Traveling with special needs children to a foreign country can be a daunting task. Here are the ten things you should know about travel before booking your next trip.
Passport and Visas
If you have already obtained a passport, make sure to check its expiration date, as some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport will expire within six months of your return trip. To be on the safe side, in the six months before your journey, you might want to renew it.
However, if you don’t have a passport, pre-order your family’s passports at least six months ahead of your planned vacation, as bureaucratic miscommunications and unnecessary delays often occur. Never procrastinate on ordering the documents, as any unforeseen delay could jeopardize your whole trip. If your child with autism is unable to sign the official request, inquire ahead of time as to how to bypass this issue.
Verify whether you require a visa for the places you plan to visit and exact visa details such as duration and expiration.
Contact the country’s local embassy or consulate at least three months prior to your departure date; make sure to procure ahead of time all the correct information you are told to bring, like birth certificates and marriage licenses.
Enquire as to the particular people that should be present during the application process; since some places require the presence of both parents to complete a minor’s paperwork. If you have to bring your special needs child with you, ask about possible accommodations such as faster lines or seating.
Keep your own embassy’s information handy
Have your own country’s embassy, consulate or other representative’s phone number and address written on a sticky note inside your passport since you never know when you’ll need it. That’s the place to call in any emergency situations such as accidents, earthquakes or political unrest. Your country’s representative can also help in finding medical or legal help if you encounter any problem with your autistic child on foreign soil.
Keep two extra photocopies of your passport: a laminated one on your person but separate from the actual document, and one at home with a relative or friend. This way if your passport gets stolen or lost, the embassy officials have an easier task of helping you replace it.
Check your country’s travel advisory list
Frequent the State Department’s website to look out for official government warnings concerning any political unrest, natural disasters, or illness outbreaks in the country or countries you are going to visit. Even in the absence of official warnings (or if you decide to ignore them), the website will provide you with valuable information to create contingency plans in case something goes awry.
Also, to stay current on the country’s internal happenings, read the destination’s local newspapers and watch the local broadcasts online. Listening to the broadcasts and reading the paper will not only provide you with an excellent way to practice your foreign language skills but also get more inside information that is bound to prove useful during your travel.
Vaccines and medical supplies
Check the CDC website for what vaccines/boosters the country of destination requires and be sure to discuss the topic with your family doctor and pediatrician. If you decide to get these vaccines, you should start at least six months before your planned visit since some vaccines can give you temporary unpleasant side effects while others may need a second dosage administered some weeks later. If you decide against the vaccination, make sure you contact the country’s consulate or embassy well in advance for suitable advice how to do proceed.
Check the WHO website periodically for information about possible outbreaks of diseases in the area of your intended destination. You might need to buy mosquito netting, malaria tablets, water purification measures or other medical supplies for the places you are about to visit. Never assume you can quickly find what you need in the intended country as there might not be the case, so be smart and bring the items you need with you from your country of origin instead of spending precious time running around trying to locate supplies that might be available not even be readily accessible.
Carry all your family’s medical information detailing all ailments, vaccinations, medications, and allergies with you (preferably on a USB or medical phone application) on every trip. Call your health insurance provider and get all details of overseas coverage. If your provider cannot provide you and your family members with adequate coverage, you might want to look into buying added travel insurance. Obtain medical information, the location of local hospitals, and the local number equivalent for 911 in that specific country, just in case you might need to use them.
Holidays and Festivals
Festive occasions and local holidays can often represent unusual ways to expose yourself and your family to new and diverse cultures. However, they can also negatively impact your travel plans with your autistic companion.I recommended that you research all the local happenings beforehand, including the opening hours of all important shopping spots (especially where specific items are).
Know the differences
You need to be aware of differences between your home turf and the country abroad:
- Banking and ATMs
Make sure to learn the open hours of the banks near your place of stay, as well as the current exchange rate (it is no fun being stuck in a foreign nation without any usable money). Also, make sure your ATM code still functions universally, as American and European ATM systems do not necessarily match.
- Banking hours in the intended country
Know the opening hours of banks as well as the exchange rate, since it is no fun, stuck in a foreign country, with no spendable cash. Make sure you have a working ATM code; remember American and European systems don’t necessarily match.
- Electrical Outlet Voltage
Electrical outlet voltage varies by world region; while some countries use 110V outlets, others have adopted the 220V system. While seeming like a minor difference, without the proper adapters and converter boxes, your electronic helpers can become expensive pieces of burnt plastic.
- Air conditioning
Always ask if there is air conditioning in your room, as while it seems a regular feature in many areas, others may live (and consequently not include it in their hotel rooms) without it.
- Local water issues
Be aware of the places you should not drink the local water where you need to use bottled water.
- Public bathrooms can be a problem if not planned for ahead of schedule, as the actual toilet itself can vary worldwide, an issue that can present a lot of stress to your autistic traveler.There are many worldwide variations of the latrine, from the conventional European style to the Japanese style (a toilet that faces the wall and is mechanized with post-usage water jets), to the old Mediterranean toilets (which are almost holes in the floor). These unfamiliar changes can pose a challenge to the ensuring the comfort of your autistic globetrotter.
Food and Restaurants
For those following strict diets ,like those following the GFCF diet, or who are just picky eaters, a smart idea before any trip is researching the neighboring restaurants and food stores available close to your hotel (or another place to stay).
Try to acquaint yourself and your family with the different restaurant types, locations, and meal times; by planning meal times and places ahead, unnecessary arguments can be avoided.
Be sure to know the tipping procedures since they do vary from country to country. What seems customary in your neck of the woods might be too little or too much elsewhere!
Climates and Clothing
Be aware of weather patterns that might affect your travel, whether excessive heat that would necessitate extra clothing or a sudden cold front that would require layered pieces.
To be on the safe side, Google the locale you will be visiting and check for department stores, laundromats and dry cleaners (and their operating hours), in the case that you need to replace lost luggage, forgotten toiletries or just clean anything.
Electronics and the rule of two
Since the 1990s, most of us have become ever more so reliant on our gadgetry, whether for work or play.
For travel, you need to be aware that different countries and continents have different voltage requirements; to stop your devices from becoming a smoldering pile of plastic, buy at least two international adapters.
Having more than one can allow you to recharge multiple items at once, preventing the inevitable power struggle between the adults and children. Likewise, for any other electronic devices and their coupled chargers, two is also ideal; in the case one of the pair malfunctions, disaster (in the event of an entertainment device) can be averted.
Learn what you can bring back before you buy those souvenirs
Before going on your souvenir shopping spree, be sure to check the rules and regulations of what items and what quantities thereof you can bring back to your home nation.
Sadly, many of those who do not learn these rules eventually have their prized possessions confiscated, making for some heartbroken globetrotters. .