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Travel Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

Our two boys are 12 and 10 years old.  They are both on the autism spectrum.  The 12 year old has Aspergers syndrome and the 10 year old has more severe autism.  My husband and I have always liked to travel but it became more difficult with the different issues the boys had.  While reading a Parentୡgazine I came across some tips for traveling with toddlers that work well also for traveling with children with autism.  Some I have found to be helpful and a few a learned through the school of hard knocks are: 

1.  ᧠of TricksԨis bag includes you childডvorite snacks (easy to eat).  It also includes a new toy, to be introduced only on the airplane or while traveling.  New toys can capture their attention and distract the child from moving around a lot.  We also take DVD players/computers so that they can watch their favorite shows or play their favorite computer games.  Books are also a good idea, if your child has a favorite bring it along.  Basically I bring anything that will hold their attention.  You know your child so include in your bag the items that will work best for them.

2.   Travel light.  I love nice purses but when we started bringing the ᧠of tricksﮠthe plane I held to lose the purse, it was just too much stuff.  I pack my nice purses in our luggage and put my wallet in the carry- on bag for the kids.   The fewer bags you have the easier your life will be.  Also rolling bags are easier to handle than those without wheels.  Bags get heavy quick and leads to frustration easier when traveling.

3.  Strategize your seating.  Our younger son moved kick the sit in front of him a lot and that is a big problem because passengers are usually not very understanding.  We now sit two in front and two directly behind.  The kicker gets the back seat with either mom or dad and our other son always sits directly in front of him with the other parent since it doesnࢯther him.  Our older son likes to sit in front of us without any of us next to him since he is becoming a teenager.  That works better because my husband and I can both sit on the row with our more active son.  The back of the plane also worked better for us when the kids were younger so if they cried a lot the whole plane wouldnࢥ upset.  Near the back is a little louder with the engines so the noise is muffled just a bit.  It also makes it easier to get up and let your little one play for a few minutes in the back where the flight attendants sit.

4.  No bus tours for us.  We learned quickly that our children could not handle slow guided bus tours that last for more than 30 minutes.  Do your own tour based on your familyഩme limits. 

5.  Family friendly restaurants.  We don৯ to quiet, romantic or upscale restaurants with the kids.  We only go to places where if my youngest starts making strange sounds he can barely be heard or people are so busy chatting with one another they donயtice.  If you are unsure of the type of restaurant call and ask them what the atmosphere is like. 

6.  Travel.  Donଥt your fears about traveling keep you from exposing your children to everything that all other kids have the chance to experience.  We have done it all; cruises, skiing, rafting, NYC(stimulation city) etc. and they have done well.   Accommodations can always be arranged to make your trip enjoyable for the entire family.  If you have questions or concerns ask another family of an autistic child who has experience what you are apprehensive about for advice.

7.  Limit Time of Travel.  When the boys were little, our maximum time on a flight was two hours.  As they have gotten older they can tolerate up to four hour flights.  If traveling by car give regular breaks so that your child does not become too restless.

8.  Avoid Connecting Flights.  Connecting flights drags the traveling out and risks more frustration for you and your child.

9.  Travel Around Sleepy Times.   It was helpful to us to travel when we knew the boys would be sleepy such as nap time or bed time.

10.  Ask Theme Parks for Special Accommodations.  Most parks now have special arrangements for families traveling with special needs loved ones such as front of the line passes. 


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