Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families

 

From recent conversations I’ve had with parents to kids with autism, it seems that most focus too much on travel logistics and forget the actual benefits it might bring to their family as a whole and their child as an individual.
Having traveled with my son with special- needs for almost a decade, I can personally attest that the advantages outweigh the hardships by far.

Education

Traveling introduces multiple school disciplines like math, geography, history, and literature into your child’s life through hands-on experience.
Suddenly everything comes to life, and History is no longer some dates in a thick book, but meetings with enthusiastic docents and significant event reenactments.
Math changes from boring homework exercises to calculating tips, money exchange rates, and even daily budgets for different items. Geography is transformed from glossy pictures in a school textbook to rock climbing mountain ranges or hiking volcanic parks.
Last but not least, your child is introduced to literature through visiting the towns and homes of famed authors.

In our case, spatial perception and map reading were especially difficult for my son, until he decided he was going to learn to negotiate the Parisian Metro System one summer.
As the saying goes, the rest was history.

 

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families stacking

 

Art and Music Appreciation

Still in their infancy, our kids were introduced to the beautiful world of art.
We used to take them to every museum in our area as well as galleries and street craft fairs.
Whether it was the masters, modern, cubism or anime, art was anywhere they could experience it.
As we started traveling, we continued and expanded on that concept to include not only world renowned famed museums but local artists studios, beach sand art festivals, and even sidewalk chalk demonstrations.

While traveling, look for free musical performances, Sunday organ concerts at churches, and charity events as well as operas and Broadway musicals. Like art, any exposure to different styles of music will help broaden and expand your child’s horizons.


Culture

With travel comes the continuous exposure to diverse cultures.
All of a sudden, your child can compare and contrast people’s daily lives and customs in different parts of the world.
As a youngster, our son was eager to find similarities between the new places and his hometown, so he kept insisting on checking out McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, and other American fast food giants wherever we went.
He was surprised to discover that these fast food chains offer different menus than in the United States, according to local demand. Hence by visiting seemingly ‘unlikely touristy places,’ he still got to be introduced to the differences.

 

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids shore

 

Promoting Tolerance

Introducing your child to different religions in today’s global community can help shape him or her into becoming a more accepting and tolerant future member of society.
Start by visiting traditional churches, temples and mosques and learning about their unique features and architecture.
If you have the time and opportunity, stay for a community event to witness at first hand a holiday celebration. Over the years, we have visited many different places of worship, and it promoted better understanding in our kids and reinforcing their observation of how similar people and religions truly are.

 Compassion and Empathy

As we started traveling to poorer countries, our sons witnessed poverty, homelessness, and suffering on a global scale. The actual visualization of needy persons made my children realize how they were not the center of the world and how even in small ways they can contribute and influence the outcome of certain events. As our sons grew older, they started coming up with better ideas to help their community and charities.  Over the years, they have been active in collecting toys and school supplies for orphanages in Mexico, glasses for kids in South Africa, the Katrina cleanup, as well as money to save the marine life in the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill.

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families baked alaska

 

 Enhancement of Social and Language Skill

One of the things that still fascinate me about travel is the way it helps travelers with autism to adapt and learn to become more flexible.

Even though most parents try to arrange for accommodations for their kids; the truth is that sooner or later they are bound to face some situation that will have no accommodations which will force him or her to deal with day to day challenges like waiting in a queue, facing crowds or practicing manners.
Parents should embrace these incidents and use them as positive teaching stepping stones instead of looking for reasons not to travel with their kids.
Moreover, traveling, also increases opportunities for interacting with other people, which, in turn, help children with autism improve their language and self-advocating skills.

 Experiencing the World in Different Ways

Even though my family and I are not outdoors people, traveling has helped us become more adventurous and try activities we would have never imagined ever considering.
We have successfully tried swimming with dolphins, manatees, and stingrays as well as rock climbing, snorkeling, sea trekking, skydiving, zip-lining, and paragliding.
From starting off as a teen that screamed every time he was dunked into a shallow pool or walked on sand, he has come a very long way. Our experience isn’t unique in any way, it just proves that persistence in exposure can make a huge difference.

