Traveling with kids on the Autism Spectrum may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is definitely rewarding! My family has traveled from Canada to Texas and California to Florida. We have traveled by planes, trains, and automobiles. Yes, you might need to go watch that movie, now. I have previously shared my tips for traveling with children on the Autism Spectrum by airplane and by train. Today, I’m going to share my tips for traveling by car. Of these three methods of travel, I actually prefer to travel by car because we can tailor the trip to my son’s mood. If he is having a bad day, we can shorten the drive. If he is having a good day, we can drive our heart out.
This year, we are planning our first cruise. This will be a change for all of us but especially for DS11. One of the good things about our travels in the past is that he has been on a ship before. During one of our trips to California, we stopped by the Queen Mary in Long Beach for a couple of days. You can read a little about that on my post about homeschooling and history.
One of the most important aspects is to know what to expect while on a ship. Obviously, it’s not like he can get off if he doesn’t like it, so it is very important that he is armed with knowledge. We also make sure to get every planning guide book that we can to help him look forward to something different.
But this post is about driving to our destination, so let’s pack up and go. The best thing about traveling in a car is that your car seems like an extension of home. Your child on the Autism Spectrum is already used to it. Just pack up your stuff and head out, right? Well, not really. There are a few considerations to think about.
Tips for Travel with Children on the Autism Spectrum
- Lodging for overnight trips – We never quite know how far we will get before DS11 will tire of being in the car, so we try to book hotels that allow cancellations until 6 PM the day of arrival. The reason for that is that if he’s doing well, we can readjust our schedule and drive a couple more hours. If he tires early, we can cancel and hopefully rebook a hotel closer to where we are at the time. Always make sure you have a new hotel booked before canceling your first reservation!
- Pack lots of favorite snacks – It never fails! We don’t even make it an hour down the road, and from the back seat, I hear the proclamations of being hungry. There must be something in the air conditioner, but both kids are usually hungry right away. Pack the snacks, so they are in easy reach of the kids.
- iPad/iPod/DVD player – This is a controversial subject. When we are moving and taking two vehicles, we pack devices to help keep things quiet for the one who is driving the kids. However, when we are driving together as a family, we try to use the time for family conversation, sing-a-longs, and reading. We usually research some of the things we will see, so we can point them out. However, some kids really need the devices in order to make the trip. Only you know your child…
- Include your child’s favorite stuffed friends and toys if room is available. My son travels better if he has something to play with to keep his hands busy, and he likes to have his Duffy Bear sitting with him to share the ride.
- Food breaks – Make your stops for food count for more than just eating. We ran across this restaurant on a section of Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only did we get a shake with fries, but we also got some exercise, playing, and sightseeing all at the same time. Look ahead to see if there are interesting places to stop. If your child likes to rock, stop at a Cracker Barrel and let him sit in the rocking chairs on the porch. It will make the trip much smoother.
- Books – Both kids like to read, so we normally take some books along.
- Add variety to travel – Travel isn’t just about reaching the final destination. We find that our kids travel easier if they know there are some stops up ahead. We try to look for some educational/fun stops. We have added in trips to museums, trips to zoos, stops at the mall, and even a trip up the Sandia Peak Tramway. It’s good to look ahead to see what might be a good place to stop if tempers run short.
- Music – There is a saying about music calming the savage beast. No, I’m not saying that my son is a savage beast, but I am saying that the right music will calm him down. Add a little Disney music or Muppets, and the car is a little more calm.
- And when the floodgates open – We all know that point when it may just be better to find a different place to stay and get off the road for some quiet time early. An early supper and early to bed. Please refer to my section above about booking places that allow cancellations up until 6 PM on the day of arrival. We have had trips where we had a day that we threw in the towel very early; however, it made the rest of the trip much more enjoyable.
So, these are some things that work for our family when traveling with our son who is on the Autism Spectrum. It is also a little easier now that his sister is older and is able to help him by reading to him or getting things he can’t reach. Things are so much more enjoyable when we drive!
What are your tips for traveling with children on the Autism Spectrum?