It’s that time of year for vacations! It is my pleasure to introduce Sean Morris, a dad/writer who is my guest writer for this topic. He brings personal experience to his advice. Thanks, Sean, for joining Positively Atypical!
Summer break is the time for travel and taking vacations with your loved ones, but preparing to leave home with children can be overwhelming at times, and if you have a child on the autism spectrum, you may be facing a different set of challenges than with your other children. From packing the right items to making sure your accommodations are safe, there’s a lot to think about.
It can be hard to know where to start, but the best way is to sit down and make a list, beginning with your child’s specific needs. Will she need a quiet place to wind down in an otherwise crowded spot like an amusement park? Will there be issues with using public bathrooms? Write down everything you can think of and ask your partner for help so you don’t miss a thing, then start listing what you’ll need to pack and who you’ll need to contact.
If you’ll be staying in a hotel or with family members, call ahead and make sure your family can sleep on the ground floor or in a room without a balcony (if your child wanders). If there will be a pool or hot tub present, make sure the facility is equipped with a locked door or gate that your child can’t access.
Once you know where you’ll be staying, check online for maps and detailed photographs so you–and your child–will know what to expect. Talk to them about the trip and show them photos well before you leave so they can get acquainted with where they’ll be sleeping. It’s also helpful when planning family outings, so you’ll know what restaurants and activities are nearby.
If possible, bring your child’s pillows and blankets from home to re-create their own bed. Adequate rest is important for children of all ages, so whatever you can do to make the trip more comfortable for your loved one is worth it, even if it means packing yet another bag. Ask hotel staff if the rooms will have door locks that are out of your child’s reach; it’s a good idea to pack a bell or other noisy item that you can hang on the door handle to alert you if your child decides to check out the hotel on their own.
If your family will be flying, it’s a good idea to have an ID made for your child to keep in his or her backpack, and take a picture of them in their traveling clothes before you leave; that way, if you get separated in the crowded airport, you’ll have a recent photo that shows exactly what they look like. Contact your child’s doctor about obtaining a letter from them that states exactly what your child’s condition is in case you need to show airport security.
Do some research on local restaurants and eateries that will be on your driving route and make sure you’ll be able to find something that caters to your child’s needs, especially if they require a special diet–such as gluten-free–or if they have allergies.
If you’ll be staying with friends or family, be sure to contact them well before your trip and let them know what your child will need during the stay. It’s important to be clear about your needs before you arrive so that the homeowners can make their house as safe as possible, including making sure all doors and windows are lockable and that there will be no issues with any pets.
Family trips can be a wonderful time to bond and have fun, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your child is safe, healthy, and happy during your vacation.
Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.