 

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families magic toilets

Food Choices

Another great example of successful continuous exposure lies in the food department.
As a preschooler, my son (like many others) restricted his diet to either Burger King or McDonald’s. With time and perseverance (and quite a bit of bribery) we succeeded in introducing him to global cuisines such as European, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern.

On cruises, we would encourage him to at least take one bite of any food that had a strange texture, odor or looked visually incorrect to him.
One bite progressed to two, then three, and soon the whole dish.
Today he enjoys sampling foods from around the world on weekly basis and is even attempting to cook some of his favorite dishes at home

Spreading Autism Awareness

Everywhere we go, we tell people about autism and answer questions about how our son copes with on his day-to-day life.
We describe the ups and downs of the spectrum and most important of all, how others can help kids like our son.
This kind of exposure gives the world a glimpse into the life of someone with autism and helps people with autism understand the complexities of the world and how their behaviors, especially meltdowns, are judged in reality.

 

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit orange

Family Bonding

During an average day, everyone is preoccupied with daily chores, and it is hard for parents to find adequate time to bond with their kids. That all changes during travel when parents are free of daily chores like driving to activities, cleaning, and cooking, so they can spend RELAXING time with their kids and get to know them better.
Vacation time is also an excellent opportunity to integrate the child with autism in family activities and create lasting family memories.

Sensory Issues

Travel can lay the groundworks for new experiences; hearing different sounds, tasting different foods, seeing new sites, and touching various textures for kids with autism.
However, it is equally important for parents to help continue the learning process at home.
Parents should take their kids to visit local museums, beaches, pools, dine in ethnic neighborhood venues, and listen to different concerts on a regular basis to enhance exposure and combat existing sensory challenges.

 

 

 

 

Preventing Incidental Charges During Travel

Though times are changing and there is more awareness about autism worldwide, many hotels and cruise cabins are not necessarily setting up autistic travelers (and their families) for success.
The good news is, with a little planning, you can still minimize your liability and avoid paying for expensive incidental charges before they occur. Here are the top ten tips that we have put together based on previous experience, to you save both time and money for your next trip!

Preventing Incidental Charges During Travel shopping


In Hotels

  • Prevent mini bar/specialty tray charges
     Your child may assume that the fridge stocked with beverages or the appealing snacks on the handy trays are complimentary, but that is not the case. You should tell your kid not to touch the merchandise since even moving it without consuming it can trigger a charge.Also, call the front desk or housekeeping and ask them to remove the items to prevent the unnecessary temptations.
  • Block pay-per-view and porn charges
    After entering the room call the front desk and ask them to block the channels. Enough said.
  • Breakables in room
    After check in, all the front desk or housekeeping and ask for fragile objects to be removed, so they are not destroyed in the event of an emotional outburst or tantrum.By doing so,y ou can make sure the property doesn’t charge your account for any damages incurred.
  • Block room service charges
    Notify the front desk as soon as you can to block the room service charge capability. Your child may not understand that those costs add up, and might not even understand that there is a charge at all, so the best option is just to block them all from the beginning.

On Cruiseships

  • Arcade and Casino spending
    Ask customer service to disable room key charge power. Those arcade games costs can add up and your child is likely to spend a considerable amount of money there which does not work well especially if you are on a set budget!
  • Incidental purchases
    Ask for any purchases in hotel or cruise ship stores that can be charged to room or cabin to be approved by you first if you are not there.
  • Disable Auctions on cruise ships
    Notify customer service to disable charging power on your child’s room key in case they want to bid on an unnecessary item you don’t approve of or know about.
  • Before leaving the ship check your child’s luggage
    Making sure your kid didn’t “borrow” anything from the cabin that you’ll be charged for is always a good idea.

