Stress Free Flight with Autism? It Can Be Done!

This month’s question for the “Ask  Margalit’ is one that many parents have struggled with over the years, and it is how to have stress-free flights with special needs kids.


Dear Margalit
When I was single and before we had children, flying felt like an incredible adventure.
I may be wrong but nowadays getting on a plane seems far more stressful, and that is without children.Add on kids and the stress level shoots up through the roof!
I live in Houston, Texas, with my husband who is originally from Bulgaria and my twin boys, nine who are “on the spectrum”, so I’ve been reluctant to take them on any long haul flight.
However, the situation has changed this year because my father-in-law who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria has become gravely ill, and we have to visit him.
Can you suggest ways to avoid irritating situations that can provide children with autism and their frazzled parents with a relatively stress-free flight?
Thanks,
@HoustonAllie

 

 

Stress Free Flight with Autism? It Can Be Done! lounge

 

Dear HoustonAllie,
I hear what you are saying, and it’s true.
The standing in lines and having security checks just seem to drag the whole process out, and meltdowns can be frequent.
For peace of mind, I recommend the three top things that can make your life easier: Global Entry, Airport Assistance, and  Airport Lounges.

Global Entry

I can’t mention and recommend the US Global Entry program enough.
It is invaluable for both international and domestic flights; ensuring you bypass the lines and benefit from the TSA’s pre-check program too.
My family members got their cards so now we don’t have to wait at immigration and we can still keep our jackets, jewelry, shoes, and belts on, not to mention my medicines and liquids that can stay in my hand luggage.

 

Airport Assistance

The next thing that you can do is ask for Airport Assistance.
It provides travelers with automatic pre-boarding and sometimes a separate waiting area is provided which is great to prevent anxiety from crowds, not to mention, access to the handicap lines when going through security and immigration checks. Airport assistance provides passengers with the option of getting individual transportation within the airport so that you don’t have to be shuttled between terminals in the regular buses or trains, a service we’ve useful after long haul flights when children are tired and irritable
The other benefit of having Airport Assistance is that you get help with kids and luggage on and off the plane which is great when there are air stairs attached to the aircraft instead of the more modern walkway.

Stress Free Flight with Autism? It Can Be Done! vehicle

Airport Lounge.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the noise and the crowds can be extremely stressful for children with autism as well as adults, so the best way to avoid that is to get access to airport lounges where there is complimentary Wi-Fi, food and a place to charge your mobile devices.

Gaining access to airport lounges is done in one of the several ways; credit cards (you can call the airline to check which ones qualify), upgrade to business/first class, special permission or buying a day pass.
I can’t tell you how many times the lounge has saved us.
Did you know that some lounges even have designated rooms for families that have kid’s movies and DVD players?

 

 

Stress Free Flight with Autism? It Can Be Done! play area

In addition, except these three main tips, there are a few others I’d like to mention in passing.
In today’s chaotic world striving to be as self-sufficient as possible is a huge bonus so try to bring as many items as possible to make your child comfortable on board.
As
 a frequent flyer, I pack two tablets and phones with recharge wires in case the entertainment system on the aircraft fails or at times is absent.I wear a Scottevest that helps me carry electronics, wipes and even drink bottles purchased at the airport onboard.

 If your kids need to let out steam, many airports have designated play areas and some like MSP (Minneapolis), and Logan (Boston) have quiet spots complete with rocking chairs.

I can’t stress enough that the most important thing to make your flying experience easier is communication; with your children and with the airline and airport staff.

As a parent, you should let the airline know ahead of time what your child needs regarding accommodations including preferential seating and food.It is helpful to be prepared beforehand, knowing that the authorities and airport personnel are there for your protection and you that you have arranged to be able to take advantage of the benefits provided.
Your children can thereby have an easier journey, and you can have peace of mind knowing that they are content and not about to have a meltdown in public.

Happy flying!

Margalit

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

 Now that you have survived all of the pre-travel preparation and the actual cruise itself, it’s time to wrap things up and plan for your departure.
Just like your pre-travel planning, it is just as important to make a checklist so that you don’t leave anything on the ship or have any problems on the way home.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Don’t wait until the last moment to pack your suitcases
Pack a separate bag for each family member  using  our color coded system  in  2.5-gallon Ziploc bags for their belongings. Using this method will make  life  easier when doing laundry after you return home since everyone can deal their own items .If  you need to have two people  share a suitcase, reserve one side for every individual so items won’t get mixed up.

