Friday 11 January 2019

Planning for a family holiday with autistic kids

Children with autism are all different and come with their own personalities and abilities. But there are some traits that they will share, such as thriving on routine, as most children do. Set schedules can be what helps them, so the thought of sending them off on holiday can be stressful as it is putting them in a situation completely out of their comfort zone.

In an environment that is over-stimulating, it can be a little distressing. But with proper planning and organising, a family holiday can be on the cards for you, as planning can help your child with autism to adjust to what is going to happen, so all of the family can enjoy themselves.

Here are some tips that can help you to make your trip more enjoyable for your child, and for the family as a whole. There can be a lot to experience when you’re on a family trip and there is a lot to learn, see, enjoy, and do.

Choose Your Destination Wisely

In order to take a trip as a family, you need to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of your child’s needs. The transition of a trip can mean that there may be some difficulties, but choosing the right destination for your family it can make all of the difference.

What kind of transport works best for you?  Is it better to be able to drive all the way and then staying in Europe is the easier option.  We are now used to flying and getting our family through an airport but I will still consider flight times and changes and the impact they will have on the kids.

Children with autism can also be stress detectors and they can sense the stress of others. So if you chose a busy city break where you are more likely to be stressed, then it can make the whole thing stressful for everyone and more likely to lead to breakdowns.   On the other hand if your child loves bus and tram routes, this could work. Think of the activities that your child enjoys. If they would enjoy a theme park then go and enjoy, but if they are likely to have sensory issues being on the beach like our son, then that wouldn’t be the best choice.

However, sometimes a destination like a beach, forest or a trip to the mountains can be a better option as the schedule tends to be much more relaxed. One of the best holidays we've had was to the Alps - everyone thinks of it for skiing but a chalet in the summer worked wonderfully for us.

For that reason, the destination and type of accommodation you choose can really play a part. We need somewhere with private space and where the kids can eat their regular foods for breakfast.  Think about what they want and need, as well as what they enjoy in order to have a great trip.

Plan Ahead of Time

Planning holidays with kids can take a lot of time and even more when there is a child with additional needs. So make sure that you take the time to plan ahead and make the arrangements that you need. It will make things easier, or at least give you peace of mind that you know what to expect, if you call ahead to places like the airlines, restaurants, and hotels.

You can discuss what they have in place or if there is anything specific that you need to know. If they don’t have certain things, then it gives you the chance to take them. The good news is that more and more places are being more accommodating to families with additional needs, but best to plan ahead and do your research.

Take Time To Pack

When it comes to what to take with you, make sure that you are taking the time to write out a list of everything that you will need to take with you. Of course, there will be all of the essentials like the changes of clothes, toiletries, underwear, sleepwear, socks, shoes, and so on. But think about what else that you need to take.

Some children with autism often need to have reinforcements that are likely to be tangible, and if your child does have something like that, then it is going to be pretty important to take with you. There can also be some things that you could bring along to reward good behaviour. But as you’re away and won’t know what is around or what stores there will be, bringing those kinds of things with you can be better than having to look for them when you’re in somewhere that you don’t know.

Practice in Advance

Preparing your child in advance is such a good idea, as it can help them to know what is expected of them or what might happen when you are on a trip. If you think that it might help, it could also be a good idea to role play the scenario that you might face or perhaps they would deal better with drawing out a storyboard of what will be going on and what they can do in certain situations. At the end of the day, you know your child best and what they will react best to.

We do trial runs of lots of things - our first journey to school was actually two days before school started so get used to the idea.  We also practice other things such as wearing the clothes my might wear on holiday, or even practice having sun-cream on.

Make Time For Breaks

In many ways, holiday time is a great time as it is a break for normal routine. But for many children on the autism spectrum, the lack of routine can be something that can make them feel a little lost or unanchored. When this carries on, it can lead to breakdowns. Knowing your child well and knowing their triggers can help you to plan your time on the trip accordingly.

We always try to make time for breaks in our plans. One activity a day is enough and we usually have 'rest days' too where we hang out where we are staying, another reason accommodation choice is so important.

Being over scheduled is never a good idea with autistic kids! As the parent we have to read the situation and know when to call it a day on things. If you can’t get away completely, then at least knowing where to find a quiet spot can be a great idea.

The key is planning ahead so that you can be prepared. When you are prepared, you can be ready for most things that could happen on the trip that will hopefully make it more smoothly.


  1. Great tips. We have to think very carefully now about any holidays, it's definitely not easy x

  2. Great tips here - we always need to print out lots of photos of where we are going so my son can look at them in advance. #SpectrumSunday


I read all your comments and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our readers. I welcome any feedback on my posts and you can always contact me directly. Thank you.

Have a look at our most recent posts:

@rainbowsaretoo Ann H on Google + rainbowsaretoo pinterest rainbowsaretoobeautiful bloglovin Instagram rainbowsaretoobeautiful