan the vacation by including things he/she would like to do.
  2. Sensory Issues
    If your child is sensitive to loud noises in the environment, noise from traffic or airplanes, or large crowds, remember to pack earplugs or headphones. In addition, remember to bring along any favorite toys, food, and clothing that provide sensory input and comfort. Examples may include weighted blanket or vest, favorite plush toy, fidget toys, PlayDoh®, scented markers and paper, bubble wrap, gum, sour candy, and favorite snacks.
  3. Stress Management
    If your child likes to listen to music or watch videos to reduce stress, make sure you bring an iPod, iPad, laptop computer, or other electronic devices that are portable and will come in handy while waiting in lines or to be used during down time. Bring along any other favorite items that promote emotional regulation, such as familiar books or a small family photo album.
  4. Time Management
    Do not over schedule your days with too many activities. Choose one or two major activities per day that you know will be highly preferred by your child with autism, and build in ample time for transitions, snacks, meals, free play, and resting. If your child does not do well waiting in lines, practice this a few weeks ahead of time within your own community to build up tolerance. Let your child help plan the schedule and travel with a visual/electronic schedule that the child can see and cross things off of as they occur.
  5. Safety Issues
    In case of accidental separation, carry a recent photo of your child in your wallet, and have an ID card or bracelet on your child’s body or clothing at all times. This should include name, diagnosis, any important medical information, and parents’ names and contact numbers. You can inform the airlines and hotels ahead of time that your child has special needs. Let them know what potential behaviors to expect and how they can be accommodating. Don’t forget to label and pack any medication your child will need on the vacation.
  6. Check-Ahead
    Check ahead of time if the places you are visiting have special accommodations for travelers with special needs. Many places do have them. For instance at Disney World you can request special needs tickets. There are also many resources online to check out.

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