Ron Sandison shares his Tips on Traveling with Autism

 

This month we had the opportunity to interview Ron Sandison, a professor of theology, motivational speaker, and writer about his tips on traveling with autism. Ron, who works full time in the medical field is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American and The Art of Autism.

Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. Also, Ron has published articles in Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, Autism File Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Not Alone, the Mighty, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, and many others.

 Ron resides in Rochester Hills MI  with his wife, Kristen, and his baby daughter Makayla Marie.


How I started traveling

While in college at Oral Roberts University every summer I would travel to a different country for a one or two-month mission trip. When I went with ORU mission trips to Cameroon and Madagascar—I lived in the jungles for two weeks. I was able to see amazing wildlife like monkeys/apes and taste exotic foods like spicy Toucan. For our second honeymoon, my wife Kristen and I traveled to Israel for two weeks. I was able to swim in the Jordan River, ride a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee and see the birthplace of Jesus.

Twelve and counting

I had the pleasure of traveling to twelve different countries—Madagascar, Cameroon, France, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Bulgaria, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Canada. 

Ron Sandison shares his Tips on Traveling with Autism menorah

How I handle airports and flights

The only thing I don’t like about traveling is airports. Boarding on airplanes gives me extreme anxiety. I hate being surrounded by strange people while battling for an overhead compartment to place my luggage. I avoid this scenario by pre-boarding. I tell the check-in flight attendant, “I have autism, and due to anxiety and sensory issues, I need to pre-board.”

If a flight attendant tells me, “You don’t look like you have autism or act like it.” I put on my funny beach hat with palm trees.
Then the flight attendant says, “Oh, I see! We will pre-board you right away.”

Sometimes I wear my funny hat just so the check-in flight attendant won’t question my autism diagnosis.

Ron Sandison shares his Tips on Traveling with Autism statueOn associating Travel with  smells

Some of my favorite travel smells include Belgium—the chocolate shops and Cameroon with its fresh bananas and mangos. In France & Bulgaria the smell of freshly brewed coffee and in Madagascar the seafood and fruit in the market!
Just thinking about these smells fills me with joy and makes me want to travel there again.

Ways to deal with less pleasant smells

Some travel scents I detest include pygmies’ bad breath—strong enough to kill a horse or mule. In Cameroon and Madagascar the odor of buses filled with locals who don’t use deodorant, bath, and are dripping with sweat from the heat.

I have learned coping skills to handle offensive odors placing candies near my nose when the scent becomes too much for me to bear. One of the best candies is Cracker Barrel’s old fashion candy sticks. I also try to set next to an open window when riding a bus or taxi cab overseas.

Ron’s tips for bouncing back from a trip

Two tricks I learned to recuperate from long trips are getting sufficient sleep and enjoying a favorite meal. When I came back from my two week trip to Israel—I slept for two straight days to regain my strength. When I travel overseas for a longer period; I like to go to one of my favorite restaurants and eat a meal I was unable to get in that country. When I returned after a two-month mission trip from Cameroon—I had pizza.

Preparing for the trip

I prepare mentally for traveling overseas by reading a travel guide and also checking out DVDs from the library on the countries I will be visiting. Two weeks before my trip I begin to daydream what it will be like to travel to that country.

Ron Sandison shares his Tips on Traveling with Autism green

My favorite spots to visit

Four of my favorite places so far have been Masada, Foumban, London, and Loch Ness.

I love the rich history behind Masada—Herod’s Palace was the final stronghold from the Jewish Revolt to fall to the Roman Empire in 70 A.D. The view from the top of Herod’s Palace is incredible and seeing Ibex wild goats was cool.

Foumban has some of the best woodcarvings in Africa. When I visited this city, I got a woodcarving of a lion—one of my favorite souvenirs. London has excellent sightseeing and shopping spots. I liked Loch Ness because of the mystery of the “Loch Ness Monster” dating back to the 4th century.

My travel bucket list

The next three places I hope to visit are Greece, Turkey, and Australia.
I hope to travel to Greece because I teach Koine Greek and have translated 2/3 of the New Testament from Greek into English. I’d love Turkey so I could tour the seven churches of Revelation. I have memorized the complete book of Revelation. And as an animal lover, I would enjoy seeing kangaroos and koalas in their natural environment in Australia.

 

Ron Sandison shares his Tips on Traveling with Autism israel

My personal travel tips

My favorite electronic device to travel with is GPS, so I don’t ever get lost. Furthermore, I always bring lots of books to read while on the airplane or during down time.
Luggage wise-I pack clothes I feel comfortable wearing. I try not to over pack since I hate carrying heavy luggage.
One of my autistic special interests is animals. In fact, from age seven to fifteen I carried a stuffed animal of a prairie dog. Hence, I buy some animal as a souvenir in every country, I visit. I also collect woodcarvings and religious icons.

 I believe People with autism should be encouraged to travel

The biggest misconception individuals with autism have about traveling is that it is dangerous. Many people with autism tell me, “I am afraid to go overseas. You are endangering your life.” I  say I feel safer abroad than in many U.S cities since the crime rate is lower in many countries.

Travel has been a big part of my life. I speak and travel to over seventy events a year. I firmly believe that travel has contributed to my life by enabling me to see amazing sights and experience different cultures. I have eaten many different foods overseas—the only food I don’t like is cassava- a root vegetable.

People with autism need to travel to better understand the world and to experience life. As more people with autism travel, they will learn new social skills and also better coping skills for handling sensory issues.

 

 

 

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination

The Carnival Imagination is one of Carnival’s many Fantasy class cruise ships, capable of holding over two thousand passengers in over a thousand cabins. The ship was built in Finland, sent out on the first of July in 1995.
Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination sternThis ship takes passengers on short, three to four day long cruises from Long Beach California to Ensenada Mexico, stopping in Catalina Island on the way. The journey is slow paced yet short, with few activities and a simple itinerary, perfect for kids with autism. It is also a relatively affordable way to experience the Southern California and Mexico coast in the luxury of a cruise ship. We enjoyed our stay on the Imagination, especially our cabin.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination pool

Ship Decor

We found the ship decor to be a bit flashy, but we enjoyed the overhead giant Coppola that allowed natural light to stream into the ship. All the colors were bright and shiny, reminiscent of Vegas. In the central area of the ship, we saw glass elevators, grand staircases, and large crystal chandeliers.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination decorOur Cabin

The cruise cabin on our trip consisted of the basic amenities. The decor featured predominantly orange colors, particularly on the bed sheets, the floor, and the curtain over our window. We had a small safe for our devices, an appreciated security feature. The room itself was well lit, especially for a cruise cabin. Our room featured carpeting, an issue for those with allergies but perfect to muffle any noise for passengers below. We also could watch a small overhead TV in one corner of the room with plenty of great channels for kids.
Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination beds

