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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pin

Traveling parents of children with autism often have many concerns over cruising. However, many common concerns are either unfounded or easily remedied. Here are some cruising concerns we frequently hear about and how families can navigate them and enjoy cruising.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism cake

 

Cabin is too Small for my Child

The average inside cabins encompass about 160 square feet, so it is no surprise that they can feel a bit claustrophobic. However, there are options on the bigger and more modern ships for larger family style cabins or two connecting inside cabins. These options provide much more space for families.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism movie

Balcony cabins aren’t recommended for most special needs families due to safety reasons, especially for younger kids with autism who don’t have an understanding of danger.

My Kids is a Picky Eater and on a Special Diet

Nowadays cruise lines do a great job of accommodating everybody’s needs. The dining areas now frequently offer gluten-free and low-salt items. Most restaurants offer vegan items as well. Parents can sometimes request a particular dish, especially in the main dining room at night.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism dining

Ships are Too Crowded

Many times we hear that people don’t like the big ships, especially the larger ones that have 4000 people on them. However, parents should remember that 4000 people are never in the same place at once. People do different activities in different parts of the ship, and since the ship is large, there are many activities spread out in various areas.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism ship

Parents of children with autism can request accommodations during boarding or disembarkation. That way, families won’t ever have to face the crowds. There are quiet areas and even serenity decks on some ships so finding a quiet or uncrowded area is as easy as asking a cruise director or purser for suggestions.

We Might Hear Nasty Remarks

All parents of kids with autism face nasty comments at a particular point in their lives. Our best advice would be for parents to ignore them. If they are rude or even insulting, then there’s not much to say to the offending person except to either just ignore what they said, move to another area or perhaps pass out informational cards on autism.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pool

If somebody asks questions, this would be a great opportunity for parents to educate others about autism. Such a situation has the potential to be a great thing because parents can raise autism awareness and help the autism community.

Activities are Unsuitable

On older ships, this used to be a problem because all the events meant either coloring in the kids club or sitting drinking a beer and playing bingo or trivia. That is no longer the case nowadays as the ships are filled with activities. On Norwegian cruise line, kids can enjoy a rope course. There are shows and parties for everyone in the family to enjoy. Parents can take their children to classes on cupcake decorating, dancing, cooking, photography, or computer programming.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism limes

As an example, RCCL recently teamed with DreamWorks and NCL with Nickelodeon. Therefore, there are now character breakfasts, parades, and other themed activities.

If some things aren’t comfortable for them, kids can still either use the pool or watch TV. A lot of the cruise lines show kids movies at the pool or kids clubs. Some even have theaters. Of course, if all else fails, most of the modern ships have WiFi. A lot of the new ships also have Nintendo and other electronic games. Whenever parents come on board, they can just communicate their needs to the activities manager or the youth director.

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Cruise Ships are Dangerous for Our Child

Once in a while, we hear from parents concerned about safety on ships. These are colossal ships, especially the newer ones with 4000 people.

First, parents should not get a balcony cabin. As romantic as it sounds, unless the kid knows not to lean on ledges or overboard then parents much better off in an inside cabin.

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Parents should bear in mind that the pools on the cruise ships do not have lifeguards. Parents of children who wander off should choose a cabin away from pools, places with water, and elevators.

Cruise ships don’t have supervision except for a few safety officers. Parents should go to them if their child goes missing. They have procedures and can start looking for a lost child immediately.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

We Won’t be Relaxed

Most of us want to go on vacation and relax. However, parents of children with autism might worry they will have to be hyper vigilant at all times. Kids will likely be excited to be on the cruise ship and maybe want to explore. Meanwhile, parents will want to get a massage or at least sit by the pool.

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Parents should think of either teaming up with another family member to help watch the kids or bring a caregiver. They could even team up with several other parents of children with autism and take turns, especially during the activities.

Cruises are too Expensive

Pricing is a factor for many people going on cruises, especially the modern crew ships with the endless activities. Families should seek bargains at every opportunity.