 

10 Tips to prevent Incidental Charges during Travel arcade

In General

  • Missing or damaged items in cabins or rooms
    Before you leave, check to be sure nothing noticeable is missing or damaged in the cruise cabin or room.  Take a few minutes and always verify that everything is in working condition and intact when you first check in.
    Should you notice anything broken or damaged immediately notify the front desk and ask for someone to come and make a WRITTEN note of the damage and get a copy! Take additional photographs on your camera for further evidence.
  • Avoid phone call charges including 1-900 and international charges.Make sure to call the front desk and Block phone call capacity from the room to avoid any charges.

 

Have you traveled with your kids and incurred incidental expenses? What tips would you add to this list?

Debunking Autism Travel Myths

I regularly meet parents with kids on the autism spectrum who have serious misconceptions about traveling with traveling with autism.

I can relate to those who have tried to travel with their child and encountered mishaps, but what I find most alarming is the high percentage of parents that base their decisions on other people’s stories or even Internet misinformation.

Since our website, AutisticGlobetrotting, is about to celebrate its third year of existence, I thought it would be helpful to debunk some of these misconceptions once and for all in the hope this might inspire or even encourage some of you to go ahead and finally plan that summer vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths globe

 

Planning travel with an autistic child is time -consuming and expensive.

The essential element in the planning stages is notifying the airlines, cruise lines and hotels of your child’s disability, and decide what accommodations you might what to request.
You can usually ask for most accommodations by e-mail, which makes it cheaper and faster, particularly if you should need to contact people overseas. From my experience, most companies in the travel industry will try and provide the necessary accommodations at no extra charge.

Always remember to store your correspondence in a file on your computer, and then send a gentle reminder to all the people you’ve contacted a week before your day of departure, in case they forgot about you.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths florence

The TSA treats autistic travelers and family badly.

Over the years, the TSA has come under fire for causing unnecessary stress to many families; especially those traveling with special needs kids.
We’ve flown over 200 flights in the last decade without an incident; simply by letting the agent know upon arrival at the airport that our son was autistic and that I would be accompanying him to the checkpoint.

This month the TSA has come out with new guidelines for autistic travelers that include allowing kids to stay with parents during the check, and that parents or caregivers may advise the agent on how to proceed with the security check depending on the child’s particular disability.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths christchurch

Flying with a child on the autism spectrum is a nightmare.

No, not usually.
Although flights may not as traveler-friendly as they used to be, it is still doable. All you need is to notify the airline in advance of any accommodations like bulk or aisle seating, pre-boarding( so that you can get your family settled faster) and wheelchair assistance if you have to navigate between terminals in the larger airports.

Remember to pack a snack or two for the flight and keep your kid busy with movies, video games, books on tape, or coloring books just like you would do at home or on a long car ride.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths paris

My child will not be comfortable in a hotel room.

Since most kids with autism thrive on routine and familiarity, the best choice for hotels would be sticking with one or two chains such as Starwood, IHG, or Marriott because they tend to design their layout the same way in each hotel worldwide.When booking a hotel room, you should ask for a quiet room away from noisy areas like elevators,
restaurants, and conference rooms and on a high floor if you are staying on a busy street.

Some hotels offer hypoallergenic rooms and pillows, too.If you know that your family won’t feel comfortable in a hotel setting there are alternative lodging options like apartment hotels or private home rentals from companies like Airbnb you can book that are even more budget friendly.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths italy

I hate it when my child acts up and everybody stares.

Now this issue is one that we can probably all relate to and understand; however, it shouldn’t deter you.
I remember my public speaking professor telling our class at the beginning of his course that the trick to speaking in front of a large crowd was envisioning everyone in their underwear.

You should keep in mind that most if not all people watching you and your kid don’t  actually ‘know’ you, so you shouldn’t care much what they think about your parenting skills or your child’s behavior.And the silver lining is that mastering the art of ignoring disparaging remarks or looks from strangers will not only make you a better parent but is bound to teach your kid a much-needed life skill as well.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths london


Tips to Booking a Cruise Vacation for Families with Autism

           

Many readers have asked me to write about the logistics of cruising for families with autism, so here is the compiled list of  tips to help book  your next cruise vacation.
Feel free to print it and pass it on to your friends.