Check the cabin thoroughly
Move the nightstands and look under the beds in case you have some items that fell down and were hidden. I’m not a big fan of using room/cabin cabinets and drawers for many reasons, but I still check to make sure my son with autism did not decide to ‘hide’ something in there.

Start planning your vacation albums
Put your pictures on your days at sea on a CD or upload into the computer so it will be easier to remind your child with autism about his or her vacation as well as  have a backup  in the event that something happens to your phone or camera during travel. Walk around the ship and take those pictures you wanted while everyone is busy packing.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Finish up any onboard credit and check out the sales
Check the last minute sales and do purchase those 2 for $20 t-shirts the stores offer the night before you reach your destination since the shops close when the ship is in port. This is the day to return any purchases you want to return or exchange!

Check your flight
Make sure you check your flight info in advance so you are aware of any last minute changes in your flight (including aircraft size and seating.) If you haven’t used automatic check-in ( and you should!!)  then print your flight boarding passes early in the morning,  you will encounter a line later on in the day.

Don’t wait until the last minute!
Check your bill throughout the cruise and don’t wait till the last evening – you are bound to encounter a long line at customer service!
Wish to dine in a specialty restaurant or try an attraction you didn’t get a chance to try during the cruise -make sure you book in advance since many people want last minute reservations too.

Five Tips to Survive the Last Day of Your Cruise

Have you gone on a cruise with your family? How did you spend your last day onboard?

 

Say Yes to the Global Entry Program

This month’s ‘Ask Margalit’ section deals with the Global Entry program that the TSA  has recently launched in the United States and whether it presents and any benefits for the autism community.

Hi, Margalit.

 “I’m writing from Ohio. I travel quite a bit here in the US and sometimes abroad. I have a daughter who has autism, and I would love to be able to take her with me on some of my trips, but one of the things that put me off is the long lines and waiting times in the airports. Her meltdowns are not good for her or anybody else. Have you made use of the Global Entry Program? Would you recommend it? I would appreciate any information you have.”

Thanks in advance,
Sally

Dear Sally,Say Yes to the Global Entry Program line

I am glad you asked about the Global Entry Program. The program is entirely suited for special needs families and those with autism benefit.
I wholeheartedly recommend and endorse it.

We have used it for both domestic and international flights for the past two years, and it has improved our travel experience so much!

Instead of standing in the Customs and Border Patrol lines, there are quick self-check kiosks which have been so helpful for our son with autism. It eliminates the extended wait, and if there is any difficulty with the kiosk, there are officers there to resolve them.

What helps us is that we get access to the TSA Pre-check benefits so we don’t have to remove clothing items and can also keep our medicines, electronic goods, and medicines in our carry-on luggage – all things which can contribute to a meltdown. Even during busy times, the lines are shorter.

The price is reasonable and considering that the TSA pre-check program is $85 per person, it made sense to me to pay the extra $15 to have access to both the programs. I wholeheartedly recommend this program for anyone that travels as it saves so much time when you enter back into the US from an international destination.

The process is simple- It entailed an application online, and then in less than a month we received notification via e-mail to come for interviews.
Interviews are scheduled at your local office at your convenience but be aware there might be a wait now that summer vacations are being planned.
The interview process is ten minutes long, and all we needed to do was answer a few questions and get fingerprinted.
Prepare your daughter with autism for that but it shouldn’t be a big deal. A week later we got the email notification that we were approved and a few weeks after that we received the actual card in the mail. Once you are registered in the system you don’t even need to carry the real card but some do as a second form of identification. It is valid for 5 years, and totally worth it if you fly more than once a year.

For us the approval process was very quick.A week later we got the email notification that we were approved and a few weeks after that we received the actual card in the mail. Once you are registered in the system you don’t even need to carry the real card but some do as a second form of identification.
It is valid for 5 years, and totally worth it if you fly more than once a year.

Have you tried the Global Entry program yet?
What were your experiences?

