This is a contributed post and therefore does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of this blog or its author.
Travelling can be stressful at the best of times, but as parents with autistic children, it can be especially trying. With a change in schedule, unfamiliar surroundings, and the busy crowds, there are stresses for both the parent and the child trying to cope with what is going on around them. Of course, the easy answer at vacation time is to not travel at all. But why should a child on the spectrum miss out on the world around them? A holiday is a great time for them to gain new experiences, and as parents, we can bond with our kids away from the four walls of the home, which can be stressful enough during school breaks. So, with that in mind, here are some travel tips that will hopefully make life easier for you and your kids.
- Choose your holiday carefully
In both destination and location, think carefully in your travel plans. For example, consider what triggers a meltdown in your child. Are large crowds a problem? Will there be issues on board a plane? In extreme cases, it may be wise to travel short distances, perhaps with a camping trip in a quiet, secluded area, if lengthy travel and people are an issue. On the other hand, you could travel at quieter times of the year, and request priority boarding if you are traveling by plane.
You should also think about what your child is interested in. If they have a particular fascination with a certain subject, choose somewhere that suits, such as places with the relevant museums or scenic points. Fun should also be high on the agenda, so you could book a place at the Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel and head off to the La Ronde theme park, which on August the 5th this year is holding a special autism awareness day, with perks for those with autistic children.
The more you consider your child’s needs, the better time you will have, so don’t forsake your holiday planning.
- Prepare your child in advance
A sudden change can cause a meltdown for some autistic children, so you need to do some preparation work in advance. Showing them photos of the accommodation and location will help to get them mentally prepared (and excited) about the upcoming trip, and you should also take steps to explain what will happen on each part of the journey. A little bit of role-playing might help – what to do when at the airport, for example – or actually visit the airport in advance so your child knows what to expect, such as going through airport security. Of course, YouTube is always a great fallback option, and your child will be able to see what is ahead of them through the experience of others.
- Packing tips for your holiday
There are all the usual things you are expected to pack (don’t forget your passport), but when it comes to your child, there are some essentials. Noise-canceling headphones are a must if they struggle with noise, and a variety of things for them to do (books, toys, travel games, downloadable apps) are also useful to distract their attention and alleviate boredom. Ensure you pack their favorite items as well; those toys and items they can’t bear to be without. Pack these things in your hand luggage for easy access, especially if they are needed as a calming tactic.
- Enjoy your holiday
We aren’t saying traveling will be easy, but then it isn’t for any family, regardless of special needs. Expect stress on your travels and at your destination, but try not to let it get on top of you. You deserve a little bit of fun, and your kids do too, so try and relax as much as you are able to and enjoy yourselves. Should you notice your child getting tired and uncomfortable, cut short anything that is going to cause further stress, and move onto something else. If they are having a lot of fun in one particular activity, let them enjoy themselves while they can. When you do need to pull them away from something (which we appreciate can be difficult), have a backup plan to distract them, and have a dedicated schedule which can be used to prepare them for what needs to happen next on your holiday. By taking some simple steps, you should be able to up the enjoyment factor and cut down on the stress. There will be challenges, but you already know to expect this, so do what you do at home to make life easier for yourselves.
What do you think? Were these travel tips useful? Do you have any advice based on your experience? Please let us know, and let us all benefit from each other’s wisdom. Thanks for reading!