Guests can book the room either with two single beds or with the singles pushed together to make one queen. We opted for the two singles, and the staff placed both beds to maximize cabin space. We found the temperature control right over the bed, meaning no one needed to get up to adjust the A/C. The room had few outlets, though we did find one by the bed. We had a decent amount of closet space, but one area was blocked by a ladder used for the bunk bed. We could also fit our suitcases under our beds.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination cabin

Though we never used the service, we had the option to call for room service; an option offered on all Carnival cruises.The room service menu offered some free choices as well as some dishes that could be purchased for a couple of bucks.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination electronic

Our Bathroom

Our bathroom also featured the essentials. The room was as well lit as the rest of the cabin, and the blue linoleum floor wasn’t slippery. The bathroom boasted the cabin’s second outlet, perfect for hair dryers or any other electronic devices. We had a little shelf room as well as a place to hang a swim suit, a welcome touch. The shower itself boasted a head that wasn’t easy to use, which would be a bonus. It would be difficult if not impossible for a small child to turn it on high and get scalded.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination corridor

Dining Options

Compared to the newer Carnival ships, the Carnival Imagination doesn’t offer as many options. Like all Carnival ships, we could enjoy the food offerings on the Lido deck. These options included The Blue Iguana, serving fresh Mexican fare, and Guy’s Burger Joint, serving burgers with delicious toppings.

 

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination pin

The ship also boasted traditional dining halls were passengers could dine either at set times or anytime during specific hours. The sit-down menu changed daily and offered many choices including gluten free and vegan.

Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination eat

Activities

Though the Carnival Imagination is a smaller vessel, we could still enjoy a plethora of activities for patrons of all ages. The ship offered outdoor pools with water slides, mini golf, basketball, ping pong, and shuffleboard. We also noted the ship offered several contests and shows. We chose to attend the family-oriented shows and found the Hasbro Game Show delightful. Music lovers will enjoy the high seas Karaoke and Music Trivia Party.
Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination ship

Cost

Pricing starts at $179 per person when traveling off season. Certain events, such as cruises featuring a live performance from a celebrity, will cause a significant increase in price. Carnival Imagination also offers a cruise line option that skips a stop in Catalina all together, decrease the cruise time to two days. However, this cruise option is on average slightly more expensive, starting at $189 per person and typically costing significantly more.
Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination games

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We experienced many different odors throughout our deck four corridors, mainly smoke cooking. Parents of children with smell sensitivities should keep this in mind.
  • The cruise featured wifi, but it was somewhat slow, which could be frustrating.
  • We did felt the movement and the swaying of the ship. Parents of children who are seasick easily should bring medication to help prevent seasickness.
  • The swaying of the ship can be felt strongly in the cabins facing the ocean. Parents should consider not booking an outside cabin, especially if they or their child is prone to motion sickness.
  • Our Ocean View Cabin Aboard Carnival Imagination court
  • Parents of children with noise sensitivities should book a cabin on deck seven or above to avoid engine noise.
  • The Carnival Imagination offers only a few balcony rooms. Parents may want to consider avoiding booking a balcony room to ensure the safety of kids with autism.
  • Most room types on the Carnival Imagination come in Accessible versions. Parents who might need this option should make sure they request it when booking.
  • Some of Carnival Imagination’s cruise itineraries go directly from Long Beach to Ensenada for a three-day trip. Parents might want to consider this option, especially if they are attempting traveling on a cruise for the first time with their child with autism.

 

 

How the Electronic Ban will affect Traveling with Autism

Much as been said in the past few days about the new reveal electronic ban that the UK and US have put into effect.
Since its reveal on  March 20th, 2017, many have spoken for and mostly against the new regulations. It even has a trending Twitter hashtag at #electronicban!
For the few people who have still not heard about the ban, here are the highlights and how it will affect traveling with autism.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism aisleWhat is the electronic ban?

The US and UK have put in place regulations preventing passengers from using electronic devices on flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries when flying into the UK and US. Though the concept is similar, the countries and airlines on each country’s list are somewhat different.

The UK list

Direct Flights on the following carriers from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia do not allow passengers to carry electronic devices in the cabin:

  • British Airways
  • EasyJet
  • Jet2.com
  • Monarch
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomson
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Pegasus Airways
  • Atlas-Global Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Tunis Air
  • SaudiaHow the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism boarding

The US list 

Direct flights from airlines on the list below from the Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia don’t allow travelers to have electronic devices in the cabin:

  • Egypt Air
  • Emirates Airline
  • Etihad Airways
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

The US list also specifically named ten airports the ban applied to:

  • Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
  • Cairo International Airport (CAI)
  • Ataturk International Airport (IST)
  • King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
  • Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
  • Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
  • Hamad International Airport (DOH)
  • Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
     homeland tweet How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism

Does this affect any US domestic flights?

No! Flights within the US or originating in the US will not be affected at present.

Why was the electronic ban put in place?

Though no specific threat was quoted, the ban has been put in place due to gathered intelligence of imminent terrorist threats to blow up commercial jets using nonmetal explosives that may be difficult to detect by regular airport scanning.

In the past, there have been several attempts like this, the last one being just last year when a bomb hidden in a laptop detonated aboard a flight out of Somalia.

When is it going into effect?

In the UK, several airline companies are already implementing the new ban. In the US, it is about to start on March 25th. 2017.

electronic ban and autism travel pin

What does the electronic ban mean to travelers?

Under the new regulations, only small smartphones will be allowed in the cabin. Other devices will have to travel in the checked luggage, including:

  • Laptops
  • iPads
  • Kindle readers
  • Gameboys
  • E -readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVDs
  • Travel printers
  • Travel scanners

Medical devices will still be allowed after security.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism electronics

How long will this ban be in effect?

Hard to tell!

We were on a cruise in Europe back in 2006 when we were notified that we couldn’t carry anything but medicines and passports in our carry on luggage. Apparently, a plot to blow up an aircraft had just been foiled, and the alert levels were raised to the highest level. Soon after that the 100ml liquid restriction came into effect and never went away.

How will the ban affect passengers with autism?

Sadly, that will be a problem not only for families trying to entertain their kids during long haul flights but for those who are nonverbal and use an iPad to communicate. We all still remember the case of Carly Fleischmann back in 2012, who was told to turn off her iPad despite repeated pleas from her and her parents not to take her means of communication away.

Considering this ban came into effect suddenly it is clear that legislatures didn’t think of all possible ramifications and challenges. Hopefully, in time, nonverbal passengers with autism will be allowed to take their iPads onboard with an appropriate doctor’s note.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism phone

Helpful tips for traveling with autism

Try to reroute your flight

If you are slotted to fly out of one of the airports on the list you may want to reroute your trip to a different country and fly out of there a few days later. Alternatively look into flying with a more kid friendly airline like Etihad and Emirates that offers nanny service onboard to help entertain the kids.

Book a night flight

If possible try to book a night flight and make sure you tire out the kids with some physical activity before getting to the airport. This way they might sleep a few hours and wouldn’t need entertainment.

Prepare your kid!