 

 

 

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas pin

This ship owned and operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is the namesake of the cruise line’s Freedom-class. Capable of carrying over five thousand passengers and crew members the ship mostly travels to ports in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas ship

What Makes it Family Worthy?

Filled with family-friendly activities this ship is sure to entertain its passengers. Moreover, the vessel boasts quad cabins and connecting rooms that accommodate large families.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas promenade

Fellow Travelers

This cruise line is incredibly popular with families, but active retirees and couples may also find this ship appealing too.Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas sampling

Decor

This vessel like its sister ships is decorated in dark hues of browns, greens, and touches of gold. The main thoroughfare its Royal Promenade boasted plenty of natural light from its skylight ceiling windows.

Despite the ship’s size the ship has a spacious atmosphere even when filled.We enjoyed the bright neon lighting deployed at night time throughout the outdoor decks and promenade that gave the ship an upbeat Times-Square-like vibe.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas lamp

Our promenade facing cabins were outfitted with tasteful artwork,  glass-topped coffee tables, and solid green couches. Light colored wood trims enhanced the bedroom area. Our bathroom floors were done up in colorful blue and green tile, while the rest of the room displayed neutral colors.
Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas show

Amenities

With so many activities to choose from at the different times of day, vacationers need to scrutinize their daily planner carefully, so they don’t miss anything! Our son with autism was obsessed with reading the pamphlets the night before so he could schedule his day.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas planner

 

For the outdoor fans, the ship has pools, court .a simulated FlowRider, a skating rink, a mini golf range, a rock climbing wall and a basketball court.Those wishing to exercise indoors can do so in a spacious gym.

Guests who enjoy taking classes can learn to scuba, surf or decorate cupcakes.The classes are somewhat pricey, but our son was so fascinated with them he agreed to pay for them from his allowance.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas cake

Apart from the obligatory Kids’ Clubs, the ship features Dreamworks experiences like special shows, Parades, Meet and Greet sessions and even Character Breakfasts. Our kids attended the daily movie screenings in the ship’s newly minted 3D theater.
Adults may instead want to check out the casino. Although admission is free of charge, reservations are encouraged for those that want to attend the highly popular ice show that takes place on a regular basis

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas pool

When it comes to dining options, the Freedom of  Seas offers many options aimed to please passengers of all ages.
Except for the main dining rooms with their singing waiters and Windjammer Buffet the ship has a Johnny Rockets burger joint, a Ben and Jerry ice cream parlor and Chops, a specialty steak house.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas theater

In the late afternoon and evening, this ship breams with entertainment options for its guests. From well-choreographed ice skating shows, Broadway reviews to promenade parades there’s never a dull moment onboard.Our kids loved the 70’s disco party that featured the well- loved era hits and dances.

 

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas cupcake

Our connecting cabins

We stayed in the connecting cabins 8279 and 8281 on deck eight.
What was wonderful about it was these cabins provided us with changing views (of the promenade and are safer than balcony cabins when traveling with a kid with autism.

5981750253_0a82e90180_oThe only minor inconvenience with connecting rooms is the fact the cruise line locks the connecting door on boarding day, and it takes a few hours till the cabin steward arrives with the keys to unlock it.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas beds

Both cabins had an extremely large flat screen television sets that sat atop large cabinets. A closet with ample shelving was likewise included in each room which was useful to store our belongings. The desk area contained all the usual accouterments and had several outlets for charging electronic devices.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas bag

Our sons were pleasantly surprised when the teen club staff sent welcome gifts up to our cabins and added a personal invitation for both boys to come and check the club out.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas sink

Our bathrooms

The bathroom areas were well laid out and l lit. I particularly liked the shower sliding door because it provided some privacy for those taking a shower. The shower pod also featured some racks to place soap and other bath products.Bright florescent lighting and a wide sink area complemented the décor.

Family Fun Cruising Aboard Freedom of the Seas breakfast

Autism Travel Tips

  • The process of boarding the ship was a breeze after I had called Royal Caribbean’s special needs dept and requested accommodations.We were cleared with passports checked and luggage scanned in less than fifteen minutes.The terminal RCCL uses in Port Everglades is large, but it was still quite crowded at 2 pm when we arrived.
  • One of the first things we do after boarding is to grab lunch before the muster drill as all food areas close for the muster drill.
  • Next, we hurry the activity centers to register for the different activities since the popular ones fill fast.
  • Passengers wishing to try out the specialty restaurants onboard should do so on boarding day when it is less crowded, and no one insists on any dress code.