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We recommend traveling off-season for many reasons. There are fewer guests on board and families will get more personalized attention. The silver lining to going off-season is the fact that the prices can be almost 50% off compared to the summers or holidays.

Cruises are too Long

The average cruise is seven days for most first timers. Parents of children who react adversely to changes might want to consider a shorter journey. These shorter cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.

 

 

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Have you taken a cruise with your special needs kid? What was your experience?

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism pin

One of the things we find most interesting about travel is its ever-changing nature and how it has evolved especially in the past few years.
Not only are there new trends in housing, destinations, and upgraded airline services, but with the introduction of smartphones, and apps new opportunities have opened to travelers.  For us as parents to a son with autism, some of these apps have totally revamped and even revolutionized the way we plan and enjoy our vacations. Here are some of our favorite ones.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism air

Lodging by AirBnB

When we first heard about Airbnb we were very reluctant to try the service.
The thought of using this sort of accommodation especially after staying in hotels offering 24-hour service was daunting. However, we soon understood the value that this type of lodging provided families with autism. Not only does it give more budget-friendly possibilities for travelers, but for families with special needs that require more space for their kids to move around and feel more comfortable in a home-like environment, this is the way to go.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism uber

Getting around with Uber

When we first heard about Uber and Lyft, we could only think of the potential safety hazards of this service. However, since trying it, we have become big fans. What’s great about ‘ubering’ is the fact that travelers can get from point A to point B without having to wait for a bus or look for a taxi – especially when a child is about to have a meltdown. The vehicle ordered usually takes less than ten minutes to arrive. Moreover, not only do travelers get all the information about the driver and the route, this app allows guests to send their route to a third person so they can track them along the way to make it safer. Overall, especially in the major cities, it is much cheaper to take a service like Uber or Lyft than to take a cab or rent a car.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism yelp

Recommendations by Yelp

The urban dictionary recognizes this funny name and my family took to Yelping early on when it first came out because of the convenience.
When we find ourselves with a hungry child, this app is a breeze for finding a suitable restaurant. Travelers can look under consumer ratings as well as different cuisines or diets. This fact makes the service incredibly convenient for everybody including families with special needs.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism netflix

Streaming for entertainment

We couldn’t just choose one App under this title. The service of apps such as Hulu, Ustream and Netflix has made such a difference in the way we travel.
In the old days, we would have to set up and pack a VCR and multiple DVDs to occupy our kids. It would turn into an awful trip if any of these malfunctioned as we would face a giant meltdown. Nowadays with these streaming apps, we are pretty much set and ready to go if we have wifi. Thankfully, most places like restaurants, hotels, airports and even some airlines have wifi nowadays.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism groupon

Saving with Groupon

We probably discovered Groupon later than others.
However, we still use the service and its competitors LivingSocial, Travelzoo and GoldStar to score discounts. These services provide great options for many families who want to travel on a budget. They are especially useful for parents who want to try places but don’t want to pay full price since they aren’t sure if their kids will even stay for the duration of the show or the meal.

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Using Whatsapp to keep in touch

Though many in the US are not familiar with WhatsApp, it is incredibly popular overseas in places like Europe and South America. The app provides free and reliable communications between to people via WiFi. It is an excellent choice for families with kids on the spectrum if family members get separated. It is basically like texting but without the monthly fee involved. Viber works in the same way. Other services that are similar but not always as reliable are Facebook Messenger and Skype.

Have you used these apps or others when traveling with your family? Which ones are your favorites?-how did you like them?  

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy

 

 

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy pin

Cruise ship cabins are notoriously small on average. However, they are built to house families of three-four members for a couple of days in relative comfort. Parents should try to make the best of the limited space and accommodations by packing well and by organizing the space in such a way that they can find things or don’t misplace anything. Based on our decade of travel, here are some tips to help families make the space more manageable.
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Before boarding   

Choose small luggage 

Parents should always travel with small to medium suitcases that fit comfortably under the beds. Travelers will regret packing a giant 30-inch bag that takes up limited and valuable cabin space.