Prepare your child for the fact that they will need to do other activities than play on their electronics when flying. Make sure you emphasize the positive on how exciting it is to fly rather than detail why electronics aren’t allowed which they may find scary!

Head on to the dollar store

Depending on your kids’ interests fill a bag with reading or coloring materials, Legos, board games, costumes or any other items that can occupy them for several hours.

Notify the airline

Call the special needs desk and let them know about the importance of seating and entertainment for your kid. If you are traveling as a family, you may want to book aisle seats in rows across from each other in case the entertainment system fails in an entire row.

Bring autism-friendly items

Pack a set of kid-friendly headphones and a power cord to juice up your smartphone during the flight. Most aircraft have USB ports under the seat.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism watching tv

Allow ample time at the airport

Traveling after March 25th from the tagged airports to the UK or US? Pre-pack your devices in the checked luggage in protective bubble wrap and get to the airport as early as possible since chances are there will be queues, confusion and even chaos and some instances. Considering this was just sprung on the travel industry it’s hard to gauge what exactly could transpire.

So what should you do?

At this point, I would advise everyone to leave any devices they don’t need at home to prevent theft or hacking.
You may want to purchase an inexpensive throwaway laptop or tablet to use for traveling that you won’t regret losing. Alternatively look into renting an iPad for your kid in the destination you are going to –some hotels do it free of charge.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism humor

Additional ways to protect your devices

  • Check with your credit cards and home insurance for electronic item coverage in case of theft or damage. Many times you may be able to recover the cost of your lost/stolen/broken device through their programs.
  • To prevent identity theft, back all your information and data the day before your flight and store it on a cloud or memory stick. In addition, you can store any personal information in password zip files or delete info from your device (I know – quite the hassle, but still better than becoming a hacking victim).
  • Make sure to fully turn off all devices and apply a passcode to prevent hackers from accessing your data.
  • Carve your name or at least initials on each device to make it easily identifiable.
  • Some hackers can trace particular devices via GPS tracking. Therefore, make sure to register all devices under an appropriate app like ‘find my phone.’We’ve found that the Tile system helps us keep track of our electronics.

Will you be flying out of the airports on the electronic ban list with your family? How are you planning to entertain your kids?

 

 

 

 

City Sightseeing with San Francisco’s Hop On Hop Off Bus

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus PIN

Many movies set in San Francisco will show a Hop On Hop Off bus at some point – a brightly colored, usually red bus where riders can sit on top and take pictures of famous attractions while listening to a tour guide.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus heartThese buses run through Downtown  San Francisco, showing passengers areas like Union Square and the SOMA district. Travelers can hop off these buses to explore the city and hop back on when they’re ready to go, listening to the City by the Bay trivia from a local guide. Particularly for families with autism, the Hop On Hop Off bus is an excellent option to see the local sites.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bay

What you will See

The two level buses have a closed area on the bottom and an open area on the top. The top allows for a beautiful view of the city, while passengers can return to the lower part during rainy or windy weather conditions. The seats are comfortable, and riders are allowed to bring food and drinks on board. We’ve listed a few distinct stopping places here.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bus

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a touristy area with restaurants and souvenir stores. Kids will love seeing the sea lions basking in the sun on a specially built platform. History buffs can take a cruise to visit Alcatraz Island. Kids who like arcade games can head to Musee Mechanique for old fashioned games that cost a quarter each. Travelers craving dessert should head to Ghiradelli for an ice cream sundae and watch the staff make cones while waiting in line.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus wharf

Golden Gate Bridge

Some people like to get off the bus and cross the Golden Gate Bridge by foot. It can be an exciting experience for anyone visiting the city for the first time. However, it is typically cold and windy, and fog frequently covers the area.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bridge

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, slightly larger than New York’s Central Park, was built in the 1860s on the barren sand and rocks then known as “The Outside.” While enjoying the sights, visitors can also explore the California Academy of Science, a renowned museum. Travelers looking for dramatic views can visit the Palace of Fine Arts. Finally, kids will love the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum for exploring art and science.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus park

Haight-Asbury District

The Haight-Asbury District is an excellent place for walking around and experiencing the spirit of 1960s San Francisco. It is also the best place to get second-hand clothing and unique souvenirs.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus hippy

Chinatown

San Francisco is home to the largest and oldest Chinatown outside of Asia. This Chinatown is the perfect place to experience authentic Chinese eateries and buy bargain priced memorabilia. Visitors should stop and check out the entrance gate with the impressive lamp posts.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus view

Unless anyone in the traveling group is interested in getting off to explore specific places, travelers can certainly stay on the bus for many of the sites. We recommend staying on the bus for the Painted Ladies, Victorian Homes, City Hall, Market St, Cable Car Turnaround, Union Square, and Transamerica Pyramid. The guide will explain the history of these places in intricate detail, making staying on the bus worthwhile.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus china town

Time and Cost

Hop On Hop Off buses run daily from nine AM to five PM every half hour. The entire loop can take around two hours, longer if there are any stops.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus cable

Tickets are valid for twenty-four hours from first use. Meeting PointTickets must be exchanged before boarding at 1331 Columbus St. Visitors may board or leave the bus from any of the stops. Potential travelers can buy tickets on the spot, and there’s no need to pre-book.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus guide

Our Takeaway

Our son wasn’t feeling well the day we went, so he didn’t want to get off at any stops except for Pier 39 and the Ghiradelli chocolate factory. He happily sat in the comfort of the bus listening to the stories and jokes of our entertaining guide.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus ghiardelli

The Hop On Hop Off bus is an excellent way to get a sense of an otherwise difficult to navigate hill filled city. The service is convenient and relatively inexpensive, especially in a bundle offer.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus museum

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Those with kids who are temperature sensitive should sit in the closed area while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, as it is usually cold and windy.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • Most buses don’t have a bathroom on board. Therefore, parents may need to get off to use the public facilities.
  • Parents shouldn’t wait to return on the last bus if they are pressed for time or across town since they may miss it.
  • Parents can bring noise canceling headphones for kids who are noise sensitive.
  • There are microclimates in San Francisco, so parents should bring jackets with hoods as it may get cold even on a sunny day.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus church

 

 

 

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood’s Universal Studios

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios pin

Photo credit K Casey

Many young people grew up with J KRowlings’ Harry Potter, and the next generation is quickly getting to know this fantastical world of magic and wizardry. The main series spans seven books, eight movies, and a recently welcomed prequel titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Hence it was only a matter of time until theme parks based on this world would be created. After its successful launch in Orlando, Universal  Studios finally created a Harry Potter World in its Hollywood Park.

 

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios door

Photo credit K Casey

History

The Wizarding World was first built in Universal Orlando in the summer of 2010. Due to its popularity, Universal developed a version of the park in Universal Hollywood in the summer of 2016. Since, Universal Hollywood has access to much less land than Orlando, the park section in Hollywood more compact but still, includes all Orlando park highlights.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios gate

Photo credit K Casey

What You Will See

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios smoke

Photo credit K Casey

When we first got there, we got to pay at an automated kiosk since we purchased our tickets by credit card. Unfortunately, the kiosk malfunctioned and didn’t print us our tickets. Luckily, we were directed to the service area where the customer service agents not only gave us our tickets but handed us two front of the line passes as compensation for our time.