 Tips to Booking a Cruise Vacation for Families with Autism ship

Questions to consider before  booking

  • Q1 Do crowds and noises bother your child
  • Q2 Does your child have additional sensory issues such as sensitivity to lights or smells.
  • Q3 What type of activities does your child like to do outdoors or indoors
  • Q4 What are your child’s unique dining challenges inability to sit at a table,  “picky” eating habits or diet restrictions.
  • Q5 What are your child’s social skills level like sitting in line, sitting in a theater and interacting with peers.
  • Q6 What are her son’s communication and comprehension skills (particularly important for kids club activities.)
  • Q7 What are your child’s sleep patterns and rituals.
  • Q8 Is your kid potty trained or not.
  • Q9 Does your kid have any shower or tub preferences.
  • Q10 Are there any allergies and temperature intolerances to take into account.
  • Q11 Does the traveler get seasick.
  • Q12 What entertainment does your kid prefer-tv, books, live shows, etc.
  • Q13 How fast does he/she get accustomed to new surroundings.
  • Q14 Has he/she flown before? If not; you might consider driving to your first cruise experience and not overloading your traveler with autism.
  • Q15 Does he/she tend to wander off from rooms or people.

 

Cabin selection

  • Select an indoor or port hole cabin, especially if it is your first cruise and your kid is active.
    Mid ship is the best for two reasons: you are close to most venues and better if you are prone to getting seasick.
    Stay away from balconies until your family is “cruise savvy”.
  • Make sure your room is adjacent to other rooms ONLY; not elevators, attractions or even white spaces on the ship’s map.
  • Check and verify that above and below your cabin there are only travelers’ cabins-stay away from ‘service areas that are utilized by crew members at different times of day and night.
  • Some cruise lines have connecting rooms that can add extra comfort if you can afford two rooms. Remember this might not be the best solution for you if your child is an “escape artist”, and you have two doors leading to the outside.
  • Most inside rooms do not have a tub, so if that’s a deal breaker, choose Disney or the newer ships by Carnival in the inside category, since they have a tub in their bathroom.
  • If you have a stroller/wheelchair bound child, ask for an accessible room or a way to store the specialized stroller or wheelchair.
  • If you have a child with autism who stims ask for a bigger cabin  -Attach doctor’s note detailing the situation!
  • Ask for baby proofing if you have an overactive child/teen -including bed rails! If the cruise line can’t supply them, bring your own.

Additional Accommodations

  • Although most cruise lines strive to help families with autism, some are more accommodating than others with special desks designated to aid with special requests.
  • Contact Guest Relations or the Special Needs Department with any applications and medical issues immediately.
  • Ask for pre-boarding and disembarkation to prevent the tantrums that might be a result of waiting in the long lines.
  • Ask for an empty mini fridge to be put in the cabin if there isn’t one already to store medicines, favorite drinks and foods, especially if you have a “night snacker.”

Visiting Cabo San Lucas’ El Arco With Autistic Kids

 Cabo San Lucas is one of the best destinations when cruising the Mexican Rivera., made famous back in the 1980’s by the popular  Love Boat TV series.
For first time families traveling with kids that aren’t strong swimmers and can’t snorkel, a glass bottom boat tour to the iconic El Arco’s (Land’s End ) where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean are a good choice.

Since weather can be stormy or windy at different times of the year, it might be best to book a tour the very day the ship docks in port instead of ahead of time..

Land’s End

Travelers will see multiple vendors offering the glass boat tours upon arrival at the pier. Since the cruise price isn’t fixed and can be ‘negotiated’ you can get a better and cheaper deal if you are part of a larger group.
For families seeking an interactive experience check out the Buccaneer Queen pirate ship offering day and sunset trips that include a buffet style meal and unlimited drinks.

During the short cruise, you can enjoy spectacular rock formations some home to colonies of sea lions and pelicans that feed on the local fish without even getting off the boat. If you chose to get off the boat, you could check out the area’s famous beach called Lovers’ Beach with its calmer waves that are best suited for families and younger kids.Those seeking adventure can try ‘Divorce Beach’, yes, that’s what the locals nicknamed it; with rougher waters and better snorkeling opportunities. Needless to mention that families with younger kids can just opt to play in the sand or watch the marine wildlife.

