Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia pin

For people born and raised in western countries, exploring Asia is an adventure worth experiencing at least once. However, people challenged with autism might feel it is also an assault on their sensory system when it comes to different smells, flavors, sounds and sights. To make sure your child with autism feels comfortable while traveling to Asia, here are a few tips to follow:


The minute we landed in Hong Kong, our son started complaining about the smell and how it bothered him. At first, we dismissed him thinking that he was probably tired, jet-lagged, and on a sensory overload but the feeling persisted well into the week. We later figured out that the issue was that he was reacting to the scents of the spices used in the Cantonese cuisine as well as the incense used in temples.

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia market

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The best way to help your kid cope is to start exposing him to spices and different smells by visiting local ethnic neighborhoods and sampling foods before you embark on your Asia travels. The continuous exposure and desensitization will help your kid get accustomed to the smells, and their adverse reaction will lessen with time.

Tastes and Textures

Most foods in Asia are usually more salty, spicy or in some cases sweeter than in the United States. Textures are also different since the diet of locals may include spices your kid has not yet encountered. What we found useful in Japan compared to other Asian countries, was the fact they had plastic displays of the dishes in almost every restaurant we went to so you could sort of figure out what it was was you were ordering.

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia dessert

Luckily for us, our kid is open to trying most items at least once. He ended up sampling most local delicacies, including insects and animal internal organs, that most people probably wouldn’t consider touching. He did develop a small addiction to jelly donuts and jelly desserts served at the tea ceremonies.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • If you are traveling with several family members, order several items on the menu and see which one appeals to your kid the most since in most places you can’t send the food back if your child dislikes it.

Close proximity to people

One cannot escape proximity to people in a densely populated area like Hong Kong, China, or Japan when using any form of public transportation or when visiting local markets. Markets are not for the faint of heart, with live animals caged and even killed in front of you. If you are traveling with younger kids, the scenes may be quite disturbing as your child may see animals that are regarded in the United States, as house pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, sold or cut open in plain sight.

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia chickens

Whether you are using the old ferries, tram, trains or even the ultra-modern subway, the space allocated per capita is minimal, and passengers are used to leaning against and breathing on each other. This can be especially unpleasant on hot and humid days. As if waiting in line for any extended period isn’t hard enough for people with autism, imagine an avalanche of individuals moving hastily at the same time towards the entrance or exit of a ferry boat, ready to trample anyone or anything in their way.

We learned pretty early on in our Asia travels that we couldn’t rely on any accommodations for special needs as in many places locals didn’t speak English.

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia fruit

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Travel off-peak hours. Select the furthest cabin on subways and stay as close to the exit door as possible, ready to dart out fast. Avoid rush hour when traveling and spring for first class tickets on trains if possible.
  • For market shopping, try to arrive when they first open so you escape the crowds and when the smells are less pungent.

The noise

Five Tips For Successful Travel with Autism in Asia tree

Crowded cities are noisier by definition, but it goes a bit beyond that when it comes to some countries in which the locals speak loudly and may sound like they are screaming at each other. Markets, busy streets and public transportation venues including subway stations are the most common place for this sort of thing, but there may be other unforeseen places where this might happen too.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Pack a pair of headphones or ear plugs if your son or daughter is noise sensitive


Five Tips For Successful Travel

Don’t take the availability of a western commode for granted. Places like China and Japan still have traditional squatting toilets that your kid may have never seen. Some toilets in Japan are plugged in and make certain sounds disguising the user sounds that may stress out your child. Our son with autism refused to use them at first. He insisted we unplug the toilet each time in the hotel rooms in Japan before he used them, as he was scared of the noises and the fact that they were connected to electricity. The worst were the old fashioned squat toilets in public places like attractions and trains. He can’t squat and kept toppling over and sitting on the floor. The toilet situation got so bad he threatened to take Imodium for the duration of the trip so he wouldn’t have to go potty.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • If you book day trips, ask the tour operators if western toilets are available or head on to the nearest western chain hotel’s lobby if you need to use a bathroom.

Using some planning and tips, travelers with autism can successfully visit countries and Asia.


Take your Kids to Nara Park, Japan

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip shrine


If you are spending a significant amount of time in the Japanese city of Kyoto or Osaka, then you want to take a family day trip out to Nara.

Nara, designated back in 610 as Japan’s first capital, is nowadays home to some of the country’s oldest temples and ornate gardens. It’s relatively easy to get to Nara, and there are some fun things to do for all ages!