Pack a power cord

Most cabins have a limited number of power outlets. Travelers should bring either an outlet splitter or extension cord to charge devices, especially at nighttime.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy yellow

 

Bring a nightlight

Families should bring a good night light since most inside cabins lack good lighting. Especially when it is dark at night people can trip and fall on their way to the bathroom. Book reading lights or small flashlights can be very helpful as well. With these portable light sources, if someone needs to get up for a bathroom break during the night they don’t disturb everyone else with overhead light.

Tips for First Time Families Cruising with Autism quad

Use Magnets and post its

Cruise ship cabin walls are a useful spot to organize the multitude of papers that one will acquire while on board. These documents include shore excursion info, daily itineraries, and party invitations. Sticking these papers near the desk/vanity area with magnets or clips will free up valuable table surface space.

Remember the air freshener

Cabins don’t get a lot of air circulation, and if someone in the family is sensitive to smells, this could prove stressful. Parents should bring along a naturally scented freshener or some essential oils to diffuse on a light bulb. Lavender or peppermint are often pleasing and calming choices for many people.

 

Our Tips for a Family's First Time Cruising bed

Label everything

Families should pack everything in plastic bags and label everybody’s belongings accordingly with a different colored  Tape. This will help everyone know exactly which items to unpack and what to put where.

While onboard

Rearrange furniture

Passengers shouldn’t hesitate to ask the cabin steward to help rearrange the furniture in the cabin if necessary. The best layout that leaves the most space is splitting the king size bed into two singles to create a pathway between the beds.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy sofa

 

Designate a spot for everything

Parents should designate a specific area for each member of the family to use in the cabin. This system will allow everybody to know exactly where their stuff is and where to find it. Moreover, it will prove beneficial especially during the mornings when four people need to get dressed all at once.
One can also designate a small area on the table or vanity in the room for a electronics. Parents should make sure nobody puts any beverages next to the electronics, so they don’t get damaged from accidental spills.

Use the cooler for food

Parents should ask the cabin steward to empty out the minibar. Then the family can use it for food and drink items instead of putting them on the table to occupy space.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy vitual

Keep everything organized

Parents should bring their own small fabric shower organizer, especially if the family uses different medicated shampoos and soaps. Most inside cabins only have one shelf in the shower, and there isn’t that much space to put everything.

Also, traveling families should either bring trash bags or ask for trash bags from the cabin steward to put dirty clothes in a neat pile, so they’re not all over the cabin. We advise designating a garbage bag with dirty clothes for each person because then parents can either repack using this same system and take them home or give them to the cabin steward to wash. Either way, everyone will know which item belongs to which person.

Furthermore, putting all of the room keys on lanyards and hanging by the front door at all times is helpful.This way no one wastes valuable vacation time searching the entire cabin every time they leave.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy suiye

Clear the room 

For those who decide to use room service at any point, the best thing to do is to eat and drink whatever was ordered and quickly put out the empty cups and plates, so the items don’t occupy space on tables or floors.

Keep floor and closet clutter free

Everyone should keep everything off the floor as much as possible so nobody trips and falls.Since closet space is tight, one can repack the dirty clothes into plastic bags and put them in the suitcases after wearing them. That will take less closet space and on the last day everyone will have much less to pack.

With these “inside” tips you will find cruising in your “inside” cabin to be a breeze. What are your tips?

 

 

 

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism pin

 


Hello Margalit,

My name is Dondria, and I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana.
We are traveling to Madrid, Spain next month and my husband, and I were trying to decide on something. Our twin fourteen-year-old sons have autism. We have taken them places and done road-trips, and they have flown before, and we survived.
Now for this trip, they are older, and we think they will be able to cope even better. We were wondering whether we should take them to a Flamenco show or not since everybody that I spoke to seems to recommend it. Have you been to Spain? Did you go to a Flamenco show? I know so little about that country and the shows so I was hoping you could give me some tips and pointers.

