Many parents of children with autism approach me and ask me to share travel tips for vacation planning.
The truth is, it all depends on that family’s particular needs and vacationing style. While some families love to explore multiple new spots, others might have better luck returning to the same location year after year.
My friend, Paul Cimins, and his family is one of the latter group, so I asked him to share the benefits of vacationing at the same resort, Sea Colony Resort in Bethany Beach, Delaware, year after year.
Tell us about Bethany Beach
is not far from Ocean City, Maryland and is what I would label as a quiet resort. The best part about it, in our book, is the ability to drive there by car and bring everything we need.
We stay in a gated community resort
there (sixth year in a row), which is less than 100 feet from the actual beach.
It was built in the late seventies-early eighties and boasts multiple pools for families to use, even an indoor/heated pool.
We have the choice of going to the beach or the pool during our week stay there, which ensures more flexibility if our non-verbal autistic son doesn’t feel comfortable with one particular setting that day.
What type of lodging does the resort offer?
We rent a spacious three bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, with a fully equipped kitchen timeshare rental apartment, so my parents can join us for the week and help with our kids with special needs.
The Sea Colony does provide bed linens, towels, and a maid service for an additional charge.
I’ve noticed that the best rental prices are the week before Labor Day, and the resort is a lot less crowded than in the prior summer weeks, so that’s the week we go.
We like to bring our own towels and linens to make things more familiar for our autistic son; he can have his favorite pillow and comforter and feel like he has a part of ‘home’ with him at nighttime.
How easy is it to follow a GFCF diet while you’re traveling?
That’ s another reason we ended up vacationing in the same spot for the past six years – the comfort.
There are several grocery stores outside the compound and we buy our supplies when we get there.
One store, in particular, carries organic items, as well as gluten-free casein-free ones, so it makes it pretty convenient.
My kid’s favorite spot is a donut place that has gluten-free casein-free donuts that are incredible, so we always go there for a daily break.
We do go out and eat since the restaurants are all within walking distance but I actually enjoy cooking for my family since I’m a professional chef by training.
One of the best bonding experiences we have is eating breakfast as a family on vacation.
I make my own ‘secret’ gluten-free casein-free berry sauce and waffles recipe that I only make on vacations so you could say we’ve kind of developed our vacation rituals by now.
What is your kids favorite- beach or pool?
Our son started off with pools and slowly warmed up to the beach and ocean but putting on sunscreen is still a moderate challenge.
He is currently learning to swim in the sea. They have licensed lifeguards, the waves around there are rather calm, and the water is only about 4 feet deep with no jellyfish (so far).
He’s gotten better at sitting on the sand, which is swept on a daily basis, and building sandcastles with the toys we bring along. If he gets antsy, we swing by the small wildlife preserve area where you can watch dolphins, sand crabs, and sharks.
What activities does your family enjoy while on vacation?
There are so many to choose from, so it depends on what the general mood is. Bethany Beach, like many other East Coast beach towns, has a fun boardwalk to explore. My kids have their special salt water candy store they like to go in and buy taffy from, and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that has homemade gluten-free casein-free ice cream to die for.
There’s a tram that goes to the boardwalk from the resort itself for those who don’t feel like driving or looking for parking.
The resort itself organizes family social events like bonfires at night and treasure hunts, but there’s always watching TV or playing the WII that we bring from home.)
One of our family traditions is to go and shop at Ocean City MD outlets for school supplies.
How do you occupy your son on car rides?
He does great! It’s a 4-hour drive, so we bring a DVD along, and we tell him where we’re headed to get him excited. It’s when he returns home and realizes vacation is over that he cries.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Chef Paul Cimins is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and owns Culinary Delicacies.
As a dedicated parent to two kids Emily (11) and Johnathan (8) with disabilities Paul has worked relentlessly within the autism community to help families of children with autism through his weekly podcasts entitled ‘Hope saves the day’ on Autismradio.org.
The internet has enabled Paul’s program to reach and support families who want to share information on their personal experiences globally.
Does your family have regular travel plans or do you change it up every year?