Autism, travel, parenting and mental health

Packing Your Toolkit for Navigating Your Spectrum While Traveling

Packing Your Toolkit for Navigating Your Spectrum While Traveling

When we are gearing up for a trip the top thing on our to-do list is pack our backpack. In this backpack we keep what we will carry with us everywhere while on the trip, and hopefully it will help us to manage anything our kiddos throw our way. Everyone on the autism spectrum is different so what is necessary in my toolkit, may not be for you. However, I hope with these few basic steps you can begin to build your own toolkit to carry with you. 

Start with some basics

For us, this includes things like sunscreen, lip balm, rain ponchos and other necessities for managing weather. Gloves, hats and scarfs are also things to have handy if you feel it will get cold where you are heading. I will also throw in our picture schedules and watches, for when kiddos need more structure with our itinerary. 

Add in the required items

When I say, “required” items, I am talking about your loved one’s required items to feel comfortable. This includes ear protection, a change of clothes, comfort items, calming toys, sensory items or whatever your kid needs to help maintain their comfort. We often pack glow sticks/bracelets/necklaces from the dollar store. These are required for us, because they are so useful in many different situations. Going camping? Glow sticks help you keep eyes on everyone once the sun goes down. Watching fireworks? Glow sticks help to keep their attention while waiting, and also will help you to keep your eyes on them when the lights go down. Tip: I always pack more glow sticks than I need. Kids often approach my kiddos to see their dollar store glow sticks. So we always offer some to share, and this provides an opportunity to make new friends. 


Snacks, snacks and snacks 

I have three boys; these three boys We always have healthy snacks and juices/water in our toolkits for moments when we get in a bind and need a quick snack. We’ve had to use these while waiting in line for rides, on hikes, and especially on road trips. We will also throw a few fun snacks, and have in the past even carted around preferred foods. Tip: Small lunch boxes with an ice pack are small enough to fit in a back pack.  

Finish it off with items for you 

I include the iPad/chargers in this category. I know people see my kiddos at restaurants on their iPads, and scoff or judge. Honestly, I couldn’t care less, because, usually this means we are traveling. Meaning, my husband and I have been on top of them every second of the day, keeping them safe and maintaining, and we just want to eat a damn meal while its warm. So random strangers can feel free to judge me while I’m enjoying my dinner. Add in anything else you feel you need to keep yourself calm and capable of maintaining before, during, or after a meltdown.

Tailor your toolkit to your outing, if you are heading to the museum or just on a day trip you won’t need as many items. Also a backpack is what we prefer because its easy to carry and manage all day long, but whatever works for you and your family is fine. Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list because I do not know your kiddo’s quirks. But do not be afraid to be that parent that carts around a giant backpack of tools for your family. Autism is complex and requires a lot of prepping, thought and supplies. But taking these items with you will set up your trip to be safe, happy and, most importantly, fun.

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