Travel Tips

The Holiday Travel With Autism Survival Guide

 The winter holidays according to most popular songs and stories are meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, yet many families with autistic kids dread their yearly arrival.
Some families opt to stay home and celebrate away from their loved ones just to avoid the hassles of traveling with autistic children.The ones who do travel, return home more frustrated than before their so-called holiday vacation.

Having been approached and asked multiple times about the topic, I’ve decided to share my holiday travel with autism survival guide with you, but do bear in mind that since people and circumstances vary not all ideas may not work as well in your household as they do in ours.

The Holiday Travel with Autism Survival Guide


Plan your Holiday Travel Early

Even if you’re the world’s greatest procrastinator, you must plan ahead if you have a child with autism.
Decide where you will be spending your holidays as early in the year as possible, as that will help you organize all the details you need ahead of time.

Choose the quickest method of transportation from your home to wherever you need to be, avoid traveling the day before, the day of, and the day after any holiday when airports, bus /rail stations, and roads get busy with crazed last minute travelers.

Look into booking a hotel room and pass on staying with family or friends, as many autistic kids find crowded homes overwhelming.Along with providing your family with more space to spread belongings and the ability to wake up at your pace hotels are more are convenient when you need extra towels, bedding or that unexpected mattress change after a ‘night accident’.

Consider renting a car, especially if you are in traveling to a suburban area to enhance your independence to come and leave as needed.

Start packing a week ahead

Start packing the weekend before your trip and ask all your family members to help by packing their belongings in colored coded Ziploc bags. The best part about beginning to pack early is that you notice and have time to purchase any items you need for travel.
The color-coded method is efficient since not only eliminates the guess work of whose t-shirts or socks are in each bag but helps promote the independent dressing process every morning.Best of all, it also simplifies doing the laundry when you return home since everyone can wash their items separately.


Prepare your autistic kid with stories and pictures

Use the weekend to prepare your child with autism by sharing holiday stories, traditions and keepsake pictures of past holiday gatherings.
By adding quirky descriptions of people, items and foods you can help get your kid more interested in socializing and participating in holiday customs like trimming the Christmas Tree, or lighting the Menorah.

 Invest in electronic devices

Purchase or rent electronic devices like I- Pads, Nintendo DS or DVD player that are useful in entertaining your kid with autism.
Make sure they work and are fully charged before your trip to prevent problems. It pays to invest in extra batteries and headphones as a backup, in the case of original one’s malfunction, get discharged, break or get lost somehow.

Relax before your trip

Stressed out parents inadvertently lead to stressed out kids that in turn are bound to experience meltdowns, so start your vacation a day early and make sure you relax.
Make the day before your travel your special day and engage in a fun activity like a visit to the spa, a hot bath or a date with friends.The night before you plans to leave put out everybody’s clothes, gadgets, and travel papers to ensure the trip starts hassle free.


Explain your challenges

Ask your friends and family to brainstorm along with you and come up with comfortable solutions to issues that might arise.

In the case of a kid with sensory issues wearing formal clothing might be difficult.You can compromise and let them wear the formalwear for the family portraits but bring an extra an extra set of clothes for him/her to change into after the photography session.
If your child can’t sit for extended periods of time at the dinner table, you can either leave earlier than the rest of the other diners or bring electronic gadgets to engage your child in the next room.Have your host prepare a quiet place your child can go to if they feel overwhelmed and don’t wish to socialize with others.
If your child has food allergies, you should let your hostess know ahead of time and discuss what your child can and cannot eat in detail.You can offer to bring an item or two for them if you can to make your child more comfortable.


Whatever arises, bear in mind no vacation is perfect, next year will be even better and that a couple of years down the road even the worst experiences can be laughed about around the family dinner table!

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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

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