Buckle Up and Create Priceless Memories

From the minute I saw her, I knew we would be good friends.
‘She’ was my reliable daily companion never once complaining about the many errands she had to go each day- my shiny Toyota Sienna forest green minivan. Like most moms, I didn’t willingly switch from my snazzy compact car to a mom mobile.

Family Roadtrips-Buckle Up and Create Priceless Memories green toyota

I took my time.
But once my kids hit that pre-school age I knew I had to change my car.
I had more stuff to carry, more children to take on playmates and more places to go.

And that car took us everywhere!

Family Roadtrips-Buckle Up and Create Priceless Memories freeway

With our kids safely buckled in their spacious car seats -yes, I was pretty anal about checking them each time; we used to explore L.A ‘s attractions every weekend.
Many times I even volunteered to take some of my kids’ friends along on play dates as long as their parents would bring their car seat with them.
In those days, my van resembled a play house filled with stuffed animals, Legos, and happy meal figurines.

Then came the road trips.
Our kids were reasonably ok about sitting in their car seats for 20-30 minutes and playing with toys, but I needed a sure way to occupy them for longer periods of time.

I went out and bought each kid a video player and a Gameboy.

Yes, it was somewhat expensive in those days (got grandma to chip in and split the costs) but driving for a few hours without listening to whining and bickering was priceless.
Looking back, it was that year that helped us bond as a family and encouraged us to start our decade-long era of family travel. Talk about precious family moments!

Family Roadtrips-Buckle Up and Create Priceless Memories sunset

We ended up driving up and down the California Coast, visiting all twenty-one missions and exploring three of its magnificent national parks. As my kids grew older, we traveled with our Sienna to neighboring states and even across the country to Florida for my younger son’s college visits.

Last year I finally sold my Sienna to a young family that was planning its first road trip. After we signed the appropriate paperwork and gave them the car keys, I helped transfer their kids’ car seats to the van.

I know; old habits die-hard…

 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Toyota Buckle for Life baby

Want to learn about car seat safety -join #TMOM ‘s Monday, Sept 8th at 9 pm Eastern time Twitter Party or Wednesday, September 10th Google Plus Hangout at noon –2 pm   Eastern time where you can get your specific safety questions and concerns answered.

Do you pledge to buckle up for life? Great! We’re giving away a brand new car seat to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on the post below or our autistic globetrotting Facebook page to be entered in our raffle. The seat you receive will be based on your child’s needs. U.S. Residents only. The contest ends on Wednesday, September 10th at midnight. Good luck!

 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Toyota Buckle Up for Life project

Checklist for Road Tripping with your Child with Autism

Travel doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane and traveling for extended hours – it can be as simple as a road trip to a different city or state. Similar to plane travel the pre-planning stage is important and Autistic Globetrotting has you covered with a handy checklist, so you don’t forget anything!

 

Checklist for Road Tripping with your Child with Autism freeway

Gather information

  • Will you be able to buy supplies or snacks along the way or do you need to bring everything with you?
  • What are the medical facilities along the way if your child with special needs requires medical care?
  • Where are bathrooms along the way? An iPhone app such as “Sit or Squat” can help you with this one.
  • Where are the best spots or attractions to stop and stretch that will be entertaining for your child?

Stock up

  • Bring your bag of tricks with games, coloring books, and videos to occupy your child.
  • Don’t forget your electronic gadgets and your recharge chords, especially for the car. You might want to get two in case one is defective or gets broken.
  • Bring extra batteries!
  • Headphones for your child to enjoy the movies or music and not disturb other passengers.
  • Bring trash bags, tissues, and duct tape (it fixes everything!).

The Vehicle

 When using your car:

  • Take it and get everything checked before you leave, such as tire pressure, A/C or heat, and seat belts.
  • Have the car serviced close to the time of travel?
  • Become an AAA member so you will be protected in the event of a roadside emergency.
  • Review your auto policy to make sure everything is up to date and to make sure you have your most recent insurance card and registration information in your car.
  • Bring maps/GPS.

When renting a car:

  • Shop early for good rental prices via the Internet, but also call local offices directly as it can be cheaper. Also, check if your hotel offers any cheap car rental packages.
  • Check for any discounts – credit union, AAA, Costco.
  • Double check your contract to know what documentation or membership cards you need to present.
  • Be aware of their mileage policy especially the excess miles you may have to pay for.
  • Clarify the exact operating hours-open and close.
  • Enroll in the car rental loyalty programs for upgrades.
  • Ask if they can add satellite radio or GPS service
  • Check to make sure the lights, windows, doors and SEAT BELTS are working properly.
  • Photograph the car – front and back – with the attendant there to avoid any bogus claims later. Also, make sure your camera has a stamped date.

 What you need for your child with autism in a rental car:

  • Bring your vehicle seat or check for car seat availability.
  • Opt for Captain chairs -more comfortable for your kids and they won’t fight over space.
  • Check where the AC/heating vent is and how close your child is sitting to it.
  • Check safety features, such as childproof locks, and locking window buttons.
  • Rent a satellite radio service that provides entertainment.
  • Look into renting/bringing your DVD player with movies for long haul travel.
  • Ask for a nonsmoking car if your kid has allergies.

 

What tips have you picked up along the way that you could add to our list?

 

Scary Cab Drivers You Don’t Want To Meet

One of my biggest fears while traveling is being involved in a car accident and landing with my kid with autism in a foreign country hospital setting.
However, both my husband and I don’t want to drive around much during our vacations, especially internationally where many times they drive on the “wrong” side of the street. That pretty much leaves us at the mercy of taxi cabs and public transportation, and we have accumulated quite the collection of good, bad and ugly cab stories over the years.

The Good

The ‘good’ were chatty, friendly and did a great job driving us from point A to point B efficiently and without much fanfare.

