Hello! I am Alex, founder of Roonee and mum to wonderful autistic twin toddlers. As a family, we love to get out and about. You’ll regularly find us exploring new destinations, but our travel preparations look a little bit different to those of other families.
Autism comes in many different forms, so this is a very loose guide rather than hard and fast rules. The considerations I have to take in order to travel with my twins might not apply to other autism families, but they might have different things to think about.
Routine plays an enormous role in the lives of children everywhere, but it’s often even more important for autism families. Working out ways of keeping routines as regular as possible while away can make travel experiences much smoother. For my family, it ensures we can have enjoyable holidays and trips for everyone involved. When we travel, we try hard to make sure that mealtimes and bedtimes are as similar to what they are at home as possible.
The travel aspect of any trip is definitely worth considering. When will be the best time to travel? Does your child enjoy your chosen mode of transport? Do you need to pack activities or fidget toys for the journey? Can you download episodes of their favourite TV shows on a portable device? Generally speaking, my twins enjoy train, bus, and car rides, but there have been exceptions to the rule. I always prepare for the worst case scenario in case I have to deal with a melt down on the go, and if I am travelling by car, I make sure I know where all of the rest stops are along the road!
Maintaining mealtimes and safe foods can be the difference between having a wonderful holiday, and being stressed. If your children have a safe food, make sure you travel with plenty of it, or make sure that you can get it in your final destination. If it’s something that needs cooking, ensure you will have access to the cooking equipment you need! I usually prefer to stay in self catered accommodation for this very reason – if I have access to a fridge, oven, and toaster, I know that I can make my children’s safe foods of pizza and toast at any time of the day or night.
When I travel alone, I love to explore galleries and museums. There are lots of tourist destinations like museums and galleries with great kids’ facilities, but most of the time I know that this isn’t something that would work for my children, so I plan accordingly. Instead of filling up an itinerary with places to visit, the trips that tend to work best for my family, are the ones that are all about wandering around new places. Walking new streets, exploring beaches and countryside is great fun for my family. Sometimes I arrange an activity, but I limit us to one thing a day as life with autism can be unpredictable and our itineraries often change. I make sure I still get my museum and gallery fix in other ways, by travelling alone, or with friends!
Try and accommodate your kids’ stims wherever you can while you are away. My daughter loves to rock back and forth on chairs so I know that places like soft play centres and trampoline parks would be great for accommodating her stim, while visiting a theatre or having lunch in a fancy café might not work so well at the moment. My son has lots of vocal stims, so being able to run around in wide open spaces stimming to his heart’s content is always wonderful for us.