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip walkway

What to see

Nara has two prominent temples that should be on your must-see list: the Todaiji and Heijo, both listed on the Unesco Heritage sites. The Todaiji, the temple housing the world’s largest bronze statue Buddha Vairocana, was the largest wooden structure in the world until 1996.

The Heijo temple, about half a mile in length served as Nara’s Imperial Palace back in the 8th century when the city was Japan’s capital.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip deer

The South Gate in front of the Todaiji Temple, constructed at the end of the 12th century earned its claim to fame after being featured in several Hollywood movies and online game by Microsoft.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip buddha

Not to be missed are the two gate guardians, Ungyo, and Agyo, that may look like a pair at first glance, but boast opposite expressions-one has his mouth open the other closed.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip gods

It is well worth walking down to the nearby Kasuga Taisha Shrine to see thousands of stone lanterns that line the walkway. Imagine attending the ‘Mandoro Festival’ when they all are lit!

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip gold deity

And speaking of festivals, one of the most spectacular festivals involves fire. Every first weekend in January, during Wakakusa Yamayaki the grass on the hillside of Nara’s Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire along with spectacular firework show.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip lanterns

What to do

You do not want to miss feeding the deer at Nara Park! The ruminant mammals regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion are allowed to roam the grounds undisturbed.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip baby

It might take some time for some kids to warm up to feeding a wild animal; others will jump right in for the experience. It’s the largest park in Nara, so it’s easy to find, not to mention the nearly 1200 deer roaming around!


Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip kiss
Over the years, these deer have been taught to emulate people and bow their head in return for food. Make sure to purchase crackers for the deer at various vendors around the park as they are bold and will come up to you to feed them.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip walking
If you value your belongings keep your purse and coat are safely out of the way as they are persistent and been known to chew on almost anything.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip bird

The caveat is that once they know you have food, they will follow you, practically stalk you as you make your way around the park.


Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip pair

Autism Travel Tips

If you go on your own, you should know there are two train companies that you can travel with– Japan Railways and Kintetsu Railways.

The train ride, is about 45 minutes and then getting to Todaiji and the deer park is an additional 30-minute bus ride.


Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip resting

We suggest you go with a tour company as we did to eliminate the wait for public transportation.
It might be a bit pricier but if your kid with autism can’t wait patiently then spending a few extra bucks might totally prove worth it.

If your child gets antsy, get him or her to look for the wooden column with a hole in it behind the giant Buddha. Legend has it that those who fit in there can reach enlightenment.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip tourist

The terrain in the park is highly uneven, composed mostly of gravel and grassy patches, so closed toe shoes are recommended.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip begging
Remember you are walking around wild animals so tell your kids to look where they are stepping as there might be excrements on the ground.
Pack hand wipes your family can use after feeding the deer.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip poop

Since most of the park ticks are carrying visible ticks (around the ears), you may want to dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect yourself. Another less desirable option is to use a tick repellant containing Deet chemical to deter the ticks.
Like in all ‘touristy’ areas there are multiple extensive souvenir stands both inside the temple and in the park itself selling stuffed animal deer and well-wish trinkets, so establish ground rules for souvenir purchases before arrival.

Nara Park, Japan:Tips for Your Family Day Trip souvenirs

The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese Phenomenon


I remember hearing about the 100 Yen store from a friend who had visited Japan several years back. The first store opened in 1991, and now there are around 1,300 stores throughout Japan and Asia.The largest is a five story gargantuan store in front of Tokyo’s Machida Station while the second smaller version is the Daiso flagship store in the city’s Harajuku neighborhood.During one of our stays in Tokyo, we ended up staying at the Sheraton Miyako right next door to one of the stores, so we naturally wondered in.

And I confess we were hooked!

The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese PhenomenonNot only did we end up visiting it several times to purchase multiple items but started recommending the experience to all our friends. And here are ten good reasons why:

Replenish Sundries

If your luggage is delayed or lost, this is the place to come and replace your missing sundries and cosmetic items. From toothbrushes, slippers, razors, hairbrushes and even packing bags –it is all there at a fraction of the cost that a local drugstore would charge you.

Weather related accessories

Forgot to pack your umbrella or flip-flops?
No problem.The store carries umbrellas and ponchos for the frequent Tokyo’s rainy days as well as sunglasses, fans, flip-flops, and hats for the sunny ones.
If you need a flashlight, luggage tags, lanyards, carabiners, velcro strips, duct tape, or electronic adapters; the store carries it.

Cheap extra clothing items

If your family is anything like ours, then it is always short on socks no matter how many additional pairs are initially packed. But don’t worry-you can find men, women, and kids’ socks, as well as t-shirts and underwear in the store for a buck each.