Hogsmeade

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios bannister

Photo credit K Casey

We made a beeline for the Harry Potter World as soon as we got in the park. Guests enter this section of the park through a stone gate. The first thing we saw was a recreation of Hogsmeade, the small shopping town where Hogwarts students go to have fun. This area was an almost perfect recreation of the one seen in the movies, complete with off-kilter chimneys and magical window dressings. Needless to mention, the rooftops were covered in fake snow, which looked perfect during our Christmas visit.

The Three Broomsticks

We headed to The Three Broomsticks restaurant first. As we had arrived near lunch time, we did encounter a bit of a line. The other half of our party arrived before us, and apparently, people are not allowed to save seats inside, so we sat separately.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios pictures

Photo credit K Casey

Appropriate for Christmas, the Three Broomsticks offered a Holiday Feast. The Holiday Feast included  Turkey, Beef Wellington along with various vegetables, delicious stuffing and cranberry sauce.The portions were large and could easily feed a family of four, maybe more. WE were told that during the rest of the year, diners can still try the Great Feast, which includes chicken, spare ribs, corn, roasted potatoes, and salad.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios food

Photo credit K Casey

Along with the holiday platter, we also tried the Spare Ribs and the Fish and Chips. The Three Broomsticks venue offers many different British-based food items, such as Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, and Beef Lamb and Guinness Stew.
For breakfast, patrons can try Eggy Bread, a traditional English Breakfast, an American Breakfast or a Continental Breakfast. They do have a children’s menu which offers smaller versions of most of the adult meals.

Butterbeer

While at The Three Broomsticks, we, of course, had to have our first taste of butterbeer!
Butterbeer is a signature drink of the Harry Potter franchise that fans all over the world wish to sample. Butterbeer in the park came in three types-frozen, regular, and hot.
We tried the regular in a specialty mug. It tasted much like a cream soda mixed with butterscotch and was delicious yet incredibly sugary. The Three Broomsticks also serves a Butterbeer Potted Cream, and adults can enjoy Butterbeer with a shot of whiskey.

 butterbee rExploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios

Photo credit K Casey

Buying a Wand

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios owls

Photo credit K Casey

After dining at The Three Broomsticks, the Harry Potter area got exceptionally crowded, so we decided to check out the rest of Universal until the crowds died down. After going on the Studio Tour and checking out the Simpsons area, we returned to the Harry Potter area to buy ourselves a wand at Ollivander’s.

Just like at the Orlando Park, Ollivander’s does offer a wand choosing event. However, we only recommend this for the patrons willing to wait in long lines for the chance to be chosen for the ceremony. Word of warning-only one child is selected per event. Those wishing to skip the ceremony can just go straight into Ollivander’s shop and just buy a wand directly.

Ollivander’s turned out to be a small shop. The staff at the door limit those coming in and out, but even then we still moved through crowds. The store stocks all the wands in long boxes on shelves. One one side of the room featured all the “celebrity” wands, aka wands based off those owned by the characters. On the other end of the room we saw wands sorted by “wood type,” and along this side, patrons could read little descriptions of the various wand woods, how they looked, and how they matched up to distinct personalities.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios car

Photo credit K Casey

Interactive Wands

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios cage

Photo credit K Casey

One of the most interesting aspects of Harry Potter world is getting an interactive wand. These are a little more pricey but well worth it for its ‘magic ‘ capabilities. We bought one of these interactive wands, which came with a map to show us where we could use them. One of the first places we went was to a decorative flower in the window of a shop. By standing on a point and waving the wand in a particular pattern, we got the flower to bloom. There’s plenty of other places where one can cast spells throughout the park to various effects.

Something that I noticed was that I sometimes had difficulty making the wand work. We figured out it was because I am left-handed, and therefore making the wand movements with my left hand, with my arm likely blocking whatever mechanism the item uses to communicate with the scenery.

Honeydukes/Zonko’s

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios sweets

Photo credit K Casey

We wandered around for awhile casting spells in various places before going into Honeydukes.
In the Harry Potter books, Honeydukes is a sweet shop that sells all sorts of magical candies. We bought a chocolate frog, which came in a box that looked exactly like the ones in the movies.
We also purchased a bottle of pumpkin juice. The store had stacks of Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans on sale, specialty jelly beans that come in interesting (and disgusting) flavors. Other items we found interesting were chocolate wands and cauldron cake pastries. The shop was very crowded and filled with merchandise, so it was sometimes difficult to move around.

Honeydukes in Universal is in the same building as Zonko’s Joke Shop (Universal Orlando has Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes instead.)In the Zonko’s area, guests can buy all sorts of nonfood merchandise, such as old fashion joke and prank items, many of which have some magical theme.

 pygmy Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios

Photo credit K Casey

Flight of the Hippogriff/Frog Choir

We decided to go ahead and check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride now that we could wait in a reasonable line. On our way, we passed Flight of the Hippogriff, a more traditional roller coaster suitable for younger kids. We also saw the stage on which the Hogwarts Frog Choir was performing, and we stopped to watch. Four Hogwarts students sang magic themed acapella songs accompanied by the croaking frogs they held aloft on pillows. Those who observe the show for awhile can see the students interact as they sing, part of which includes three of the students getting terrified in various ways by the fourth Slytherin student.

The Castle

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios SIGN

Photo credit K Casey

They don’t allow guests to take bags or even their wands on the ride, but they do provide lockers at the ride’s entrance. It was crowded, so it took us some time to find a free locker, but once we did it was a breeze to store our items. Guests get the first two hours free for lockers.

 

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios flag

Photo credit K Casey

The line itself is worth walking through, and we highly recommend it even for those who don’t want to go on the final ride, since there are plenty of exit doors along the way. We first walked through a greenhouse area which was calming and got to see Mandrakes in pots.
Once we got inside the castle, we saw lots of moving paintings which communicated with each other. In one room, they had portraits of the four Hogwarts founders which all bickered with each other as we passed. In a nearby classroom, a screen replicated Harry, Ron, and Hermione appearing above us from under their Invisibility Cloak to talk to guests. There were lots of interesting little details that any Potter fan will enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

To get on the ride itself, guests walk on a moving platform similar to Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Overhead bars straps guests in the seats, but visitors should be prepared that their feet will be dangling in the air.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios CART

Photo credit K Casey

This version of the ride is different from the Orlando version in that the 3D elements were excluded to alleviate headaches and motion sickness for riders. However, the ride itself can still cause plenty of motion sickness. Riders move through simulated environments, partially on a 360 view screen, occasionally through constructed environments with animatronics. Though no one is entirely upside down or moving down or up at fast speeds the seats do tilt back and forth to simulate movement.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios DISPLAY

Photo credit K Casey

Filch’s Emporium

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios FROG

Photo credit K Casey

Once we got off, we walked right into Filch’s Emporium, another merchandise shop. There’s plenty of items here for guests to show off their house in mugs and plates as well as cute stuffed animal toys and puppets. We got a plush Fawkes the Phoenix as a gift.There are plenty of other great shops throughout the park, such as the Owl Post. These stores sell items like house robes, perfect badges, and other great things to get for oneself or as a gift.

