Autism Travel Tips for Travel Agents

Autism travel is a growing untapped segment of the travel industry that has yet to be adequately addressed.
By CDC estimates, there are over 2 million kids with autism under 18 in the US alone. Accompanied by a minimum of one caregiver the number of potential autism-related travelers easily jumps to 4 million, and that does not take into account additional family members or adults with autism.

So, it should come as no surprise travel agents are becoming increasingly interested in obtaining more information to understand the needs of travelers with autism better.Since there is no difference between planning a vacation for a family whose child has autism and a family with a neurotypical child except for specific accommodations, I thought that creating a list of starter tips would be helpful for many agents.

Autism Travel Tips for Travel Agents sign

Photo credit Balycon charts

Airline travel

  • Arrange for pre-boarding and for bulk or aisle seating if your client has involuntary movements such as stimming.
  • Seat your traveler away from galleys and lavatories if he /she are smell or noise sensitive.
  • Notify the airline in advance if there are any food allergies or special diets.
  • Avoid booking long layovers or multiple connections.

Cruises

  • Arrange for pre-boarding
  • Book a mid ship cabin away from noise venues and elevators if your traveler is sound or motion sensitive.
  • Do not book balcony cabins or cabins next to exits if the child tends to wander off.
  • Ask if the child is verbal or communicates through sign language or electronic device as that will impact any kids’ club experience.
  • Notify the cruise line in advance of pertinent food allergies and special diets and if special food needs to be brought on board by parents.
  • Arrange for a separate more secluded dining table if the child is noise sensitive.

Hotels

  • Check with hotel officials about booking a room away from exits as well as the possibility of providing extra locks on room door if the child has a tendency to wander off.
  • Ask for quiet rooms on higher floors away from vending machines, elevators, parking lots, swimming pools, golf courses and beachfront if your traveler is noise sensitive.
  • Ask to book a room with no sliding doors and mirrors if your client has spatial coordination issues.
  • Notify the hotel of any specific allergies to fabrics or products your traveler has.
  • Ask if the client needs help delivering any particular foods or medical equipment to the hotel room

Day tours

  • Ask the parent about the child’s energy capacity and ability to tolerate full day versus half day trips.
  • Know whether the child is temperature sensitive and how well he or she can tolerate outdoor activities like walking tours.
  • Clarify any fears or anxieties the child might have of animals or crowds that might interfere with some itineraries.
  • Know ahead of time whether the traveler is noise or light sensitive since that can impact attending firework shows.
  • Notify tour operators of any food allergies or special diets required.

    Other

  • Ask whether the family needs special transportation to and from airports, ports or rail stations.
  • Provide the travelers with a 24-hour line or email to contact you if anything goes wrong.

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