One of the things we’ve learned over our decade of travel is to have some snacks in the hotel room for those midnight munchies. If you travel across time zones, chances are you and your family members might suffer from jetlag and be hungry at odd hours of the night when regular stores and eateries are not open. The store carries everything from potatoes chips and popcorn to sweets and microwavable noodles.

Bottled water

Hotels tend to charge an arm and a leg for bottled water, and when you travel with a family, this expense can add up. The 100 Yen Store can help you stock up and bring the water bottles back to your room for a  fraction of the cost you’d expect to pay at a local grocery store.
The 100 Yen Store: A Japanese Phenomenon


As frequent travelers we’ve learned to carry a first aid kit, tissues, and wipes everywhere we go, but it was only last year we realized we also needed to lug plastic utensils, and straws as well when traveling to Asian countries where Western eating utensils might not be readily available in some restaurants.Luckily, we found a dozen forks and knives packages for a hundred yen each.

Toys to fill a travel goodie bag

The 100 Yen Store is a shopper’s paradise when it comes to finding cheap art supplies and sensory toys. Parents can stock up on play -doh, squishy balls, balloons, colorful markers and stickers for years to come without going broke!

Kitchen and Laundry supplies

Travelers choosing to stay in rented apartments instead of hotel rooms may need cheap kitchen items like food storage boxes or utensils as well as laundry items like soap or clips all of which the 100 yen store stocks and has available in every store.


If your child has his or her heart set on buying a few souvenirs for his friends, the 100 yen store is the place to pick up cute headphones, little charms, phone covers, tablet covers and even some licensed Disney merchandise.

Daily rewards

We discovered a long time ago that small daily rewards help as incentives for our son with autism to get him to behave during travel; so we were thrilled to discover this store is the crowned emporium of mini rewards.
Our son was very excited to go and comb the aisles for his daily reward. In fact, one of his prized possessions to this day is an anime cartoon DVD he’s watched, again and again, enjoying the animation even though he doesn’t understand any of the Japanese dialogue.


Have you been to the 100 Yen Store?
What items did you buy?



Taking your Kid with Autism to India

                                guest post by Donna Ciccia

Donna Ciccia's 'Taking your Kid with Autism to India' TAJ MAHAL

photo credit Donna Ciccia

‘Hi All, I’m Donna from Australia.I’m a homeopath, nutritionist, and mum to a six-year-old boy with High Functioning Autism. Our son Luca (our only child) has some wonderfully quirky traits that I would never change and some behaviors that we work hard on. My philosophy on educating Luca is that everything is an incredible learning opportunity, whether it be a good, bad or a difficult situation.My goal, like most parents, is to have an adjusted, independent and happy child. He started mainstream school this year, has transitioned well and loves it.

We have recently traveled to India, New Delhi and had a fabulous time, our first overseas trip as a family.

We prepared him by eating Indian food most weekends and watching a documentary movie on India.His teacher was incredibly helpful by bringing in her photos of traveling to India and talking about it in class.
In the early planning stages, we thought of two things to ensure a successful trip.The first one was that we invited my parents (grandparents) to join us as we knew it would allow us (parents) to have much needed down time.The second was we kept our trip short (only eight days) since we viewed it as a preparation for a much longer trip planned for Christmas time.

Our son handled all the transitions extremely well and was treated like a superstar in India as they don’t see many western white children.He got used to getting asked to be photographed and only declined (politely) if he was having a difficult time.
To help Lucca with his travel stresses, we packed his favorite foods, a few favorite toys and the i-Pad which we only had to bring out on long trips and at lunch times.
We raided the hotel buffet every morning for croissants & strawberry jam (remember to pack zip-lock bags) that helped us with providing our son with fresh snacks for all our day trips.He ended up having a marvelous time.
We have not even been back a week, and he is planning his next trip.
We couldn’t have asked for a better result!’

A brief footnote.
While staying in New Delhi, India, we stayed at the  Le Meridien Hotel,  a five-star property where the front desk graciously upgraded us to a wonderful two-bedroom suite. The staff was incredible in accommodating us and catering to our needs.We got to take several day trips to tour the city and all its landmarks.
Our longest day trip turned out to be to the incredible town of Agra to explore the famous Taj Mahal; a 5.5-hour car trip each way!

My travel tip for parents wit autism would be to book a hotel and stay near the Taj Mahal overnight instead of going back and forth in one day (like we did) since that turned out pretty exhausting for everyone.

However, it was still well worth the long drive! The trip was pure magic!

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