3 Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Autistic Members

Thorough preparation and careful planning are crucial for ensuring a successful family vacation, regardless of the season, when including an autistic family member.

As the holiday season approaches and many families will be traveling, the stress levels for parents–particularly those with autistic children–can be significantly heightened.

To facilitate a smoother travel experience for families with autistic members, here are some helpful tips:

1. Family Meeting

Initiate a family discussion to collectively decide on the holiday destination, travel dates and the list of attending family members. In cases where the family is venturing to a new location, involve everyone in the decision-making process. This meeting can cover various aspects, such as the location, timing and the family’s desired experiences. Timeliness is crucial in travel planning, so booking flights, hotels, rental vehicles and other accommodations as early as possible is recommended. Additionally, acknowledging and respecting children’s anticipation of upcoming travel plans, such as visiting grandparents or going to Disney, can help them self-regulate.

3 Important Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Autistic Members

2. Special Accommodations

Many destinations offer assistance for disabled or autistic guests and travelers.  Airlines and airport staff are generally willing to support families in transitioning from security to boarding. Upon identifying themselves as a family with autistic members, gate agents, flight attendants and sometimes even pilots become aware of the family’s potential need for additional assistance. Some airlines may conduct a boarding dry run. Certain cruise ships provide staff assistance throughout the travel process, including security, and may offer respite or babysitting services for families requiring extra help. TSA has developed an online guide specifically for autistic air travelers or those with intellectual disabilities.

3 Important Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Autistic Members

3. Packing

Encourage the child to pack their own bags for the trip, fostering a sense of involvement and preparation for the journey. This practice not only instills a sense of responsibility, but also allows them to include items they consider important for the trip. Travel gear may consist of their favorite items, like an iPad, Kindle or tablet, as well as practical necessities, such as fidget spinners, backup batteries, chargers, coloring books and other sensory items.

3 Important Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Autistic Members

No matter the mode of transportation, patience, time and meticulous planning are key aspects of a successful journey. Travel is meant to be enjoyable and should involve the family from the initial planning stages to the return home. Families with autistic members should not be deterred from experiencing vacations, as active participation and thorough preparation can make the holiday enjoyable for everyone.

Wishing you happy holidays!

IBCCES created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource for families that lists certified destinations and resources to plan their leisure experiences. Each destination listed on the site has met the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements. To search for autism certified locations, visit https://autismtravel.com/travel-directory/.

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Please fill out the form below to get connected with a team member for more information about IBCCES’ Certified Autism Center™ Designation

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