Family Travel A to Z: eXtra Travel Tips
We’ve touched on so many tips already in this series, but it’s time to look at some autism specific tips for family travel. Travelling as a family poses a lot of challenges. However, travelling as an autism family present many more and they can seem insurmountable at times.
The biggest challenge for autism families who want to travel, is getting up the courage to give travel a try. I know that was our biggest challenge. We could not see how we could make travel work, with kids who needed consistency, routine and familiarity.
Travel is none of those things. It’s different, strange, unfamiliar, exciting, scary and unknown. Travel is designed to take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to adapt in new settings. For a long time, we could not see how we could make travel work for our family.
Eventually, we discovered strategies to help our kids accept the idea of travel and we found ways to support them while away from home. Here are some extra travel tips that might help your kids too and make your family believe that travel is possible, even for autism families.
6 EXTRA TRAVEL TIPS TO HELP YOUR AUTISM FAMILY GET OUT THERE AND TRAVEL
Understand you need to REALLY plan
This one is obvious but it goes deeper than just planning on where you will go or when you will go. From the start you need to plan your trip with your whole family in mind, particularly your kids with autism. All your thinking about where you will stay, how long you will go and how you will get there will need to be in line with your kids’ needs. I find it useful to plan utilising the following question framework – why, what, when, where, how, who – which is also handy when it comes time to put together social stories for the kids! Try to include your kids in the planning too, as it will make it easier to get them on board when you’re ready to leave.
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Once your plan is in place, it’s time to prepare for how it’s going to happen. While the plan sets out WHAT you are going to do, the preparation phase basically takes it one step further and helps you work out HOW you are going to make it happen. You need to emotionally prepare the whole family to withstand the rigours of travel. You need to develop strategies to deal with difficult situations as well as having a back-up plan, as a contingency. Preparing itineraries, schedules, visuals and social stories are key parts of this step. Talking to your kids, showing them books and videos of your destination and marking off days on a calendar can also help.
Have a strategy for packing
The strategies and tools developed as part of the preparation process will not matter if you hurry or pay too little attention to packing. Making lists, starting the packing process early and reviewing your luggage is essential. These steps will ensure everything that needs to go with you to make your holiday a success, actually goes with you (like the iPad and charger). We’ve found it also helps to get your kids involved in the packing process so they can see where everything goes and can be reassured that nothing has been left behind. Don’t forget to practise wearing backpacks and pulling suitcases to ensure you can navigate the airport safely too.
Be ready to tackle the tough stuff
All the planning and preparation in the world won’t matter if you give up at the first hurdle. Each holiday is stressful in a different way and you need to prepare for this. You need to strengthen your resolve and resolve to persevere. Taking the plunge and deciding to invest in a family holiday is scary. But once you make the decision you need to follow it through. After all, perseverance is all about mindset. You need to train your mind to accept that things will go wrong and develop the mental strength to face them and deal with them when they happen. Remember the preparation you have already put in place and use it. You can do this!
Set up your family for success
We’ve found 3 ways to set up our kids for success when travelling. If we pay close attention to their sensory needs, incorporate special interests into the holiday and put together social stories, we can usually anticipate most of our kids’ main concerns when travelling. We travel with sensory toys for the kids and provide them with downtime each day, to help them recover from sensory overwhelm. We ensure they all have something of their own to look forward to by including their special interests in our holiday and we ensure they know what’s going to happen next by using social stories and visual itineraries. It works for us and gives them the support they need too.
Start small and work from there
The most important step is to get out there and just do it. The easiest way to do this, is by starting small. We started by staying overnight with our parents and parents-in-law. This allowed us to see what elements of staying away from home most affected our kids and gave us the chance to keep practicing and testing the waters. Start with an overnight stay with family or friends or consider staying in a hotel/motel in your local area. This is a low risk way to identify whether travel is a viable option for your family and gives you the chance to try out different ways to help your kids. Then you can work up to longer trips from there.
What other extra tips would you add to help autism families get out there and travel?
Learn even more strategies, systems and tools to successfully travel as an autism family in our new guide – click on the image below to get your copy today!