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 globetrotters dread their yearly arrival. recent. Some families opt to stay home and celebrate away from their beloved just to avoid the hassles while a decent percentage of those who do travel return home more tired and 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 philosophy with you, but please bear in mind that people and circumstances do vary, so not all ideas may not work as well in your household as they do in mine.
Plan, plan, plan
Even if you’re the world’s greatest procrastinator, you must plan ahead if you have an autistic globetrotter.
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.
Try to choose the quickest and shortest way of transportation from your home to wherever you need to be, and never opt to travel the day before, as well as the day after any holiday when airports, bus /rail stations, and roads are jammed with crazed last-minute travelers..
If at all possible, book a hotel room and pass on staying with family or friends, as many autistic globetrotters may find houses filled with people somewhat overwhelming, and need a quiet place to relax in. Staying in a hotel room may prove beneficial if you were to require extra towels, bedding or even an unexpected mattress change due to some ‘night accident’, along with providing your family with adequate space to spread belongings and the ability to wake up at your own pace. Look into renting a car, especially if you are in traveling to a suburban area, as it will further enhance your independence to come and leave as needed.
Start packing the weekend before your trip and ask all your family members to participate by packing their own belongings in colored coded zip loc bags. The color-coded method is efficient for multiple reasons since not only does it eliminate the guesswork of whose t-shirts or socks are in each bag but helps promote independent dressing and even simplifies the laundry process upon returning home. The best part about packing a few days earlier is the fact you can actually notice and replenish any missing items you might need for travel.
Stories and pictures
Use the weekend to mentally and emotionally prepare your AG by sharing holiday stories, traditions and keepsake pictures of past holiday gatherings. Little quirky descriptions of people, items and foods might get them more interested in socializing and participating in holiday customs like trimming the Christmas Tree or lighting the Menorah.
Electronic Devices aka lifesavers
Purchase or rent electronic devices that can entertain your AG and make your travel more enjoyable such as a DVD player, Nintendo DS, Laptop, Ipod, Ipad, but ascertain they actually work and charge them before your trip to prevent problems. If at all possible, invest in extra batteries as backup, in case of original ones malfunctioning or getting discharged by mistake.
Relax before your trip
Stressed out parents inadvertently lead to stressed out globetrotters that unfortunately can experience meltdowns, so it is better to try starting your vacation a day earlier and dedicate the day to relaxing and decompressing. By pretending your vacation has already started and engaged in a fun activity such as a visit to the spa, a hot bath or a beer with friends at the local pub you can successfully decrease the chances of this unpleasant domino effect. Prepare everybody’s clothes, gadgets and travel papers the night before so the trip can at least start hassle free.
If possible talk to your family or friends about what issues that might arise such as formal holiday clothing and sitting at the dinner table for prolonged periods of time and try to come up with solutions.
Formal clothing for an AG with sensory problems have him/her wear it for a brief time for the family portraits but then bring an extra softer alternative to change into.
Long formal dinners-leave early and take your dessert to go or bring electronic gadgets /DVDs, so that your AG can quietly play in the next room.
Food issues-ask the hostess about specific foods or offer to bring an item your AG likes
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!