Ending the Day

We decided to end our day at the Three Broomsticks again. Most people had cleared out, so we could freely walk in and sit wherever we wanted. We decided to get the warm butterbeer this time. After trying it, we think they use a different recipe for each type of Butterbeer, as it tasted distinct. Either way, it was still delicious and the perfect way to end our time at Harry Potter World.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios MUGS

Photo credit K Casey

Location, Cost, and Hours

Universal Studios is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
Prices vary depending on the season and day, but typically sit at around $105 for adults, with discounts for kids. We highly recommend ordering tickets online for the best discounts.
Universal is usually open from nine AM to ten PM.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios STATUE

Photo credit K Casey

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Guests need to empty their pockets of all metal items and go through a metal detector. If the metal detector beeps, a staff member wands the guest before they can continue walking.
  • We went right after Christmas, a particularly busy time for Universal. However, there are still crowds in this small part of the park. The shops are also smaller and filled with lots of merchandise, making for tight spaces. We recommend going to the park either early in the day or the evening.
  • Universal’s Front of the Line pass doesn’t work on any of the attractions in Harry Potter World.
  • Those visiting should stop at Guest Relations before entering the park. Universal Studios offers a special assistance card similar to the one in Disneyland. Parents just have to have staff scan the card at the ride to receive a return time to avoid lines.
  • At The Three Broomsticks, as guests walk through the line they can see a display of most dishes the restaurant offers. This display is an excellent way for parents and kids to look at the food and see portion sizes and what looks appetizing.
  • The Three Broomsticks does not allow patrons to save seats during busy times. However, those who get to the front of the line before the rest of their party can wait to the side.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey features some “4D” effects like heat and water sprays.
  • Those who want to cast spells with their interactive wands should know that the spells only work for one person at a time. Guests might sometimes have to stand in small lines to try out spells. The spells are also sometimes fickle, which can be frustrating, especially if there’s a line forming behind the spell caster.
  • The main bathroom in this part of the park is right next to The Three Broomsticks. Parents should be aware, however, that in the bathrooms a voiceover of the ghost “Moaning Myrtle” speaks to guests. This fact can be frightening for some kids – it was certainly a little unsettling for some of our adult party members.

Our Balcony Cabin on Harmony of the Seas

Our Balcony Cabin on Harmony of the Seas pin

We recently went on a cruise to the Bahamas on one of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas inaugural sails. This vessel is the world’s largest passenger cruise ship, capable of carrying over five thousand passengers. We stayed in a balcony cabin on the sixth deck -6212 during our journey.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas room

What Makes it Family Worthy?

Royal Caribbean prides itself on the fact it is the first certified autism-friendly cruise line. The cruise line strives to make every part of the journey autism-friendly, including priority check-in, dietary accommodations, and pagers for parents. The ship offers plenty of activities offered for those with autism, including sensory friendly films.

All Youth staff also need to have a four-year degree or equivalent in education, recreation, or a related field, as well as three to five years of experience working with young children. Also, the staff receives autism-friendly training from Royal Caribbean. Therefore, parents can feel secure that their child’s needs will be met with the Youth staff.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas purple

Our Cabin

We stayed in cabin 6212 on the sixth floor mid ship. Our cabin had was slightly larger than inside cabins and had a balcony. To enter it had a magnetic surface key which we had to put it in a slot by the entrance to make the lights and air conditioning worked. Like most cruise line doors this one had a peephole with a cover, a great security feature.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas purple beds

Colors decorating the cabin consisted mostly of tans, light grays, and metallics with touches of aqua. The colors made for a modern, elegant room with a soothing vibe. The sliding door sported aqua and metallic colored thick and thin curtains that complemented the patterned carpet. The cabinets’ handles and night lights copied the pattern of the carpet. There was a wallpaper mural behind the metallic bronze headboard that added to the maritime ambiance.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas storage

The cabin could accommodate a family of two to four persons. We slept on the king sized bed while our son with autism slept on the opening sofa. Both beds turned out to be comfortable with crisp linens and fluffy pillows. The room steward made sure to close the sofa up every morning so we could use it as a seating area and open it by the evening when it was the time to sleep. There was an outlet on each side of the bed, so each person sleeping had a place to charge. We also liked the fact the air vent sat above the bed, so no air blew on us as we slept.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas bed

We found the built-in cabin closet close to the bed and liked the well- planned layout with the drawers on the bottom for easy access. The room safe was placed at eye level, so guests didn’t have to go on their hands and knees to store items.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas sofa

The cabin boasted a vanity storage area near the window that included a work area, mini-bar as well as a mirror. We were happy to discover there were several outlets where we could juice up our electronic devices. Atop the cabinets, there was a TV attached to the wall that could be moved so everyone including the person sleeping on the sofa could watch.

As we soon discovered the balcony was the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the morning cup of java or glass of wine in the afternoon. Though not recommended for families with younger kids balcony cabins have several advantages. Unlike inside cabins this cabin was swell aired and provided us with extra room to sit and relax. Families with autism considering a room like ours should know the lock mechanism consisted of a handle that was not easy to lift even for adults. Furthermore, we liked how the lock was placed high up so younger kids would have a hard time reaching it.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas balcony

Our  Cabin Bathroom

We found the door to the bathroom on the left as we entered.
The bathroom decorated in various hues of browns had tan flooring and light colored walls. The well-lit bathroom had a modern square white sink with a mosaic backsplash.

We enjoyed the curved glass enclosed shower that boasted a handheld showerhead and grab-bar. Though we thought that the step down to get in and out of the bathroom was a good idea we thought we’d mention it, so others will be careful when walking in and out to make sure they don’t trip.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas bathroom

Completing the bathroom comfort were the dark wooden shelves on each side of the sink as well as underneath it to hold the fluffy towels and our cosmetics.

Our Cabin on Harmony of the Seas mirror

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Even though the balconies on Harmony are secure, we still suggest getting a room without a balcony. Some interior rooms have virtual balconies which provide real-time ocean views.
  • Avoid getting a room facing or near the Boardwalk. These areas are often busy and noisy at all times of the day.
  • Those who need accommodations should contact Harmony’s access department while booking.
  • The ship does allow service animals.
  • Families with allergies should seek a hypoallergenic room before booking.
  • Some of the rooms are designed to be wheelchair accessible.