Thanks in advance,

Dondria

Dear Dondria,

I’m so excited for you.
There is so much to see and do in Spain so be sure to read our posts. With the increase in the interest and popularity of Flamenco recently, there has been a new awakening to this art and dance form. About five years ago, it was declared to be one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In fact, there are dance academies dedicated to teaching Flamenco all over the world.

Because of this, I have to agree with your friends. If you are going to be in Spain, you should try to go to a Flamenco show. It is authentic and a real cultural experience at the place where it all began.
I will share what I know and one of my personal experiences so it will be easier for you to make an informed decision regarding taking your sons along.

 

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism man

Booking and Length of Time

As you can imagine, Flamenco shows are very popular with tourists visiting Spain – in particular for the first time.
Flamenco shows typically happen during the evenings and can last anywhere between two to four hours depending on if they include a dinner. The best show need to be booked ahead otherwise you will struggle to get in, especially during the holiday season.
I’m glad you mentioned the age of your boys since shows like that are not necessarily recommended for children younger than the age of 10.

Specific Autism Concerns

With that said, though, taking children with autism to shows, may prove quite challenging. Scheduling can prove to be difficult since no parent can know for sure how their child is going to feel on that day.

Given the nature of the performance, the show can be quite loud. You should consider this if one or both of your sons has any sensitivity to noise.

The shows can be quite pricey anywhere between 50 to 100 euros. You don’t want to unnecessarily waste that money by not attending as planned or by leaving because your children are overwhelmed by the sensory experience.

Another issue is the fact that many of the most up-scale venues require a dress code. This fact can be a difficulty with a person who has sensory problems and might not be comfortable wearing button-down shirts or even a jacket.

One of the shows we attended was four hours long.! The venue had very few food choices coupled with uncomfortable seating close to the dancers. The room itself was also somewhat crowded and dark. The tables were placed close together forcing people to sit close to one another. It was almost impossible to move or get up to take a break.

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism ladies

Recommendations

Here are my recommendations for if you DO  decide to take your children.

Explain to them in advance what Flamenco is all about. You could show them a few clips on YouTube so that they can get an idea of what to expect.

Get a table that is not too close to the stage so that the experience is not as intense. Also, if you do have to leave early, it is easier and less disruptive to move.

Plan to go to one of the shorter shows. If they can sit through a movie, they will be able to sit through a shorter Flamenco performance.

Have a meal before attending the show. This way, the kids won’t get hungry or deal with food that they don’t want to or can’t eat.

I hope you have a wonderful time of making memories and that this will be the first of many good experiences for your boys.

Margalit

 

 

 

 

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pin

For parents of children with autism or other special needs, there is more to planning a cruise than making reservations. Booking is only the first step for families to ensure their needs are met. Here are eight cruise line accommodations parents should consider requesting.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism ship

Boarding

The port is often noisy and chaotic with hundreds of people waiting to board. It is best for parents of children with autism to request pre-boarding ahead of time. However, for families who don’t, the cruise line personnel will still be there to help upon arrival.

Parents should ask a company representative to help their family go to the VIP or suites boarding area. The service people there are savvy and experienced and have fewer passengers to deal with. If all else fails, parents can ask for wheelchair assistance.

Tips for First Time Families Cruising with Autism food

 

Dining

Those who want to dine in the dining room fast with little waiting time should ask to talk to the maître d directly, explain their situation, and ask for a particular location of table or time.
Many cruise lines have special events with loud singing in the dining room so parents might want to request a quiet corner. If the child starts feeling uncomfortable, parents can also ask the waiter for permission to take the food out to the cabin. Some eateries like O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub on the Norwegian Breakaway wrap the dishes with saran wrap for passengers.
If these options don’t work, families can always dine at the buffet or order room service.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism show

 

Shows

Parents of children who want to attend the shows but can’t wait in long lines should know that guests line up by the door to get good seats as early as half an hour in advance.
Therefore, parents should not only book tickets in advance but call Guest Relations and let them know their need to be pre-seated. At times Guest Relations or the Activities Director can even give families VIP seats. They have even been known to bring chairs and place them in the very back of the theater away from the crowds for guests if necessary.

