Tuesday 19 July 2022

Our essential travel items for our autistic kids

Autistic boy at the beach

If you've managed to get your passport renewed then you may be heading away for a summer holiday soon - and we are looking forward to it. Obviously there are all the normal things that we think about a a family travelling with autistic kids. Where we are going, what type of accommodation works for us and so on.   But it's been so long since we went through an airport or stayed in a foreign country I've felt a bit nervous about it.  But there are things we take that make things a bit easier on holidays for us and our autistic kids. 

If your children are seasoned travellers and are used going through airports and being on aeroplanes then you know how they will react. However, if your child hasn’t been on a plane before they may be feeling lots of different emotions and may need some extra support and encouragement. They could be feeling really excited or overly anxious.

You need to think about how you will keep the children entertained and calm on the way to your destination. There may be several forms of transport involved including your own car, taxis, and planes. You can make plane packs that will keep your kids entertained on the way, this needs to be age and stage appropriate. Depending on what your child is interested in it could have model building, colouring books and crayons. You can put absolutely anything in the plane packs as long as it is suitable for your child and suitable for use on a plane, as they only have a small table and space to utilise.

We fill an iPad with our kid’s favourite tv shows and films to keep them in their seat, this is a winner. If you are flying long haul the plane will also provide entertainment to watch on the little tv screens.

Along with the iPads David has been carrying around with him since check-in, I've also brought a closable free flow baby cup  (because you can fill it with water from a fountain in the terminal but get the cup or bottle through security easily), small snacks like breadsticks or raisins and a power bank (to charge the iPad).  Jane and Anthony both have a new book or toy in their respective hand luggage to entertain them in need be at the gate.

One thing that could help make your trip go smoother is to pack some snacks that you know your child eats.  Especially if going all inclusive in a different country there is a risk that your child doesn’t like any of the food available. If you have non-perishable items either in your carry-ons or in your suitcase then there is no chance your child will be hungry during your trip.  Our kids can have a restricted diet and this will mean I'll try and take a box of Shreddies with us - just to be on the safe side.  

Washing and skin care

Kid's skin is extra delicate and autistic kids can be very sensitive.   I'm happy to use the freebie shampoo at a hotel or apartment and wash in the shower as there sometimes isn't a bath, but it's not the same for the kids.  Bringing things from home can help keep sensitive skin calm but we also struggle with things like hair washing, bathing and teeth brushing so bring products with us to help. 

Hair washing can be a nightmare for many autistic kids as it's such an odd sensation along with the soap and everything else.  Sometimes we get to a place and find there is just a shower instead of the bath we thought we'd have and that makes hair washing more challenging believe it or not. If we are struggling then our miracle is a no rinse towel off shampoo. Just put some in your hand then rub it into your kids hair for.. well we slowly count to ten.. and then towel off as if you were towel drying your hair after a bath.  

Admittedly it won't wash out sand but if there is only a shower available then we can still keep their hair clean during a week away on holiday with this stuff.  It's available direct, at Boots, Amazon and you can even get it on prescription.  It the kids really struggle with showers on holidays then the same company also do a foam body wash that works the same way - no need to get into a shower at all if it's difficult. 

We always take our own flavourless and foamless toothpaste - we wouldn't be able to brush the kids teeth anywhere without Oranurse

If like us, you go somewhere warm, a high sun factor sunscreen is also essential.  Our sensory kids can't always tell  or tell us when they are over heating so it's important that we're extra careful.  Sunscreen is water-resistant but not waterproof so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ve put it on and it will protect all day.

There are lots of different forms of sunscreen as your child might not like the sensation of having sunscreen applied. There are creams which you apply and rub in, sprays which you simply spray on and let it soak in is our favourite as it doesn't need rubbing at all and is more like spraying them with a fine mist.  There is also do a self-application roll-on form of sunscreen. Some children like this one as it gives them a sense of pride and independence that they can do it themselves but we've found the spray works best for us. 


Getting luggage into, through and out of a terminal while moving with three kids is not a small task. We deal with this by minimising luggage.  We usually go fly-drive and this used to involve car seats but we've learned and have been using BoostApaks for years.  These are rucksacks that turn into a car seats. 14 year old Anthony wears a rucksack car seat through the airport that his younger sibling use at the other end of the journey. We then pack the other BoostApak rucksack and then pack them in another bag with other things.

Yes, I know I'm packing a packed rucksack in a suitcase, but trust me, it means taking two large suitcases through the airport instead of two slightly smaller ones and two car seats.  It's well worth it, particularly if you have to change flights and go through customs at your first port of call.

The BoostApak also doubles as a great portable seat.  Anthony can just take it off and through it on the group and there a sturdy seat for someone to sit on instead of sprawling on the floor which is particularly helpful in a busy terminal. 

Have you got any great ideas? Let me know!

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