Autism, travel, parenting and mental health

Five Things that Can Ruin Traveling for Your Autistic Loved Ones

Five Things that Can Ruin Traveling for Your Autistic Loved Ones

I’ve said it a lot, but traveling is stressful. Even more so when traveling with someone on the spectrum. We as parents and caregivers want to give our kiddos and loved ones a great experience. But there are many situations that can quickly change, throwing a wrench in your plans. Traveling can be a great way to experience the world around you. I feel, as a parent it is my responsibility to give that experience to my children. There are lots of ways to make a trip safe, comfortable and go as smoothly as possible. There are also a lot of ways to make traveling uncomfortable and lead to meltdowns, sensory overload and more.

Not Planning 

Quick spur of the moment trips can sometimes be fun. But they can also spell disaster for those who need to stick to a routine. Start planning at least a month ahead. This allows you the time and focus to avoid any foreseeable issues. It also gives you plenty of time to explain the change of schedule to your child. Providing your kiddo or adult on the spectrum with enough time to fully understand the plan will help you avoid meltdowns and help them to feel safe.

Not Bringing Comfort Items

It’s no secret that we all have devices and other items that we need to travel. For some people it’s a comfy sweater or a good book. For Autistic people comfort items are often a necessity for self regulation and stimming. It can be a pain to lug an iPad and its charger around with you. But if it provides your child or adult with some respite from traveling, it is worth the extra luggage. Pack things that can provide sensory input and always make sure you plan time for stimming after a long flight or car ride.

Not Planning Out Meals

If you have a kiddo with food aversions, you know better than most that the old adage “they’ll eat when they’re hungry” is crap. I know my kiddos will go hungry if there isn’t a preferred food available. I too have been guilty of not planning meals ahead of time. In this case, I was stuck giving them a crappy bag of chips for dinner until we could find a McDonalds. So plan, look up restaurant menus, find local fast food they will eat or bring your own.

Lack of a Schedule

I know, making a schedule for your vacation is not something that sounds fun at all. But if it helps your child or adult on the spectrum, trust me its worth it. Try making a picture schedule for your kiddo with basic things on it at first. Things like wake up, get dress and eat breakfast are easy to add to a schedule. You can then add in the activities and other big things that you are doing. Print out one for you and make sure your loved one has one on hand to help them manage their own schedule. Note: These don’t have to be fancy at all. I have created a picture schedules with images I have found online and then designed them in Word/Pages.

Over Scheduling

Over scheduling can be just as bad as a lack of a schedule. Rushing is not great for anyone, and no one wants to do it on vacation. So streamline your plans, focus on one activity at a time and try not to rush. Doing too much can lead to overstimulation and sensory overload. So try to think quality over quantity when planning your vacation destinations.


While all autistics are very different, these simple tips should help you and your dear ones to navigate the stress of traveling. Have any tips I missed? Let me know in the comments!

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