Autism travel  tips

As the boat sails into the open sea, the water waves often  get rough, so if you or your kid are prone to sea sickness, you may want to take some Dramamine pills or patches before boarding.Many of the boats are open to the elements so have your kids sit on the inside part away from the water to avoid them from falling into the water or getting wet.If your kid is temperature sensitive look to book a boat that is partially covered and provides some sun shade. It would be useful to bring a  one dollar packable poncho along to cover him /her from the water splashing on them when the boat speeds up if they are sitting in an open vessel.
There aren’t many places to buy any food items particularly for those with dietary restrictions so bring along snacks, bottled water, and sunscreen in a day bag from the cruise ship.
Closed toe shoes such as Crocs or water shoes are highly recommended for getting on and off the boat where there are slippery floors to negotiate.
In case, your family members are planning to swim or snorkel consider purchasing life jackets and bringing them along since the beaches authorities do not employ lifeguards.
Remember to warn your kids against climbing the steep rocks since they can get seriously injured.


Have you visited Cabo San Lucas with your family; if so what are your tips?

 

First Five Things To Do After You Enter Your Cruise Cabin

First Five Things To Do After You Enter Your Cabin inside

 

After you board the cruise ship, your first instinct is to walk around and explore the different activities and ‘welcome aboard ‘giveaways.
Not so fast!
Before you relax and start having fun, you really should go to your assigned cabin and check five essential things that may help you enjoy your vacation better.

The Five things to check:

  • Make sure that all the room keys work! We have had several instances when one or more cabin keys were not synched to work with the door lock and couldn’t open the door
  • Check the cabin’s plumbing and electric systems to make sure everything is in order since sometimes they malfunction and it is much harder to get someone to fix it during the night hours.If something is leaking or backed up, the quicker staff members are aware of it, the better.  You should turn on the faucet, toilet, shower and tub if there is one, air conditioning/heating system, refrigerator, room lights, TV, phone and even the safe deposit box if you intend on using it.
  • If you do discover something is not functioning adequately or broken report it immediately to the room steward or customer service.
    Check the location of the room vent and make sure that it isn’t blowing over directly your kid ‘s bed especially if he or she is temperature sensitive.
  • If it is, try to either designate a different bed for your child with autism or move the existing one away from the vent.Lift up the bed mattress and check (with the help of a flashlight) the back and seams carefully for any dark dots or spots.Luckily many cruise ships use metal frames, so the chance of cabins infested with bed bugs is smaller than hotels rooms.
  • Carefully wipe down the cabin door knobs, shower and faucet handle with a cleaning wipe.Then proceed to clean the remote control, TV buttons and all the electrical switches. The last thing to wipe clean or spray with a mini Lysol is the toilet seat and shower floor.
  • Though cruise lines clean the cabins; you should take extra precautions since you are traveling with a special needs person especially if he or she touches everything and continuously puts their hand in their mouth to try and lessen the chance of germs and disease.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Write your cabin room number on your kid’s t-shirt or inside his shoes so others will know how to find you, if he/she gets lost.
    If you are traveling with kids that wander off; check that the balcony door (if you have one) IS  LOCKED.
  • You should stick any contact alarms if you brought any on the cabin door and check that they work adequately.
  • Place a poster or any picture on your cabin door so your kid with autism can easily distinguish it from the neighboring doors especially if he/she can’t memorize cabin numbers quickly.
  • Take a minute and show all your family members where the nearest emergency exit door is located so they will remember in times of a real crisis.

Four Fun concepts on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas

In an effort to retain a loyal fan base and gain some new followers, cruise lines often try to innovate and renovate continuously. During our cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas two months ago, we noticed four notable changes that grabbed our attention.

Interactive  Artwork

While every ship boasts millions of dollars of artwork, the Freedom of the Seas is unique in its exhibition of the hands-on art pieces on every floor. So, when your globetrotter gets bored, they can start climbing the stairs and not only view all the beautiful sculptures and paintings that line the hallways but play with some of the exhibits.