    The staff on this ship wowed us. We were warmly greeted by our cabin steward who wanted to ask us what we needed as soon as we arrived. We also found the staff at the various dining , entertainment and activities venues mindful and offering their help throughout the trip. Furthermore we wanted to extend a heart felt thank you to the ship’s captain who took time to chat with our son and sign his ship model and Celine in Guest Relations.

 

 

 

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite pin
The Norwegian Breakaway operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines has a total of 1,024 staterooms and 238 suites.With the Rockettes as its godmothers and New York City as its base, it is one of the most glamorous cruise ships navigating the high seas.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite ice

Having never cruised with Norwegian cruise lines before we decided to book a two-night cruise to nowhere solely for the purpose of enjoying the ship. Although ,we usually book inside cabins this time so I splurged on a mini-suite with a balcony.
Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite maxx

Decor

The ship is decorated in a sleek modern style with vibrant colors and heavy use of metallics. Unlike other vessels we’ve cruised on, this one has a hip almost avantgarde vibe to it starting with the Peter Maxx painted the hull.Bright murals splashed across the front of the ship, the gym, and the pool areas complemented the look.

.
Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite stairs

 

We stayed in suite 10834, which was cozy though it was oddly shaped and relatively narrow. Our contemporary decorated suite featured tan wave patterned carpeting in the bedroom and light tan tile flooring in the bathroom.

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite corridor

Our mini suite

As we entered, we noticed the emergency procedures prominently displayed on the back of the door. Another feature that caught our eye was the thermostat, allowing travelers to adjust the suite’s temperature to suit their preferences.
Underneath the temperature control device were buttons that could be pushed to indicate whether guests wanted their rooms freshened up or they did not wish to be disturbed by housekeeping.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite bell

The two double beds (that could be put together to form a queen ) were comfortable as were the crisp linens and fluffy hypoallergenic pillows supplied. There were two small nightstands beside the beds that could house books, electronics, or other items that needed to be readily accessed.

The cabin closet featured wooden shelving as well as the mini in-room safe. It was a bit of a stretch to reach from the beds to turn the lights on and off, but that was only a minor issue.
The suite’s large couch in the sitting area next to the beds could double as an extra bed for a teen that traveled with parents.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite beds

 

Across from the beds, there was a large television with a cabinet beneath it. The cabinet held a cooler that served as the suite’s mini-bar stocked with snacks and cold beverages for purchase. The suite also had a small work /vanity area with a phone and two outlets to charge our devices along with a small stool to sit on. The Coffee and tea making section took up the rest of the counter space.

 

The balcony

Originally I was reluctant to book a cabin with a balcony. However, I felt reassured when I saw the double locks on the sliding door. The two locks were tricky to open for most kids and provided that extra layer of peace of mind for parents to kids with autism.
The suite’s  balcony was surprisingly clean and overlooked the lifeboats offering a partial ocean view. But all in all,i t was large enough to sit in and enjoy the ocean breeze

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sofa

The suite’s bathroom

We loved the bathroom facilities.
There was a sufficiently large counter that could hold some towels along with two sinks. For additional storage, the bathroom had a wooden cabinet underneath the sinks.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite phone

The shower was large with a top-of- the -line handheld device that featured water jets.There were soap and shampoo dispensers provided by the cruise line.
The enclosure made of plain glass with no frosting provided no real privacy. We did appreciate the fact that the area had a grab bar for passengers who needed it. Furthermore, the raised section at the bottom of the shower helped prevent flooding which was a bonus.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sink

Autism Travel Tips 

  • The suite boasted two safety bars in the bathroom, one near the toilet and another in the shower. The bars allowed those with mobility issues to use these facilities.
  • Anti slip mats for the shower were not provided, so those that need this item will need to bring it along.
  • Parents might want to pack night lights to help family members navigate their way in the dark.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite jeff

 

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

Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes

I remember a decade ago when we first started traveling extensively how squeamish I was about flying to Savannah airport in a CRJ 700 plane. In my defense, I had flown earlier that year in a 25- seater plane from Vancouver to Seattle during a storm, which had traumatized me.