 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas pin

Harmony of the Seas of the Royal Caribbean International is the world’s largest passenger ship at 226,963 GT. The ship carries over two thousand rooms and can house over five thousand guests. We were lucky to be hosted on one of Harmony’s inaugural voyages as part of Royal Caribbean’s advisory committee for autism travel.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas head

Embarkation

On our two nights trip to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale, we were accompanied by media people, others on the advisory committee, and travel agents. Embarkation was speedy. We encountered a small line when we got there because we were originally scheduled to arrive at 2 PM but decided to come earlier. Royal Caribbean prides itself on assisting families with autism, and a staff member did walk us through the embarkation process.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas wall

Ship Decor

The general décor of the ship was modern and elegant. While other ships typically have more flashy decorations, the Harmony of the Seas ambiance was more subdued with a few touches of color. Visitors will see many of the brighter bits in the Boardwalk and pool areas while the Central Park and Promenade are much more conservative.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas legs

We liked the fact that many parts of the ship are either completely open to the air or partially, providing many public areas with plenty of natural light. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas skeeball

Activities

This ship is part of the cruise line’s Oasis-class fleet and has family friendly features that the Royal Caribbean has developed in the last two years like the Sports Zone and different neighborhoods.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas car

The Boardwalk area is all about fun. Visitors can enjoy several stores and eateries.For amusement, the Boardwalk has plenty for kids, such as a hand-carved wooden carousel, two wall climbing areas, and The Ultimate Abyss. In the Ultimate Abyss, people slide through a ten-story high purple tube on a cushion from the top deck all the way to the sixth.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas window

There is also an Aquatheater with afternoon and night performances of a Cirque du Soleil-like show aimed to wow all ages. Our son with autism loved the various activities as well as the green rocking chairs where he could sit back and relax.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas gold

The Central Park area on the eighth deck boasted more adult venues. There is no real entertainment in Central Park, but the area houses several specialty restaurants. Like its NYC namesake, this relaxing garden features live trees and bushes, with fresh plants brought every few weeks on the ship. One can hear bird sounds, and not all of these are artificial. Real birds often ride in the ship’s Central Park between destinations.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas food

Similar to its sister ships, the Harmony of the Seas features the Royal Promenade with Sorrento’s pizza, a coffee shop/sandwich area along with several upscale shopping stores. These stores include brands like Le Vian, Citizen, Chanel, and Michale Kors. Visitors can enjoy “duty-free” shopping, meaning that these items are tax-free as long as the goods are purchased out of the country. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas carousel

The ship also has a huge Sports Zone on the top decks. For guests who love swimming, there are several indoor and outdoor pools with two FlowRider areas. Avid outdoor fans should try the rock climbing, zip lining, ping pong, basketball, mini golf and ice-skating.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas fun

 

The ship also had several interesting artistic pieces displayed in its public areas. One of these was a beautiful mirror head statue, called “Head” with interlocking pieces that continuously moved to change its face. Artist David Cerny designed this art piece for the Royal Promenade.
The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas view

Dining Options

When we ate at the Windjammer Buffet, we noted several significant changes. Appearance wise, The Windjammer now featured more modernized and upscale decor. The buffet is based around the concept of an open fresh market, displaying the food for patrons. They offer a wide variety of buffet items as well as freshly baked goods.We appreciated the fact that the staff required guests to wash their hands before entering thus helping minimize norovirus cases onboard.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas salt

The Boardwalk included some of our son’s favorite spots, such as Johnny Rockets with its burgers, Sabor which makes terrific fresh guacamole, and the not to be missed complimentary Boardwalk Doghouse with delicious hot dogs. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas food

 

Central Park featured plenty of high-end restaurants, such as 150 Central Park, Jamie’s Italian, Chops Grill, and Izumi. The area encompassed Park Cafe where guests can have a fresh salad or sandwich made in front of them. 150 Central Park is a posh restaurant with a seasonal menu that is not conducive for little kids. We dined in the first one aboard Allure of the Seas back in 2011 for Thanksgiving and had a great time.Our kids still remember the different flavored salts, from simple to spicy to fragrant. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas chair

And speaking of an incredible experience, parents can take a night out and go to Wonderland on deck eleven. The entire restaurant emphasizes the concept of surprise. Guests enter through a tunnel and receive a piece of paper and a brush. The menu appears when patrons take the brush and wet the paper. The food is categorized based on themes, such as Sun, Ice, Fire, Sea, and Earth.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas wonderland

Finally, topping the cruise experience guests should check out the bionic bar where robots mix drinks. Alcohol bottles hang from the ceiling as the robot arms mix the drinks ordered by guests on an iPad.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas robot

Shows and Attractions

The Harmony showcased several parades with the Dreamworks characters. During our sailing, the Harmony had its Holiday Parade, an event where they celebrate every holiday at the same time.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas stage

Families can also enjoy Grease the Musical. This musical includes all songs from both the seventies hit Broadway show as well as the movie.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas ice

Studio B, the ice skating rink, hosted 1887 a Journey in Time. This story is set in Paris and follows Juliet and her time traveling companion Tempus discovering the wonders of the world.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas irish

The Aquatheater on the Boardwalk  showed the Fine Line Aquashow, which displays acrobatics and extreme sports athletes in immersive 360 degrees.As it was in the nighttime and the theater is open to the elements we left the show early when our son with autism said he was cold.

Escape the Rubicon, an escape room for which guests need to pay in advance was a great hit with our son. Groups of up to twelve get transported to “another time” and need to solve the puzzle to break out in sixty minutes.
Originally we booked it for 5 PM, but our son forgot all about it and showed up an hour late. He almost didnt get in but a sweet young gal galantly offered him her spot and averted what could have potentially been a meltdown.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas night

Kids Clubs

The Harmony of the Seas offers several clubs for children and teens of various ages. The cruise line divides children into Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years) and Voyagers (9-11 years). Each group partakes in different age appropriate activities, and all kids can visit the Adventure Science area and Imagination Studio. Teens get divided into age 12-14 and age 15-17, and most of these spaces revolve around video games and socializing.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas club

We checked out the teen club, shown around by Victoria, an enthusiastic staff member.
The ‘Living Room’ is comprised of a large room divided into smaller spaces with various seating arrangements.There are plenty of gaming options such as PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One, WII, and other video games. There’s also board games, card games, and arts and crafts.

Furthermore we spoted a a place to dance and even a mini buffet with sandwiches and a beverage station that makes virgin drinks.

 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas chair
It is important for parents to know that this is not a place where kids sign in and out.

Teens can move independently through the club from ten in the morning to two in the morning. Also, no parents are allowed to be in this room unless they have special needs.Although the staff is eager to help those with special needs, this is not a one on one program.

