Monday 22 July 2019

Last minute multi-stop trip with autistic kids - no problem

Getting our family through an airport - Jane on a Trunki

Earlier this year we all felt down. Life, work, home all seemed a bit of a mess. So my hubby and I put our heads together - let's go big this summer.  Let's go away for the whole summer, visit lots of places, escape, find ourselves, find our family, expand our kids horizons. But come May I'd still not booked anything.  All I had was a plan and if I didn't act soon, that's all I'd have.

Planning a holiday with autistic kids can be a bit more challenging.  Autistic kids are, traditionally, set in routine, like familiarity not change and need time to cope with things. We have restricted diets, issues with sleep and communication difficulties (to say the least).  Holiday periods can be challenging for many SEND families.  But with just a few days to go, I've finally got things (mostly) sorted.

We are away for five weeks. Our trip is taking in California, Hawaii, British Columbia and Ohio. It's five flights, six accommodations, three car hires and one stop at family.  There's still the daily stuff to organise but we have some plans. Whenever I fret that I don't know what we are doing in Vancouver, I just have to remember that although we are about to leave, it's actually still nearly a month away.  I've bookmarked the Traveling Canucks for later. We aren't flying off the planet and plan a bit as we go.

So at this early, pre-departure stage, what have I learned?


This vacation is for all of us.  So we are thinking not just about what kids can cope with but what we all need.  After all that's why we wanted this to start with.  My hubby really wanted to visit western Canada so we used that as a start.  Coming up with our itinerary was a process and we thought about a few things.

We stuck to English speaking countries.  Might sound dull and boring, but my Spanish and French will only go so far (and not really that far) and with all the extra challenges the kids have I need to be able to communicate their needs and what's happening to other people. Yes, people speak English well in plenty places but I only know how to say 'he's autistic' in French and my accent lets me down a lot.  So for that reason we stuck with the USA and Canada.

We thought about weather too. Once we'd identified California we chose our final destinations based on what was there and the weather.  We tried to stay away from going everywhere that was 'hot'. That was a no to Death Valley and most places further south.

We also chose short times in cities and longer periods in 'the country'. We're having three or four days on the outskirts of San Fransisco / Vancouver but longer in  Yosemite / Vancouver Island.  This is based on how much of a busy environment our kids, and us, can cope with and want.


If you are booking less than four/five flights you can book these yourself by selecting the multi-city or multiple-destinations on sites like Expedia and Opodo.   By linking your flights on one ticket you can get cheaper prices and extra benefits like being able to check additional luggage on internal flights.

We used a travel agent in the end - but there are ones what do this well and ones that don't.  One I went to quoted over double the price of another and that's a massive difference on a long holiday.  I'd recommend Trailfinders, who we went with in the end, but Travelbag also did well.

The cheapest trips are those made up of stops between major hubs. So for example, the last stop on our trip is to see my brother who lives in Ohio. However, his closest airport is not a major hub and added over £500 to our tickets. We selected to fly into Chicago and drive the extra distance.

Flying between hubs will also mean you've got a good chance of getting direct flights.  All our destinations are non-stop flight routes.  With our kids this was really important. It is going to be a long holiday and we want to help the kids adjust as quickly as possible to each new area without having lay overs for them.

When looking at flights, have your 'best day to travel' dates - the days you'd like to fly on most. This will give you somewhere to start.  You can then fiddle the dates a little with availability and prices.    I was surprised to find that several flights on the same day were the same or only marginally different in price. 

This meant I was able to choose the flight times that suited us best.  We need times that not only work for the holiday schedule, but for the kids.  We choose over night flights in some places, avoided them in others and generally stayed away from early morning departures.  It's just too much for the kids morning to through into an airport.

We have been on lots of flights with the kids. Practice doesn't make perfect but certainly helps.  I'm not embarking on a multi-stop trip without an idea of whether my kids can cope with airports or flights - that would be crazy!


Along with car hire, accommodations was the most challenging thing to book last minute.  This is probably because all the flights and schedules had to be confirmed first so the accommodation was last on the list.  We found availability in several areas challenging and feel lucky to have bagged the accommodations we have.

Some of them were not ideal and I'd recommend doing things as soon as possible. We missed out on some places by just a few hours so take advantage of options that allow you to book with free cancellation in 24 hours.

We found our accommodations on several sites.  We've got things booked with Airbnb and - which does more than just hotels! If we identified somewhere we really liked on another site we would check it out further and in some cases booked direct at apartment resorts.

We don't usually stay in traditional hotels. Typical hotel and  inclusive holidays don't work for us.  The things that may them great for so many families are stress makers for us.  Buffet meals are a disaster when your kids can't be left alone, get over whelmed by choice and don't like busy places.  Holiday clubs? Don't even get me started on why that's not for us.

This means we look for apartments, condos and homes to stay in.  We look for safe spaces, avoid anywhere that has glass furniture in the photos or a major road nearby.

I'll be honest, I'm partly petrified and partly proud to be giving our lot this opportunity.  There's plenty of other planning like getting an extended controlled drug prescription, letters from professionals incase we need them and then making a photo board for David of all the accommodations we are going to so he knows where we are going next.  Still plenty to do.  Some of it won't get done, but the important stuff will.

A lot of the time I feel like I could go on holiday wearing my jumpsuit, converse, jacket and with a toothbrush and cash card in my pocket, it isn't the same for the rest of the family.  Knowing them and their needs, will hopefully mean we've made some better choices for us and fingers crossed we don't get into too much trouble along the way.  I've just discovered a Heathrow airport strike is on our first departure date - so if you fancy crossing your fingers for us too that morning I'd appreciate it!


  1. Wow! I am seriously impressed and looking forward to following your adventures. xxx

  2. What a fantastic trip, i'm sure all your planning will pay off. I hope you have a brilliant time #spectrumsunday

  3. Hope you have an amazing time! x #KCACOLS

  4. I'm sure you're going to have the most amazing summer, you've planned everything really well. Have a fabulous time making some great memories together #KCACOLS xx

  5. What a lot to plan. I hope you have an amazing time! #KCACOLS

  6. Sounds like you've thought of everything! Hope you all have a brilliant time. #kcacols

  7. USA and Canada are both gorgeous destinations. Have a fantastic time together. #KCACOLS

  8. It sounds like you're all ready for your trip. I live in the USA and I've visited Canada many times. You'll have fun. What part of Ohio are you going to? I grew up in the Warren area. :)

    1. We went to the south - but we've been up near Cleveland a couple of times. Love it.


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