Sometimes, children will want to see a specific show on the cruise, but tickets will get sold out. In this situation, parents should contact Guest Services and ask to be put on a waitlist. Last minute unexpected cancellations always happen.

 

 Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

Stimulation Overload

For children who want to attend a show but might find it an overwhelming sensory experience, parents should ask the Access Desk or Guest Services to hold seating near the theater exit for a quick exit if need be. Furthermore, some cruise lines like NCL provide headphones to kids with autism upon request.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pool

Meet and Greet Characters

Some ships offer “meet and greet” character experiences just like theme parks do, but these events often have long lines. Parents should go to Access Desk or Customer Service on the ship and ask if they could be first in line. During our trip with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Nickelodeon* staff in charge of the Meet and Greet was incredibly attentive and accommodating. The lady remembered our son from the morning activity and helped him on the line in the evening.

*This partnership has come to an end since our last cruise with NCL.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism flowrider

 

Sports Activities

It is best to book activities in advance. Parents can show their child what activities are offered onboard and ask which ones he or she would like best.

If there is one that they are unsure about, it is always better to book and later cancel than not to book at all. Parents can also ask the Access office if their child can try the activity before the attraction opens to the public or right after it closes. This way the staff might be able to give the child more specialized attention and keep them safer.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism kids

 

Kids Club Activities

Parents may want their child to enjoy the Kid’s Club, but the child might not fit into their age group.
In this case, after booking parents should let the Access desk know they wish to use the Kids Club and detail their child’s capabilities so the staff can best try to accommodate families. In some cases, the team will place older sibling with a younger acquaintance or sibling to assist the younger child.

For arts and crafts projects, parents can ask the staff member in charge if the family can take the activity to a quieter place like an empty lounge or the cabin. During one cruise, our son was given a full set of markers and two T-shirts to take back to the cabin thereby preventing a meltdown.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pool

Disembarkation

Disembarkation can often be even more chaotic than boarding. Before disembarkation, parents should arrange a no-wait time to exit the ship with Guest Services. Technically, the cruise-line can take passengers through the crew elevators and get them disembarked within minutes if necessary. In most cases, cruise line staff can schedule an early departure for families to avoid the crowds.In the case that the staff can’t accommodate the family, parents should consider staying till the last passengers get off and then leave.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism stair

These days, many more cruise lines are aware of autism and will be happy to accommodate any family. The most important thing for parents to remember is the importance of communication. Hence, they should never be shy about explaining accurately what their child requires. Furthermore, they need to understand that Guest Services and staff are there to help and the more information they have about one’s child with autism, the easier it will be for them to help.

 

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS?

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? pin

 

With more and more cities offering a “city pass,” many families might be wondering if it is worth it. On a recent trip to Boston, we decided to grab city passes and ended up saving some money!

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? building

What is it?        

The Boston CityPASS is a ticket that can work for admission to the city’s four major attractions – the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and either the Skywalk Observatory or the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Currently, a CityPASS is $49 for adults (ages 12+) and $36 for children (ages 3-11). Buyers also get nine consecutive days to visit the attractions, beginning on the first day of use.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? turtle

We got it for the day and focused on the four main sites within the city. Since Boston is a compact city, it is easy to get from place to place. We wanted a mixture of art, history, and animal interactions. Here’s what we got to see in one day.

Pros

Buying the CityPASS in advance saves visitors 46% off what they would pay if they paid for each attraction individually. Also, the CityPASS will also save time because it allows buyers to skip the ticket line.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? flag

Cons

This card isn’t the best option for families who don’t want to visit a large number of attractions in a short amount of time since it is pricey.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

While the Museum of Fine Arts is not as interactive or kid friendly as the other local museums, they have family programs throughout the week, most of which are included in the admission cost. The exhibits change throughout the year and include paintings, photographs and sculptures from artists around the world, with a variety of themes.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? art

The museum is located at 465 Huntington Avenue. Their hours are 10 am – 4:45 pm Sat-Tue and 10 am – 9:45 pm Wed-Fri. Our son found the furniture exhibit interesting.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Weekday afternoons are the best time to visit to avoid crowds.
  • The museum has a café on-site, but limited parking.
  • The museum is wheelchair friendly. They also provide large type maps, ASL interpreters, and Assistive Listening Devices.

