Tips for Traveling with Children of All Abilities

Summertime is travel time, and whether you’re staying close to home or heading across the country, a little preparation can make your journey easier and more pleasant. Some pre-planning goes a long way toward easing the difficulties that may accompany changes to daily routines and schedules, dealing with unusual noises in strange places, and the overstimulation that new experiences often generate. In fact, the more you can do to get your child ready for vacation, the more time you’ll spend relaxing and having fun.

Five tips for making travel more fun:

Use Social Stories
Avoid surprises by designing social stories around your travel plans. Simple words and pictures can help make your child more comfortable about vacation. Social stories are strong visual guides to social interactions, and new situations and behaviors. They can help you show the kind of common responses your child might have away from home.

Call Ahead
Contact airlines, hotels, amusement parks, restaurants, museums, and other vacation destinations before you leave home. You’ll find that many businesses are happy to make special accommodations – or already have special accommodations in place — especially for children with autism or other disabilities. Ask what time is least busy or if priority boarding is available. Also, learn which places do not make special accommodations in order to avoid the difficulties of dealing with the unexpected.

Take a Mock Flight
Air travel can be a very stressful experience even for adults who fly often. Help your child adjust to the new experience of flying by attending a mock flight: rehearse walking through the airport, waiting at the gate, and boarding the plane. With a mock flight, airlines in major cities from Boston to Seattle simulate the entire airport experience.

Pack Fun Distractions
Toys, games, and coloring books make fun distractions on long flights or while waiting in long lines. Bring noise canceling headphones if your child is sensitive to loud sounds, gum to sooth popping ears or a lollypop for self-regulation. A familiar blanket or toy can decrease stress. Don’t forget an extra change of clothes in case of spills and special snacks (make sure any food you bring is allowed on board).

Don’t Overschedule
Overscheduling can lead to overstimulation and tantrums. Make sure your child has ample time to get accustomed to new surroundings and enough downtime to de-stress. It’s also important to plan for possible tantrums and other difficulties in order not to miss scheduled events.

By thinking ahead, you can make every vacation more relaxing and more fun.

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