 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas stairs

A point to note is that the ship’s WIFI is fantastic, so relatives can call or message kids at any point if they need to stay in contact.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas pose

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should book any activities online to avoid disappointment or lines.
  • At shows, parents should request seating close to the exit in case kids get restless.
  • Parents should introduce their children to Grease songs ahead of time so they can enjoy themselves at the show.
  • Families should try to book activities like the Abyss either when they first open or late in the afternoon or evening. Also, they should try to schedule these on days in port when there are fewer people if these activities are open.
  • Those who want to try specialty dining should go on the day of embarkation when it is less crowded, and the dress code is flexible.
  • The Boardwalk is always lively, and families can always leave if they feel overwhelmed. However, they should not book a room facing this area as it is busy and noisy.
  • Each neighborhood features several Purell stations for keeping hands clean.
  • The ship does have a mandatory muster drill with some physical exertion, which includes walking up stairs, in Studio B. Those who can’t participate in some parts of the muster drill need to contact the special needs department ahead of time. Parents of kids with noise sensitivities should bring ear plug as the muster drill includes seven horn blows.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism

 

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism pin

As a parent or caregiver, we are always looking for ways to minimize travel anxiety. The best way to do that is to identify one’s child’s anxiety triggers before, during and after travel and then seek to find suitable accommodations or solutions to eliminate these triggers.   Here are some factors and questions to consider before booking the next family trip.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism chair

Daily Schedule

Generally speaking, people with autism find adhering to routines comforting, and they resist changes of any kind. Parents should over their regular schedule, ask what they will be missing while they are gone, and consider accommodations to help them adjust.

What Will They Hate to Miss While They’re Gone?

Ask your kids ahead of time whether there is anything they will miss while they were gone. If it is things like homework or a favorite TV show, parents can make arrangements to get it to them via e-mail or online.

How to Spend the First Ten Minutes in your Hotel Room blue

 

Are They Used to Dining at a Specific Time or Eating Specific Foods?

This one is a bit trickier, especially when traveling across time zones. Parents should carry snacks for kids. They should also try to plan meal times similar to the ones they are used to.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism

Sensory Overload

Since every child is different and those on the autism spectrum have varied responses, the parent or caregiver needs to determine the specific triggers for their child.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism ship

Do Certain Smells Bother Your Child?

Parents should make sure seats on the airplane are away from toilets or galleys. Dining in ethnic restaurants or visiting attractions that involve animals like zoos, farms, and even Disney’s the Animal Kingdom might not be the ideal place for children with smell sensitivities.

Does Your Child React Adversely to Certain Lighting?

Parents should call up any shows or attractions to check what lights they use and choose to avoid going there or not accordingly.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism bull

 

Is Your Child Sensitive to Noise?

Parents can pack a set of noise-canceling headphones to use at theme parks and during fire drills. Also, they can map out quiet places in theme parks and request a quiet room in hotels and airports if they are available.

Does Your Child Have Temperature Sensitivities?

Some children are incredibly temperature sensitive and can’t tolerate heat, direct sun or wind blowing on them for prolonged periods of time. Parents can pack items like umbrellas or fans to help children cope.

How Does Your Child Cope with Crowds?

If crowds distress them, parents might want to take advantage of the airport lounge or avoid visiting a theme park on weekends and holidays.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism music

Is Your Child Comfortable with People Touching Them or Their Belongings?

Parents should notify the TSA agent ahead of time of their child’s diagnosis and have a doctor’s note ready for any problems that may arise.

What Clothing is Your Child Comfortable Wearing?

Many kids on the spectrum aren’t able to wear certain types of clothes like button-down collar shirts or long pants. This fact might be problematic in some locations where a specific dress is required such as in restaurants or formal nights on cruise ships. Most places unless it is a formal gala will forgo the dress requirement if parents call in advance explain the situation. Parents should pack clothing that kids have worn before and found familiar.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism chess

Can Your Child be Confined to a Small Space for Long Periods of Time?

Parents should plan on splitting the flight into shorter segments or taking longer breaks during a road trip to accommodate kids.

Navigating the Unfamiliar

Children with autism need to feel that they are in control of their environment. Unfamiliar surroundings frighten them and stress them out.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism group

Are They Used to Sharing a Common Space?

Parents should consider their child’s familiarity with sharing common spaces when booking lodging, as conflict might arise.

Is Your Child Used to Sleeping in an Unfamiliar Bed or Room?

If kids have never slept anywhere else but their room they might become anxious when they travel, especially the first time. Parents should try to get them used to different environments by having them sleep at a friend’s or family member’s house first. Moreover, In additionparents should also pack their favorite toy and blanket to help them adjust to new places.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism red

Is Your Child Comfortable Sitting Next to Strangers?

Parents should opt to book window or aisle seats on planes and trains for their child. That way, they can sit next to a family member or caregiver instead of strangers.

Does Your Child Fear Parental Separation?

Most children have separation anxiety whether on the autism spectrum or not. Parents of children who are verbally communicative should teach them to identify staff and ask them for help whAlso, equipping the kids with a phone or walkie-talkie in advised.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism chair

If they are not verbal, parents should have them wear a special tag on their clothing or a GPS device that can help track their exact location if they wander off.

Degree of Flexibility

Many children on the autism spectrum are obsessed with certain habits and show inflexibility when parents try you change them. Parents should try to work with them and accommodate their needs rather than stress them out and risk a meltdown.

How Well Does Your Child Transition?

Parents of children who have difficulty with transitioning between activities or are obsessed with being punctual should allocate enough time to reach places.
Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism sitting

 

How Does Your Child React to Schedule Changes?

Parents should research their travel plans thoroughly at booking and before actual travel. That way, sudden changes to schedule don’t catch anyone by surprise. Moreover, they should check both flight schedules, and theme park rides the day of travel since plans can change last minute.

How Does Your Child Cope with Standing in Line?

Whether it is waiting in lines to board a flight or lines in the public restrooms; waiting for a table in restaurants, or even waiting for their food, children with autism seem to have a problem with occupying themselves during free time and that in turn stresses them out. Parents should inquire ahead of time for line accommodations to avoid waits wherever possible. They should remember to bring entertainment like coloring books, building blocks or cards to occupy them.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism bus

How Successfully Can Your Child Follow Directions and Rules?

The ability for a child to follow direction affect many aspects of travel like buckling up seat belts, using a public swimming pool and visiting theme parks. Parents of children who experience difficulties with these tasks should stay in close range at all times to provide cues.

Our Tips for Minimizing Travel Anxiety with Autism plane

 

The most important thing is for parents to be available and willing to discuss situations with children and prepare them ahead of time. Knowing that someone is there for them is the most reassuring thing kids can have, and a comfort for when they are feeling fears and anxiety.

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World pin

Disney World with its five parks is vast, and there’s so much to experience. No parent wants to deal with a meltdown on vacation, let alone at Disney World where admission tickets are so pricey. In reality, chances are the intense activities of theme parks might kids with autism into sensory overload. To help parents mitigate such an occurrence here are our tips.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World plant

Plan a Longer Vacation

Parents of kids with autism may find that visiting the parks over the course of a few days is much less stressful for everybody. Though it might sound less budget friendly, there are plenty of great deals on multiple Disney tickets as well as lodgings. At a minimum, parents should try to allocate one separate day for each park.