The Museum of Science

This museum is ideal for families who want to interact with the over 700 exhibits. There is something for everyone! Permanent exhibits include birds, butterflies, dinosaurs, the moon, math, engineering, and micro-robotics. The museum also has a 3D theater, a Planetarium, a Butterfly Garden, and a Theater of Electricity, some of which come with an additional fee.

The day we visited we got to see a traveling Pixar exhibit which delighted our son with autism.

The museum is located at 1 Science Park. It is open from 9 am – 5 pm most days.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? sign

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is on-site parking, a café and gift shop.
  • Weekday afternoons are the best time to go to avoid crowds.
  • The museum is wheelchair and stroller friendly. They also offer assistive listening systems.
  • Families who require sighted guides or interpreters for a foreign language or ASL need to request the service two weeks in advance.

The New England Aquarium

Kids will enjoy looking for harbor seals on the Front Plaza and seeing Myrtle, a 550-pound sea turtle. The aquarium is kid friendly, with an interactive sea turtle exhibit and the largest “touch tank” on the east coast, with over 100 animals available for children to feel. There is also a whale-watching cruise from April-October for an additional fee.The aquarium is located at 1 Central Warf.

By the time we reached the Aquarium our son was somewhat burnt out, so we focused mainly on visiting the penguins before heading to the Wharf’s Legal Seafood for a late lunch. It is open Mon-Fri from 9 am – 5 pm, and on weekends and holidays until 6 pm.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? penguin

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The aquarium has on-site parking and is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
  • There is a café on-site.
  • Personal photography is allowed.
  • The best time to visit to avoid crowds is as soon as the aquarium opens.

Skywalk Observatory

The Skywalk Observatory may be a bit frightening for those with a fear of heights, but well worth the trip to see a 360-degree view of the city. It is the only observatory in New England and is found on the fiftieth floor of the Prudential Center. Also at the Observatory is the Dreams of Freedom Museum, an educational experience to give children (and adults) a sense of not just Boston’s, but America’s cultural history through interactive exhibits.

We arrived late in the day to the Observatory which worked out well since visibility was better in the afternoon. Also, this stop was short since there wasn’t much to see except a short intro movie and the spectacular city views. However, we were thrilled to discover the Observatory was next to a great shopping mall that offered multiple dinner options.

This observatory is located at 800 Boylston Street. It is open daily from 10 am – 10 pm in the summer and from 10 am – 8 pm in the winter.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? wood

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The observatory is wheelchair accessible.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • Families can get a self-guided audio tour.
  • Guests can enjoy the gift shop and restaurant on the fifty-second floor of the Prudential Center.
  • Due to weather and special events, the 360-degree view may not always be open. Parents should check the website or call before going.

Overall as a family with autism we found the pass helpful as it a fast way to visit several landmarks on the same day without standing in lines.

Have you tried the Boston passes? What was your experience?

 

How Travel Helped with My Child’s Sensory Challenges

how-travel-helped-with-my 

Many parents to kids with autism cringe at the mere thought of traveling with their kids. They focus on how the kids’ routine will be altered which will lead to heightened anxiety and meltdowns. However, that may not always be the case. Traveling could also not only help educate kids but assist them in many unforeseen ways. For our son with autism, we found regular travel has benefited him with his sensory challenges as well as life skills. To encourage other parents to try traveling with their kids we decided to share some of the ways travel helped our son with autism.