To my surprise, the flight ended up as one of the calmest and most uneventful one we had.
The service was impeccable ( SkyWest usually is), and the seats were more comfortable than most of the larger planes we’ve flown in.
Furthermore, we ended up chatting pleasantly with one another, which almost never happens with my teen sons.

 

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes plane

Since then we’ve flown several times on these planes (widely used to fly between smaller airports), and I can say we’ve pretty much gotten used to them.
With that said, we did encounter minor challenges that other families with autism should be aware of before booking their next flight this particular aircraft.

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes inside
The size

The CRJ 700  aircraft is small (17 rows) and divided into rows of two so a family of four can either sit in the same row across from each other or book two seats in one row with the other two in the row behind it.
Either way, since the aircraft is so small, you won’t be that far from the rest of your family members.

Tip: If your kid with autism tends to kick the seat in front of them book them a seat in the bulk row or behind you, so they don’t inconvenience fellow travelers.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes seat
Tiny overhead bins

As mentioned before, since this plane is small the overhead bins can’t usually accommodate the 20-inch carry-on suitcases.In the event, your carry-on doesn’t fit you can still give it to handlers at the departure gate (don’t check it in ahead of time) so you can get it back as you exit the aircraft at your destination.

Tip: Consider substituting a backpack (that fits better in the overhead bins) for your carry-on suitcase to pack crucial items like meds and electronics for your special needs kid that you need on a flight.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes overhead bin

Noise!

If your child is noise sensitive book a seat in the front since the CRJ 700 planes are quite noisy in the back.

Tip: stuck with seats in the back? Buy a pair of noise canceling headphones for your child to help tune out the noise.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes window
Temperature Control

Based on our flights I can say there is enough the temperature variance between the front and the back of the aircraft –while the front is cold, sometimes too cold, the back gets stuffy and hot!.

Tip: If your child with autism is temperature sensitive it is easier to book seats in the front and bring a blanket or jacket rather than struggle to stay cool in the back.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes aisle

No entertainment

Surprisingly enough, these planes come without personal screens, so you need to bring at least one preferably two electronic devices to occupy your kid.

Tip: Packing an extra battery in your handbag or carry-on is a good idea since the aircraft doesn’t have any outlets to recharge.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes restroom
Bathroom

Most of the planes we’ve flown on so far featured one single tiny bathroom for all passengers so there might be a queue to use it after takeoff and meals.

Tip: Teach your kid to think ahead and use the airport restroom before boarding to avoid the lines.

Have you flown on a CRJ 700 aircraft with your special needs child what was your experience?

What was your experience?

 

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas

 pin family-cruise-aboard-allure-of-the-seas-1

 

Owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines,  Allure of the Seas is an Oasis-class cruise ship commissioned and built in Finland.After cruising her sister ship  Oasis of the Seas that offered family friendly amenities we decided to spend a Thanksgiving vacation onboard.


Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas glass

What Makes It Family Worthy?

Traveling on cruise ships is an affordable and stress-free way to plan a family vacation. With the vast selection of activities available onboard the ship’s various neighborhoods, travelers are sure to stay entertained throughout the entire voyage.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas park

Fellow Travelers

This ship mainly hosts families, but younger to middle-aged couples are also well represented.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas rock

Amenities

From the Windjammer Buffet, Johnny Rockets and Sorrento to specialty restaurants Chops, Izumi, Samba and 150 Central Park the dining possibilities onboard are close to endless. So, we felt we just had to try all the different venues and compare them. By far, our favorites were 150 Central Park (our kids still remember the salts) and Rita’s Cantina for the ambiance.

 

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas peep

The activities on this ship are a vacationer’s dream. Both our sons couldn’t get enough of the FlowRider, ziplining, rock climbing and yes, that wooden carousel.
A second best were the cupcake classes which were a bit pricey at 224 a person and a daily stroll through the Britto store.
Moreover, we found the afternoon and nightly shows fun; the highlight was attending a performance of the musical Chicago.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cupcakes
And if all these activities were not enough, the Dreamworks character breakfast and parades totally charmed our son with autism.
In fact, he sought out all the Dreamworks activities on the daily planner and made sure he didn’t miss any of them!

