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Essential Summer Travel Tips for Autistic Kids

Summer 2022 has rolled in hot; and with the summer months comes travel near or far. The THRIVE community wants our tribe to be as joyfully prepared as possible as your travel dates approach. This month, we worked with two certified autism travel advisors, Kendra Baughman with Anchors Away Vacay and Dina Farmer with Lily and Magnolia Travel. Kendra and Dina are both boy moms and each have sons on the autism spectrum. So needless to say they each know a thing or two about traveling with kids and keeping family fun as a main goal for any vacation. Whether a simple staycation, a trip to another town or state, venturing to the beach or mountains, or a daytrip to an amusement park or zoo, there are some beneficial tips they are sharing that may decrease your worries and assist your efforts in planning a successful adventure. 

Keep in mind that for our neurodiverse community (and their support systems), oftentimes the safety and predictability of routines can (and must) be extended past the four walls of home.  Be sure to empower yourselves while traveling by remembering that you are your child’s safety net, regularity, and sense of home. With proper planning and use of resources (such as the THRIVE app), it is both possible and necessary for you to have fun too! Consider the following tips from Kendra and Dina while traveling with a child on the autism spectrum…

  1. Plan ahead. For the neurodiverse community, sporadic or even rushed trips will likely result in frustration, anxiety and lack of meeting essential needs. To avoid experiencing meltdowns, be sure to decide on your travel destination, most beneficial mode of transportation and essential items well before the day of departure. Individual idiosyncrasies should also be prioritized. For instance, if your child eats only a certain fruit every morning, be sure to have it handy in order to normalize the otherwise varied circumstances.

  2. To be early is to be on time. When we travel, we must plan for the unexpected. Leaving early will provide the possible much-needed wiggle room for unforeseen occurrences. Providing yourself with extra time to pack, plan, or make it from one location to another is similar to extra funds in the meltdown-prevention bank.

  3. Keep health a priority. Physical, mental, and emotional health has been highlighted extensively with good reason over the past two years. Be sure that all adults and children in your support camp are beginning the trip with a full tank of ‘healthy’. Internal health will help stave off what we might encounter in new, unfamiliar environments. Daily vitamins, nutrition practices, hydration levels, and even mental/emotional debriefing(s) should be maintained by all while traveling.

  4. Pack light. To keep your luggage light and maneuverable, it may be a good idea to purchase non-enroute essentials upon arriving at your destination. Though things like medicines and familiar soothing clothes & toys must make it to the pack-list and into the bags, most other essential, bulky items can be purchased once you’ve arrived.

  5. Be aware of triggers. Whether new foods, loud noises or crowded places, be sure to take your child’s specific triggers into account. Sometimes meltdowns are preceded by specific triggers; however, while traveling to a new place, there may be some triggers that come as a surprise. The best anecdote to the anticipated anxiety of both triggers and meltdowns is the adult’s confidence in our own self-control. Keep calm, remember to breathe, utilize your regulation skills and respond to your child (not to the surrounding reaction of others).

  6. Utilize available resources. Be sure to research the various resources offered by your destination. Many theme parks, attractions, etc. have specialized disability services that function to make your time with them as seamless as possible. Quick passes, supplemental menu items, and even the allowance of otherwise restricted items may be granted. 

  7. Practice mindfulness. You too are on sabbatical from your daily routine. And though this can bring forward many concerns, it also provides an opportunity to live in the moment. Consider taking along reinforcements in the form of supportive family members and friends who care and will appreciate an opportunity to both assist and learn. When travel times get tough, give yourself a pat on the back for being brave enough to venture into new territory. Let your inner child live, enjoy yourself and create memories! 

As Dina often reminds us on her blog, “Vacations aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.” Be sure to visit her site and utilize her travel-proficient services as preparation for your next neurodiverse accommodating trip. THRIVE hopes you have a wonderful summer, full of fun, new adventures, expansion of the world within and without, and family empowerment! 

*Kendra Baughman of Anchors Away Vacays is not currently taking new clients, but is happy to answer any questions you may have when planning your next vacation!


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