Travelling with kids is hard enough; imagine how much more complicated it is if one or more of your kids has special needs. That’s why it’s essential to be prepared, organised and ready for any scenario – especially if your chid has autism. Nicky Grant of Holiday Nanny recently set up a service linking up specially qualified nannies with families living with disabilities and special needs and looking for temporary help while on holiday. Here are some of her tips for a smooth vacation when travelling with autism.
1. Keep it simple and plan ahead. For your first trip, don’t be too ambitious and don’t travel too far. Villa holidays can work well for your first trip as you don’t have to worry about other people and you can adhere to routines and patterns that keep everyone calm and safe. Companies like Tots To Travel only have pools that are enclosed and fenced and other child safety gadgets which will help to give you piece of mind.
2. Explain the holiday. Make sure you break down the holiday into manageable chunks for your child to absorb. Start talking about it in a very positive way a few weeks in advance. Show pictures of where you are going. Check out the internet for YouTube or video footage of where you are going. Talk about what you are going to do there focusing on the activities and things they like to do. You might even have a holiday advent calendar counting down the days to the holiday.
3. Think about visiting an airport in advance of the holiday. They can be very busy and frantic places so it is worth do a trip to see what it is like first and get the kids used to it rather than leave it to the day of the holiday. Speak to the airport customer relations – they will often help organise for you to fast-track through security avoiding long delays and smoothing passage through the airport.
[For more travel tips on flying with autism, see the suitcases&strollers story Flying With Wheelchairs and Disabilities.]
4. Try – as much as possible – to keep their home routine going whilst they are away. There is enough chance [of problems] just being away from home without adding too many other changes.
5. Book your plane seats – don’t leave it to chance as to the layout of where you are sitting. One of our families always books 2 seats and the 2 seats behind them so that if their son becomes distressed he is behind another family member and not a stranger. This can help both your child’s and your own stress levels!
6. Most airlines will let you board in advance of other passengers if you speak to them ahead of time. This means you can do it calmly and quietly. The jostling and pushing of other people can be very upsetting and frustrating for children with autism.
7. Pack a rucksack with plenty of things to do on the plane and also with familiar food. It can be very comforting (when everything else is strange) to open up a packed lunch with all your favourite foods. If your child has a favourite toy make sure you bring it too.
8. Put a tag on your child with his or her name, your number and a note that they suffer from autism. If they get separated from you for any reason then they can be returned to you quickly and treated with the appropriate care.
9. Do a check around the room as soon as you get there. You know what things might cause trouble so do a quick sweep and get rid of them! Another of our families always asks for the last room on a corridor if they are in a hotel. The mum says its generally quieter and then they can be assured they will disturb less people.
10. Don’t try and do too much when you are there. The excitement and change of a holiday is a lot to take in so be guided by the kids as to how much else you want to fit in to your trip.
For more tips and inspiration about travelling with a child with disabilities, read the suitcases&strollers story here
By Nicky Grant of Holiday Nanny