We experienced a pleasant cab ride in Cape Canaveral from the cab lady recommended by the hotel concierge. She did a superb job driving at the right speed, stayed in her lane at all times, was an excellent conversationalist, and drove the cleanest SUV imaginable.
She was one of the few people I’ve enjoyed riding with in many months.
However, excellent driving doesn’t make for many interesting stories, and I thank my lucky stars I haven’t encountered the ‘ugly’ yet – and hope I never will. That leaves me with one category: the ‘bad’.

 

Scary Cab Drivers You Don't Want To Meet yellow cab
The Bad

My main gripe with bad cabbies is speeding, but zooming in and out of traffic is a very close second.
The speeders are usually found at airports, and they’re the ones who make you feel as if you are still flying, but this time on terra firma.
The ‘swervers’ are found in cities, zooming in and out of traffic faster than whirling dervish dancers. I dislike both kinds immensely, especially when my kids are in the car.
Sometimes, you get unlucky, and the two are combined in the nightmare driver, the one who has decided to break his record. For those, I have a three-step technique that usually works in calming them down.

• Step One: Casually mention (loudly) to another family member how fast he is driving over the permitted speed. Wait a moment to see if there is a reaction or if the speed slows.

• Step Two: Ask the driver directly to slow down and promise to cover the extra cost of the time involved. I calmly add that I get car sick at high speeds and during sharp turns. At this point, most comply, but some pretend they’ve lost their English skills.

• Step Three: This involves retching sounds and quite a bit of sign language. Most drivers give up and just do as I ask; no sane cabbie wants to spend an extra half hour cleaning vomit from his car’s upholstery.

And then, there are those awful experiences that make for great around the dinner table stories.

 

The Real Bad

In Puerto Vallarta, we had a couple of harrying trips. While flying up and down the cobblestone roads on the way to the Zona Romantica, I was convinced that the massive crack across the windshield would break and kill my dear husband sitting in the passenger seat. On the way back to the cruise ship, our driver kept veering in and out of traffic, insisting he’s the second best driver in town. The first was his mother; she’s currently semi-retired due to a “minor traffic violation”.

In Rio, we took a cab from the airport to our hotel in CopaCabana some half hour away.At first, the driver seemed like he had mastered some basic English but that all vanished when started driving a hundred some miles-an-hour.He didn’t budge even when I  repeatedly asked him to slow down. When we finally arrived at our destination, he parted with a smile and explained he drove faster than usual since  he knew his brakes were failing and he thought it would be best to get us to our destination ‘as soon as possible.’

But no story is better than the one about our cab ride last summer in London, where we experienced the misfortune of having a ‘swerve-r’ take us back to our hotel after a theater show. It was like riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but faster and without any of the Disney pizzazz or comforting safety bars. It was quite dark outside; he kept turning left and right quickly and narrowly missing pedestrians and other vehicles. I felt incredibly blessed to have cheated death that night and felt he deserved a small tip for his misguided services. My husband disagreed; he found my terrorized expression so hilarious that he tipped the driver generously.

Have you ever had a scary taxi experience?
What did you learn from it?

Taking Your Child With Autism On A Bus Trip

Bus travel is finally on the rise in the last few years after many years of dwindling reservations, and for good reason.The new buses are not the old stuffy, uncomfortable vehicles that dominated the seventies and eighties, but new luxurious ones with extra leg space, assigned seating and free Wi-Fi.

So assuming your child with autism does not get car sick, you should add bus travel to your list of experiences. Here are some pointers to help make the trip more memorable.

Taking your child with Autism on a Bus Trip Disney bus

Planning

 

  • Check multiple websites for the best prices before booking, and always inquire about additional discounts available to students, military, retirees and some credit union members.
  • Take advantage of two for one promotion as well as kids travel free offers if valid.
  • For multiple trips consider buying a pass.
  • Consider booking a short trip (under three hours )  for your first adventure to make sure bus travel is for you and your child with autism.
  • Seating- Book a window seat that is next to an outlet in the front of the bus since some people feel more claustrophobic in the back.
  • Stay away from back seats that do not recline and what might become smelly lavatories.

What you should remember to pack

 

  • Pack -additional carry-on bags for each member of your travel party  and label the bags accordingly
  • An extra set of clean clothes in case an unexpected food spill happens and a couple of extra pairs of underwear if sudden diarrhea strikes
  • Adult diapers/good nights on longer trips if potty training is an issue.
  • Food snacks that do not require refrigeration as well as, bottled drinks, especially water are important.
  • Wipes to clean hands, seats, toys, electronics and even spills off clothing in need be.
  • Entertainment -Electronics are by far the ‘it’ choice-laptops /netbooks since there is free Wi-Fi, DVD players, music players, mini video games,e -readers, and all the assorted pods.Remember to engrave your belongings to ensure other people do not mistake them for theirs and do.
    Don’t forget to bring a small light for the e-readers.
  • For younger kids, a bag of goodies from the local dollar store that are given out at regular intervals might prevent meltdowns and encourage better behavior.
  • Older kids might enjoy a digital camera so he or she can take ‘window shots’ of what is interesting to them during the bus ride.
    Later laminating or printing the pictures and binding them with a ring make beautiful souvenir book.Avoid toy sets with multiple pieces like Legos (that will have you on your hands and knees looking for pieces) and items that make noise makers and will disturb fellow passengers.Avoid toy sets with multiple pieces like Legos (that will have you on your hands and knees looking for pieces) and items that make noise makers and will disturb fellow passengers.
  • Use an I.D. tag, temporary tattoo or bracelet, especially if your kid is nonverbal.Don’t forget to pack all medicines and medical information that pertain to your child.

Ever taken your child with Autism on a bus trip if so, what would you like to add to the list?

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