Most families go away on vacation to break out of a daily routine, but autistic children need that routine to help them process the information overload they experience. However, you can still travel and enjoy a fun time with the entire family by taking a little extra care during the planning stages. Try these five tips to make your vacation safer and easier on your autistic child.
Stick with Private Accommodations
Since an autistic child can get quite noisy and active even when they're having a great time on vacation, it's usually easier to stick with private accommodations than the usual hotel room with neighbors on all sides. Shouts and screams of fun for hours on end can leave you with complaints from your fellow guests or constant visits from the hotel security team.
If you can't find a resort with individual guest houses or cabins, try asking for an end room or accommodations on an empty floor. This also limits the noise from the hotel that can put stress on your child.
Bring Along Safety Tools
Some hotels and resorts now provide security kits or special rooms for families with autistic children, but you should pack the essentials anyways to secure the room so you don't wake up to a missing child who wandered away. Set aside suitcase space for tools like
- Small magnetic door and window alarms that stick on with clean adhesives
- Soft bumpers for sharp corners on tables and other pieces of furniture
- Bar locks for entrances that brace across the frame without fasteners if your child knows how to remove or disable the alarms
Try to book a room or cottage with just one floor. If you have to be off the ground, avoid accommodations with balconies or ask the hotel to securely lock the door to it to prevent accidents.
Plan the Meals
Many autistic children rely on relatively strict diets to avoid allergens like gluten and casein that many doctors believe can aggravate the symptoms. Since traveling for vacation often leaves you hungry and stuck in a place with few food options, it's best to pack at least two or three full meals worth of appropriate foods for times when airport food kiosks can't provide the right diet.
Plan your meals at the destination as well if you're going to rely on restaurants with allergy-friendly menus to avoid the hassles of trying to find an accommodating place to eat when the entire family is already starving.
Show the Plans
If your child already relies on picture schedules or social stories to prepare for upcoming events, make sure you repeat these reinforcing routines with your vacation plans. Watching videos of the beach you plan to visit or acting out the routine of passing through an airport security checkpoint is the best way to prevent tantrums and shutdowns due to unfamiliar surroundings. The more you can do to mentally prepare your child for the trip, the less problems you will encounter when actually traveling.
Families with autistic members can travel nearly anywhere they like with the right preparations and tools, but choosing a resort or campground that caters to the autism spectrum can really help. Many certified and award-winning vacation destinations now offer special rooms, diet plans, and activity programs complete with trained counselors. Booking a stay at a destination that caters to your child's needs can take a lot of the work out of the trip and let you really relax while your child has a good time too.
Start small to gradually acclimate your child to the unstructured challenges of travel. Even if your first trip is only a 15 minute car ride that ends in tears, patience and dedication can help the most challenged autistic child learn to enjoy traveling. For more tips, contact companies like Sands Resorts.