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas pool

Décor

Brightly hued, modern décor can be found throughout the Allure. The corridor we stayed on was decorated in yellow and had varicolored carpeting on the floors.

Our cabins were done up in shades of blue and turquoise.  The blue and yellow accents in our bathrooms did much to help enliven what typically are the blandest spaces in most cruise ship accommodations.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas carousel

Our adjoining cabins

We stayed in connecting cabins 151 and 153 on deck ten. As is the case with most cruise ships, the safety practices for the vessel were prominently displayed on the back of the doors. There was a master light switch near both entryways which made it easy to turn the lights on and off as we either came into the room or departed from it.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas golf

Our beds had plentiful pillows and the usual white bedding, but the included blue throws which added a note of color. There were two small wooden nightstands at either side of the beds and round mirrors above the sitting areas. Both closets included the usual amenities, such as built-in wooden hangers, and a cabinet that also housed the in-room safe.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas flowrider

The sitting areas had large couches, coffee tables, and waste baskets. Directly across from the spaces, there were work desks and chairs. On top of each desk were a small clock and a large flat screen television with a storage rack above.
Underneath each desk was a well-stocked mini fridge. Travelers who wanted to use the fridge for their purposes, like storing leftovers or medicines, needed to ask the staff to remove the mini bar contents first to avoid additional charges.
Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cabin Furthermore, both cabins had some readily available outlets that made charging our electronics a breeze.
There was also a full-length mirror in each room just outside the bathroom so that we could check our outfits before leaving the cabin.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas cooler

The Bathroom

Our bathrooms contained a sizeable shower pod with a frosted enclosure door that slid closed. The shower area featured a shampoo dispenser, a shelf for the soap, and hooks to hang up towels or swimsuits.  There was a large drain in the shower as well as another underneath the toilet that served to remove excess water and keep the bathroom floor dry.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas hottub

For furniture, the bathroom  boasted  a large, open wooden cabinet capable of holding our personal supplies. Additional hooks for holding towels and wet clothes were present on both the bathroom wall and door. Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas diningOverall the bathroom layout was suitable though  I felt the bathroom could have used an additional lighting fixture in the shower area. Also, wider counters and extra shelving would have helped improve the bathrooms functionality.

Family Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas zipline

Autism Travel Tips

  • Travelers can use the showerhead as a handheld device if that proves necessary.
  • Those who require bath mats for additional traction will need to bring their own
  • Royal Caribbean is known for accommodating passengers with autism and other special needs. Therefore, we called ahead of time to let the cruise line know what our son needed and were not disappointed.
  • We found the ship’s staff accommodating and helpful at all the venues. So we take the opportunity to mention to the cupcake class instructor who sat with our son and helped him get that puppy look that he was trying hard to create with the cream.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway

 

 

Operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Breakaway ship can accommodate up to four thousand passengers and a little over one thousand five hundred crew members on any given voyage. Trips on this vessel usually encompass parts of the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the Eastern seaboard of the United States. These cruises primarily are geared towards vacationing families and the activities listed below will certainly make great pastimes if you happen to be traveling with kids including those with autism.


Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway ropes
  The Aquapark

Depending on the outdoor ambient temperatures during your voyage, some travelers might decide to forgo this activity. When we sailed on the Breakaway, it was a chilling 40 degrees in NYC.However, that still didn’t deter some passengers to swim in the pools.
Cruise ship passengers headed to warmer climates will certainly want to bring their swimsuit along so they can try out the  five waterslides that found on the premises.  The small children pool nearby that featured a faux island in the middle and statues of Sandy the Squirrel, Patrick, and Sponge Bob Square Pants lined the area.

The outdoor attractions

Our son with autism couldn’t get enough off playing miniature golf, scaling the rock climbing wall, and testing our nerve on the high ropes course. A large number of teens and adults could be found participating in these pastimes during our voyage. The high ropes course seemed to be the most attractive with its zip-line style activities.  All the proper safety features appeared to be in place with helmets and harness available for the rock climbers and high ropes enthusiasts.
Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway toppings


Decorate your own cupcake.