Rest Well

For the lodgings, even those on a budget should try to get their kids a good night’s sleep. Parents could pay extra for a rollaway or, if possible, getting the kids their own room. Sleeping in beds with siblings or parents can get in the way of an optimal night’s sleep. If kids are more rested in the morning, they’ll be more able to handle their emotions at the park.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World castle

Take Frequent Breaks

Plan snack and lunch break times during the day. Parents of younger kids or those not used to spending the entire day at a theme park should schedule more frequent breaks and see how it goes.

Stay on Property

If at all possible, parents should find lodgings on the property for easy access to the park. For parents looking for a cheaper alternative to the Disney pricey hotels, the Wyndham has a property near Disney Springs that is affordable and still gives its guests access to the complimentary Disney transportation.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World red

Avoid Crowded Areas

Parents should avoid crowded areas, like the parade thoroughfare during the shows.In fact, they should skip the shows since they tend to be crowded anyway and try to go on typically full rides during that time since they’re mostly empty. Moreover, families should also eat meals on off hours, meaning before or after traditional lunch or dinner times.

Limit Shopping

Limiting the shopping adds to time spent enjoying the park itself and reduces arguments with kids. Parents should tell their child before entering the park that they are going to shop at the end of the day for a set time or online as an alternative.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World alice

Plan Outdoor/Indoor Rides

Parents need to know that the weather in Orlando is usually warm and humid no matter the month. Though Disney accommodates autism on many of their rides, there are often still waits. These waits can be challenging for kids who are temperature intolerant.

Parents should do the indoor rides in the middle of the day, then try to do the outdoor rides in the early morning or late evening when the temperature cools down and the crowds are gone.

Stay Hydrated

This advice applies to all parents traveling with kids but is of particular importance in a theme park situation where there’s a lot of walking involved.So, parents should either purchase several beverages for their kids during the day or bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water fountains in the parks.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World sky

Avoid Sugary Snacks

Most theme parks, especially Disney, have sugary snacks available for purchase literally at every corner of the parks. Pumping kids on sugary snacks and driving them into a sugar rush is seldom a good idea. Parents should discuss ahead of time with their kids what snacks they are allowed to have every day to avoid disappointments and meltdowns later.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If kids get wet or sweaty, they might react adversely. It is a good idea for parents to make them as comfortable as possible. Since staying in a theme park for ten hours in a stretch is enough of a challenge for most kids,  parents should bring a change of clothes for emergencies.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World dumbo

Bring Headphones or Earplugs

Some noise sensitive kids will react to sounds and noises in the park. These sounds can include screaming, shots, or explosions from fireworks. It is, therefore, important to bring headphones or earplugs for these situations. It is important to note that some rides will not allow kids to wear headphones while riding for safety reasons.

Don’t Use Park Hoppers

It is better, especially for younger children, to spend the entire day in one park. Also, using the Disney Transportation from park to park can add a layer of stress for some kids due to the waiting time and buses that might be crowded.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World car

Get a Stroller

Renting a stroller for younger children or those who can’t walk much is best for families. Visiting the Walt Disney World parks involves a lot of walking, and no parent wants to argue with children or try to force them into anything. So, even for older kids, a stroller may be a good place to relax if they get tired or cranky.

Keep your group small

Going in a large group to a theme park can be overwhelming, and the needs of a child with autism might be overlooked. Kids with autism might want to explore at a certain pace or adhere to specific mealtimes. The best ratio is two adults per kid so the adults can alternate taking care and helping accommodate their needs.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World teacups

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World pin

Unknown to many, clothing choices can be quite important for a theme park visit. For those who deal with sensory issues, clothing can make a day visit unpleasant and lead to meltdowns. Here are our tips for making good clothing choices for Walt Disney World.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World train

Shoes

Visiting Walt Disney World involves a lot of walking throughout the four large parks. Even groups who set themselves to one park a day can expect a lot of walking. Also, the parks have areas with water attractions, and Florida often has lots of afternoon showers. As a result, the ground frequently gets slippery, which can be dangerous for kids running around.

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Non-slip shoes, like crocs, are essential. Parents can use fabric on/off shoes for the best results. Everyone in the family should avoid flip-flops, heels, or wedges. They should especially avoid leather or suede shoes, as they can get ruined by rain and shrink.

Pants

Choice of pants is of particular importance for those who want to go on the water attractions. Thick denim pants will not dry out easily, leaving kids with wet denim sticking to their legs for the duration of the trip.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World water

The best option is pants made of thin, lightweight material that quickly dries. Parents can find pants like these in most travel and camping stores. Alternatively, parents can bring a change of clothes for their kids.

Colors

Bring colors that stick out in a crowd is best, especially for little kids. Parks get crowded, and kids can easily slip away. In this situation, he or she would be easier to find if they’re wearing, for example, a bright orange jacket.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World car

Ponchos

As we mentioned before, at Walt Disney World it frequently rains in the afternoon. Ponchos are the best option for people who don’t want to have to stay indoors for the two to four hours these afternoon rains last.

Long ponchos are best, and parents can either bring them from home or buy them from the parks. We like buying them from the parks because they double as an excellent souvenir for kids to get from Disney. We suggest not buying expensive ponchos since ponchos are an item that one can easily lose. Also, if someone forgets their poncho in a bag, these expensive ponchos can develop mildew.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World clock

For the most budget friendly option, parents can buy a one time use poncho from the dollar store.

Jacket

Easy to dry, thin jackets are best for theme parks. The jacket should preferably have a hood that it easy to take off. The jacket should also zip, not button.

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While it may seem like a good option, parents shouldn’t take heavy coats. The kids are not going to be wearing them the entire time, and nobody wants to walk around with a jacket all day for miles.

Pockets

Clothes with multiple pockets are always helpful. Parents and kids can either wear cargo pants or a jacket with many pockets. There’s a lot of knick knacks that parents will want to store, such as phones, wires, wallets, and small water bottles.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World red

Expensive or favorite items

Parents and kids should not bring expensive clothing or items into the parks for many reasons. These items can get snagged on rides, lost, or stained by food items. Jackets can especially get easily lost or misplaced between attractions.

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Bags

While tempting, parents shouldn’t bring large bags into the park. Many of the rides will not allow riders to carry large bags. And dragging these bags through the park gets tiring quickly.

Instead, parents should either wear clothing with lots of pockets or wear a fanny pack for small items.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World butterfly

Tight fitting

Mini skirts and tight pants might be fashionable, but they’re not optimal theme park attire. Being confined in tight clothes for an entire day can be challenging to many.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World building

Loose fitting cotton clothes that breath are best for these environments. Dressing in layers is also crucial since the temperature can be highly variable throughout the day.

Costumes

Although the idea of letting the little one walk around in a princess dress might seem fun, having kids dress up in costumes is not the best idea.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World sign

The costumes are often pricey and can easily get ruined in a theme park environment. In some cases, the costumes are long, such as with princess dresses or capes, and can get caught in ride mechanisms or doors.

After reading our tips it is your turn to chime in! What are your clothing tips when visiting the theme parks?

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