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7 Life-Changing Tips for Traveling With Your Autistic Kid


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Photo courtesy of Eileen Shaklee

The school year has ended and we have some free time on our hands before the kiddo is back for ESY (extended school year) aka "summer school".  As I need to keep this kiddo busy and the hubby and I do enjoy traveling, it's time to pack up THE ENTIRE CONTENTS OF MY HOUSE and hit the road with autism as our co-pilot. Every trip we have taken has been an adventure and a learning experience for the next one.  While we haven't perfected it, we have gotten pretty good at some of the surprises that travel brings and lobs at your sleep deprived “Oh my god my kid even make noise while he sleeps at night!” head.

1) Confirm everything!
What your room will include? I don't care so much about if my room has an iron when a fridge is way more important to our needs. For us the most important thing is the pool. Is it outside or inside and more importantly, open? We once showed up at a hotel with a pool drained and being remodeled. We walked right out and booked another place in the car. Never again! For us, that's not even an option. Swimming provides much needed sensory input. Not having it would be a disaster. The same with places to eat. I check their menus online AND I call and ask just exactly IS on that kid’s menu. No fries? No way!

2) Plan one event a day.
Don't think you can pack in the Louvre in 15 minutes Griswold. You might not see as much now but you are traveling with autism. You can have a good time at one place or a miserable meltdown time at several. Know your limits and more importantly, your kid's.  We find writing out a list of what we were going to do each day and going over it with the kiddo over breakfast worked.  He could carry the schedule with him and check off each thing as we went throughout the day.  Sometimes we were able to sneak in more like going to a train museum and then taking a train ride after.  It presented itself as a smooth transition and we went with it.  With the kiddo we know when we spring something on him it has to be of high value or he's not going for it.  Train rides, water parks, and food usually work.

3) Take breaks.
Your kid is already off their schedule and out of their comfort zone. We use the pool. A lot. It helps regulate him and burn off some of that energy. We pack his sensory sock and some fidgets. We also take breaks from breaks. Hubby and I tag team each other. He goes off and visits some obscure Presidential home like the 14th President of the United State's house (aka Franklin Pierce).  I go to the spa for a massage. (Personally, I think my breaks are more fun but whatever. I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to go to see Martin Van Buren's home on our first vacation back when we were dating. Yeah, that's some true love right there.)

4) Pack a power strip.
Trust Mama on this one. Chargers for 2 phones, iPad, handheld games, DVD player, iPod, digital cameras, laptops, etc... Outlet placements generally stink in hotels. There are usually never enough of them.  This also keeps you organized if you have one designated charging station set up. Chargers tend to grow feet and take a walk in my experience.  When you are packing up to go home, they will all be there. The first time I packed one I felt a little silly but HOLY SMOKES, what a game changer!

5) Take out is your friend.
If your kid has had too much that day, comfort eating pizza in bed while watching TV is a glorious thing. Hotels usually have menus in the room to somewhere. Or ask the front desk. I scored coolness points having fries delivered to the room. Eating out can be a challenge and by dinnertime sometimes all this family togetherness has just fried every last nerve.  Cut yourself a break, take off your bra and order in.  This is where the fridge in the room is a plus. Mama travels with a corkscrew and I have no problem drinking my wine out of a hotel plastic cup.  I keep it classy. 

6) Upon checking out of your room, leave a few bucks for housekeeping. 
If your kid is anything like mine it will look like a whirling dervish ran through throwing fist full of broken Goldfish crackers everywhere.  I consider that good karma for the next trip.

7) If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
We will soon be going to the same resort for the fifth time.  My ideas of what is a vacation have changed since becoming a mom.  No cooking and cleaning for a few days? Works for me! This location for whatever reason makes my kiddo incredibly happy.  I suspect it's the close proximity to two different historic train rides, an indoor and outdoor pool and parents who say "Sure you can have fries again!"  at every meal. Afterall, it's his vacation too.   

Eileen Shaklee, aka Mama Fry, lives in Wall Township and blogs at autismwithasideoffries.blogspot.com.

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