This one is bound to give kids a sugar high!
Activity participants were provided with a plain cupcake to use as a blank canvas for their tasty creations. Available cupcake topping options included icing, sprinkles, gummy bears, M&Ms, and marshmallows.And the best part; passengers got to take their creations back to the cabin, popular show mom and dad or enjoy as a late snack.

 

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway sponge bob

Selfies with Nickelodeon characters

Both Patrick and SpongeBob were both available for photographic purposes during the cruise, much to our son’s delight. Passengers could find the exact time and places onboard where the familiar characters would show up, by reading the daily newsletter.  Our son didn’t encounter a long line the day he went to the meet and greet, but according to the staff,  longer lines could be expected during holiday and summer cruises.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway nick show


Participate in the Cream Pie Toss
.

Another activity our son who is an avid Nickelodeon fan enjoyed was the Nick show.The staff selected a member of the audience to partake, and she got to be ‘creamed.’Our son was disappointed he didn’t get chosen at first but then felt relieved that he didn’t have to wash up when he watched the show.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway jungle

Enjoy Broadway-style shows.

Many cruises offer musical extravaganza for their patrons to enjoy. These fun filled spectacles make a great way to past the time when ships are not in port.We got to see ‘Rock of the Ages’ musical which featured the 80s music.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway karoake

Be a part of a shipboard karaoke contest.

During our trip, this event took place on the small Impact stage which was surrounded by a sizeable audience. The competition’s emcee kept the hits rolling right along, and the group of backup musicians helped add just the right note to the proceedings.
Travelers that plan on showing off their talents should keep in mind that this family friendly event attracts lots of attention.Therefore, a stage debut here is probably not for the faint of heart even though the crowd was incredibly respectful of the impromptu performers.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway kids

 

Drop by the Kids Clubs.

The ship’s kid clubs have a lot of good activities to keep children’s boredom at bay when the ship is at sea.The Club is divided into colorful rooms and sections depending on the kids’ ages.There are different arts and crafts activities available. Our kids didn’t personally attend since they considered themselves ‘too grown up’ but we got a sneak peek tour and chatted with the activities director.

Top Family Fun Activities on Norwegian Breakaway teens

Autism Travel Tips

Parents need to be aware that cruise ships don’t provide lifeguards so parents need to be vigilant and watch their kids around the pools and slides.
The area surrounding the pool was a bit slippery so parents should consider bringing crocs or other closed toe water shoes for especially for younger kids.
Overall we discovered the cruise ship staff to be quite accommodating to special needs when we asked for help. The staff had our son with autism come to the activities either before they started or at the very end so he could get to do the activities without standing in the lines.

We were thrilled to discover the cruise line offered noise canceling devices to help noise sensitive kids during the shows.Also, we got pre- seating for the shows which helped our son enjoy the entertainment onboard.

Parents who would like their kids with autism to partake in the Meet and Greet but skip the long lines should ask the staff or help.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pin

Owned by the Princess Cruise Lines, this vessel is a Grand-class cruise ship that entered service in 2001. Sister ship of Grand Princess and Star Princess she can carry more than 3,600  passengers and crew.
Last month while the ship was traveling between L.A and the Mexican Riviera we decided to book a weekend cruise and enjoy the outstanding Princess amenities provided onboard.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess movies

What Makes it Family Worthy?

As we mentioned before we are huge fans of cruising since it is a way to enjoy a great vacation at a reasonable price, visit several ports yet unpack only once.
Though this particular ship offers less family friendly activities than its counterparts on competing cruise lines, it still had multiple venues to engage passengers of all age groups.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess blue

Fellow Travelers

Depending on its itinerary this vessel attracts more retirees and couples. However, families still make a decent sized segment of onboard guests.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess piano

Décor

The ship decor was modern using vibrant colors with wood accents throughout the vessel. The dining spaces were designed in hues of tans and browns while the entertainment areas looked more glitzy dressed in pinks, purples, and golds.