Walking on the Beach

Our son dealt with many sensory issues when it came to beach trips. We decided to take a compulsory beach vacation every year to get him acclimated to swimming. It wasn’t easy the first time he had to walk on the sand! It was in Tulum, Mexico. Initially, he cursed, screamed, and stopped every minute to clean his shoes of sand and debris. We slowly worked on his sensory issues and eventually the persistence paid off for him and us.
How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges sand

 

Feeling Confident to Swim

Our son reacted similarly to water every time we encouraged him to swim. Though our son knew how to swim, he had to be thrown into the pool every year to re-familiarize him with water.

The breakthrough came in Ixtapa, Mexico when he had to swim in a deep pool to play with dolphins during a dolphin experience. He first panicked and held on to the side rails not wanting to let go at any cost. We pointed out that he could try holding on to his life jacket instead (just to give him some confidence) and it worked well. Soon he played with the dolphins and forgot he was in deep water.
How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges water

 

Masks on His Face

Like many other kids with autism or sensory integration disorder problems, our son did not agree to wear anything on his face for a long time. This fact finally changed when we started visiting the Caribbean Islands, and he saw his dad and brother snorkeling.

The first year he opted not to wear any mask on his face and therefore he couldn’t go snorkeling. The following year he asked to try and go snorkeling in the open sea. This year, after experiencing Seatrek, he asked if he could take scuba diving lessons. So over time we gained a lot of ground, but it did take a lot of time and patience.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges seatrek

Wearing Hats and Mittens

Our son is particularly temperature sensitive and for many years refused to wear any jacket or even long sleeves. It was quite a challenge to travel with him during winter months. On some trips when the temperature frequently dropped below zero, it was especially difficult.

We’re glad to say that nowadays he has gotten used to wearing coats, hats, and even mittens. This fact makes it easier for all of us to travel to many places with colder climates.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges coat

Tolerating New Smells

Tolerating smells was exceptionally hard for our son in Asia since many of the dishes use pungent spices that our son had never smelled before. Like everything else, we focused on exposure and desensitization in small increments. So now when he experienced a  new odor, he wants to explore and discover what it is rather than try to avoid it.

 

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges dorian

Tolerating Noises

Tolerating noises has been one of our top issues while traveling. It was especially challenging whenever we stayed in hotels or on cruise ships. After a decade of traveling it is only recently that he has gotten better about falling asleep even if he hears minor noises that he’s not used to.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges cusco

Touched by Strangers

As frequent travelers, we pass through airports at least once a month, so the TSA was an ongoing issue for our son. Even though we always explained his diagnosis to the agents, it became exceedingly difficult. We ended up getting the Global Entry pass to help him with his anxiety. This year the breakthrough we were waiting for came.Our son now reacts better to strangers touching him, if necessary, not only at the TSA but in other public places where crowds are typical. These areas include theme parks, museums, malls, and in particular countries where proximity between people is the norm.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges airport

Crowds

As a rule of thumb, we have tried the best we could to avoid going to places that have crowds. However, sometimes it is unavoidable. We’re happy to say that although our son is far from being comfortable in a group, he is now handling it much better.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges crowds

Lines

When we first started traveling as a family, standing in a line, even a short one, was pretty much an impossibility. With time this has become a little bit better. Nowadays we can stay in line for up to twenty minutes, especially if it is for an item or attraction in which our son has an interest.He sat in the sweltering sun for over half an hour to get the coveted autograph of a character in Hogsmeade.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges potter

Trying New Foods and Textures

Like many other kids growing up, our son preferred fast food items to regular food. However, all that changed once we started traveling and he got introduced to new dishes in the various countries we visited. Now our son is probably the most adventurous eater out of the entire family. Our son always wants to sample new items that even we, his parents, and other seasoned travelers might find a bit unappealing.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges food

 

Travel is a great way for kids with autism to get exposed to new sensations. It is also a great way for parents to help teach kids how to handle certain situations. Parents need to focus on the big picture without short-term setbacks discouraging them. Bottom line, persistence pays for both parents and their children, particularly when they have special needs.

How Travel Helped with My Child's Sensory Challenges camels

 

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