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9 Vacation Planning Tips for Children with Autism: A Guide by Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting

9 Vacation Planning Tips for Children with Autism
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Planning a family vacation is an exciting endeavor, filled with the promise of adventure and cherished memories. However, when your family includes a child with autism, a well-thought-out approach is essential to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip. At Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting, we recognize the unique considerations involved in vacation planning for children with autism. In this blog, we’ll provide insights, strategies, and tips to help families prepare for a vacation that caters to their child’s specific needs and ensures a smooth and rewarding experience.

1. Choose Autism-Friendly Destinations

Selecting the right destination is the first step to a successful vacation. Research and choose places known for being autism-friendly. These destinations often offer sensory-friendly accommodations, inclusive activities, and trained staff who understand the needs of children with autism.

2. Plan Ahead

Effective planning is crucial when traveling with a child with autism. Plan your itinerary meticulously, including travel routes, daily schedules, and accommodations. Share these plans with your child in advance, using visual schedules and social stories to help them understand what to expect.

3. Let Solstice BHC Help Prepare Your Child

As the holidays roll around, our team of specialists may introduce topics and activities that revolve around season and seasonal activities. If you’re planning a trip, let our team know and we can incorporate activities or places on your itinerary into the lesson. Showing planes and travel equipment may bring a sense of excitement and familiarity to the situation which can make those introductions easier for your child. 

Parents can do the same at home with pictures of relatives, homes, hotels, and activities to expect on the trip. With some careful planning, you can stay on your child’s routine while adding new activities and minimize any struggle in understanding or communication with your child. (See #5 Social Stories)

4. Pack Familiar Items 

Familiarity can provide comfort during a vacation. Pack your child’s favorite toys, snacks, and sensory items. Having these familiar objects on hand can help ease any anxiety and provide a sense of security in new environments.

5. Use Social Stories

Social stories are valuable tools to help your child understand and prepare for the trip. Create stories that explain the journey, the destination, and what to expect during the vacation. Reading these stories together can alleviate uncertainty and anxiety. Create a storybook with screenshots on your phone or print out a few coloring pages and take it with you. Follow along with the book as you reach each destination.

6. Prepare for Transitions

Children with autism may struggle with transitions. Be prepared for changes in activities and routines during the vacation. Use visual timers and cues to signal upcoming transitions, providing your child with a sense of predictability.

7. Communicate with Service Providers 

Before your trip, communicate with airlines, hotels, and any service providers about your child’s needs. Many organizations now offer specialized services for travelers with autism, such as priority boarding or quiet areas.

8. Keep a Routine 

While flexibility is essential during vacations, maintaining some aspects of your child’s routine can be comforting. Ensure that meal times, sleep schedules, and therapy sessions (if applicable) remain consistent as much as possible.

9. Be Patient and Flexible 

Finally, remain patient and adaptable. Traveling with a child with autism may present unexpected challenges, but being flexible and understanding can make all the difference. Embrace the unique moments that arise during your journey and remember that vacations are an opportunity for growth and shared experiences.

Vacations can be incredibly enriching experiences for families, including those with children with autism. At Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting, we believe that with careful planning and consideration of your child’s unique needs, you can create a memorable and enjoyable vacation. By utilizing some of the same ABA strategies we use during in-person sessions, parents can ensure a trip that caters to their child preferences, routine, and comfort, ultimately leading to a successful and rewarding family adventure. For more information, contact us online or call 203-900-4720 to learn more about how we serve Shelton and Fairfield County families.

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