Neutral colors like cream and silver were prevalent in our bathroom, but the floor consisted of blue and white tiles arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The bedroom area was mostly decorated in white and other neutrals with lightly hued wood paneling throughout. There was also red patterned carpeting and a blue chair in our cabin blending some color to the overall design scheme.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess muster

Family Entertainment


As mentioned before, this particular ship had fewer entertainment options than other ships we had previously vacationed on.
With that said our son with autism enjoyed some of the ‘grown up’ activities that he had never tried before.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pool

We all tried the outdoor activities like the pools, water slides, mini golf, giant chess, shuffleboard, virtual bowling (WII) and ping pong games. He discovered Bingo which though a bit of a money pit helped him practice, his social interactions with staff and fellow passengers. Also, he found the cupcake decorating class fun so he went back the next day to do it again.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess chess

For evening entertainment, we did sit through a Broadway review of the British 60’s invasion songs which was mediocre, and we were disappointed the movie under the stars was canceled due to high winds.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

What was surprisingly good was an acrobatic show in the lobby area that we watched mesmerized, and the pretend New Year’s countdown party, a Princess tradition.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess cake

The ship featured several spots to dine throughout the cruise.
Apart from the Horizon Court  Buffet and regular dining restaurants it had pay for purchase restaurants like  Sabatini’s, serving Italian fare, and the Crown Grill, offering steakhouse style grub.
We dined at Sabatini for 25$ Prix fix menu per person and had an overall enjoyable experience.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess bar


Our Cabin

Our family stayed in the P303  cabin on Plaza Deck Five.
We were greeted by balloons and a celebratory poster tacked to our cabin door in honor of our son’s birthday, which was a nice touch.

Our cabin had a  porthole window providing an excellent view of the outside. The safety information found on the back of the door was clearly marked to let us know where our muster station was in the event of an emergency.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess curtain

Upon entering our cabin, the bathroom area was on the left. Just across the small entryway, there was a closet that contained all the lifejackets in the case of any unforeseen emergency. It had ample amount of storage space and could easily hold lots of our luggage.

The cabin itself had two beds with nightstands in between them. There was also a pull out bunk bed that could be opened at night and closed during the day for our son. It contained a safety bar that helps keep sleepers from falling out.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess tv

Our cabin’s television was placed over the desk, as was a large mirror. The latter feature allowed the space to function as a vanity. A hairdryer was attached to the wall nearby to further facilitate this usage. More in keeping with the desk’s traditional purpose as a workspace were the additional shelves and drawers that were included in its design.

There was a phone and some beverage glasses on the desktop for our use, and one of the cabinets beneath it contained a mini fridge. There were also a fair number of outlets provided, but travelers who find that they need more may want to bring their electric strips.A visible thermostat helped complete the picture as it allowed the room temperature to be quickly adjusted to our liking.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess safe

Our Bathroom

The bathroom was incredibly well organized with several hooks for hanging towels and wet clothing. There were two fully stocked towel racks above the commode. Extra toilet paper could be found under the sink just in case it was needed. There was a sizeable open cabinet at one end of the sink counter that was capable of holding even more personal belongings.

Under the sink was a shelf that held the waste bin but it could also be used to store supplies. The shower itself was fairly ordinary in design.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess towels
However, it had excellent water pressure and featured raised up edges along the bottom so that water didn’t get splashed all over the floor. The shower was separated from the toilet area with a curtain.

The cabin also contained a full-length mirror near the bathroom area so that we could check our outfits before departing their room to go anywhere.
Overall, though the room was not large, it turned out to be functional and well organized.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess glasses

Autism Travel Tips

  • The shower in the cabin has a safety handle so that those who need to do so can use it.
  • We discovered that walkie-talkies were useful devices on cruises and recommend that other families bring along their own sets to communicate with each other.
  • Gluten free and other diet observing passengers should let the cruise line know ahead of time whether they plan to stay on the ship while in port so they could be accommodated.
  • Parents to kids with autism should ask guest services for  restaurants and show seating arrangements .t
  • Word of caution about the coffee shop on the ship; the hot beverages are served at a very high temperature so parents should remind their kids to take extra precautions to avoid scalding themselves,
  • Parents should pack a set of noise canceling headphones or earplugs if their kid wishes to attend the ultra-noisy new year’s or sail away parties.

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