Autism travel tip: Parents should point out the artworks and encourage their kids to play with them since they combine education and function.

Expansion of the kids club

By expanding the kids club on board to accommodate the 18 to 20-year-old age group, Royal Caribbean now allows the more socially avoidant young adults to meet new people and occupy themselves for the duration of the cruise. The club holds various activities in the evenings, like Wii tournaments, informal mixers in night clubs like the Crypt and bars, flow rider surfing, Jacuzzi time, and karaoke. As a mother of two older teenagers, I can personally attest to the need for young adult-oriented events on board cruise ships and hope the concept will expand to other cruise lines as well.

Autism travel tip: The concept can be useful for the high functioning autistic travelers that would like to interact with their peers but need that ‘extra help’ with introductions.

Four concepts we enjoyed on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas collage entertainment


New Information boards

Interactive maps on every floor serve as navigation systems to help you transverse the ship with minimal effort. All you have to do is input where you want to go—whether room, shop, restaurant or even the nearest restroom—and it shows you not only where you are, but how to get to your intended destination. Additionally, it also functions as a paperless Cruise Compass, displaying the events happening that day on board. All in all, its interactivity and utility make it a very entertaining and engaging device, whether for you or your globetrotting companions.

Autism travel tip: Our son with autism like other fellow cruisers found the boards helpful to retrieve information about the ship venues and different activities.

The Dreamworks Factor

The new collaboration enhances the already dynamic lineup of activities that Royal Caribbean offers to attract families and animation lovers. Their character breakfast rivals Disney’s and the photo opportunities with characters in various parts of the ship are abundant. What we enjoyed the most was the Dream Parade that engaged the spectators from different angles, with colorful costumes and jaw-dropping choreography.

Autism travel tip: The parade is the quintessential definition of fun, providing an incredible visual experience. Be advised it is on the noisy side so those with heightened sound sensitivity can either stay in Promenade cabins and see it from the comfort of their cabin or use much-needed ear plugs should they wish to attend.

Four concepts we enjoyed on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas collage cabin


Have you cruised lately, if so what venues or concepts did you enjoy?

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism

 Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism ship

The New Year has finally arrived, and it is time to start planning your family’s travel for the coming spring and summer. You’ve heard all about them and have finally decided to take the proverbial plunge and go on that first family cruise.With so many choices out there: how do you choose a cruise that all family members will enjoy including your child with autism? Here are some tips to help you decide which cruise to book when traveling with autism.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism pool

 

 

For Outdoor Lovers

If you and your family like to spend time outdoors, then Alaska should top your list since it remains one of the few unspoiled natural wonders, still readily available for travelers to enjoy.
For the traveler with autism shore excursions like dog sledding, glacier trekking, and white water rafting can become the epitome of sensory experiences.
Multiple cruise lines have ships offering seven-day Alaskan itineraries, during in which you can visit the small but quaint towns of Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.
Prices can range between 100 and 150 dollars a day per person, depending on the month and ship you choose. Airfare for a round-trip starting and ending in the same port is usually cheaper than open-jaw tickets (where you fly into one city and return from another.)
Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess are by far the most family-oriented and provide the best activities in their kids’ clubs.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism adult pool

 

For History and Art buffs.

For families with autism that enjoy history, archeology, art, and architecture, a Mediterranean cruise is a perfect choice. There are two main itineraries during the spring and summer: westbound, which covers Spain, the south of France, and Italy, or eastbound, which usually include Italy, Turkey, and Greece.

Both itineraries are huge crowd-pleasers and are bound to captivate and supply your family with great stories and cherished memories. Visiting world-famous museums, churches, mosques, and famous battlefields quite cheaply on your vacation while sampling the local foods will expose your child with autism to new cultures and experiences.

Travel in late spring is recommended for families on a budget especially if your kid with autism is heat-intolerant and can’t wait in long queues. Many European travelers like the MSC, Costa, and Fred Thompson Cruise lines that are cheaper than their US counterparts but may not cater as well to the American guest.

American cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Carnival offer the European itineraries this year, leading to a wider price diversity of between 150 and 300 dollars per person per day, depending on the ship and date of sailing.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism mini golf

 

 

For Thrill Seekers

Is your kid with autism a thrill-seeker who likes to push it to the limit? Then, a Caribbean cruise is the one to take.
Multiple cruise lines circulate the tiny islands, offering their travelers action-packed vacations.
You can try activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling scuba diving, and horseback riding, all in less than a week.

Check out the newer mega-ships that provide additional thrills on board, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. They feature onboard ice skating and rock climbing lessons, surfing simulators, zip lining, as well as a boardwalk-like section complete with a hand-painted carousel and other attractions.
Older ships offer SeaTrek Scuba lessons, golf simulators, and mini-golfing, in addition to Ping-Pong tables, basketball courts, and a professional running track.

NCL’s Epic offers a bowling alley, batting cages, a bungee trampoline, an enormous rock-climbing wall, a rope adventure course, a 24-foot climbing cage named Spider Web, and a rappelling wall where you descend instead of climbing.

Prices, especially on Royal Caribbean, tend to be on the high-end during the summer and holidays, often reach 190 to 230 dollars per person per day; however, there are some real bargains offered if your travel dates are flexible.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism flowrider

 

 

For  Theme Park and or Animation Junkies

For those who wish to extend their Disney exposure past Disney World, there’s the Disney cruise line option that supplies you with pirate deck parties with the only firework at sea show allowed, original stage performances, and character appearances.

The goal is to make you feel the magic from the moment you board, starting with the ship’s horns playing “When You Wish Upon a Star” when setting sail.
But the Disney Magic does not come cheap—be prepared to shell out anywhere between 100 dollars per person per day off season to 280 dollars per person per day during summer vacation or the holidays.

If you are cruising from Florida, a close second is Royal Caribbean, which has just signed a new collaboration program with Dream Works that includes character breakfasts, character parades and ice shows, and even 3D movie experiences on its newer ships.

In an effort not be left behind, NCL has also teamed with Nickelodeon for slime game show fun, Dora, and Spongebob sightings, and other on board surprises on two of its ships—the Epic and Jewel.

 

 

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism shows

For Volunteers

If you enjoy volunteering, you should consider doing so on your next family cruise. Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans accepts volunteers for the day, as do some of the orphanages in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta all stops on a Mexican Riviera cruise.
Working with a charity organization during your journey makes for an excellent opportunity to teach your son or daughter compassion and ways to lend a helping hand in society. If that’s not feasible, you could always organize a fundraiser in your community and bring or buy much-needed items to donate.

Make sure you contact the facility first and tell them of your intention; don’t just show up there unannounced. Prices are moderate—80-140 dollars per person per day—but satisfaction is priceless!

 

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism charity walk

 

Final Tip

Even if you plan every detail of your vacation, your first cruise may not go quite as planned.
It may take several cruises to discover which cruise style works best for your family. So, if you find out that one type didn’t work, don’t give up and try a different one.

 

 

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend

 

We arrived at Tampa pier at two o’clock, after finding out they started boarding by one.After notifying one of the porters that we are traveling with special needs persons, they called their supervisor immediately, and we received VIP treatment.
Aldona, a Carnival superior took us to an air conditioned lounge and took care of our embarkation paperwork in less than five minutes.
A unique port security person accompanied us, carrying our luggage on a trolley up to the autistic friendly Carnival Legend ‘s entrance.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SHIP

The ship

The muster drill was a breeze too-Carnival provided a special enough air conditioned lounge for the special needs persons.

Moreover, the crew members handed out a printed page with instructions on what to do in case of a real emergency.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend DESSERT
Dining

In the main dining room, our excellent Maitre D’, Ken made sure we had a separate table for four.He came every night to make sure Jeffrey got his blue cheese dressing for his salad!Our servers were excellent and remembered everyone’s likes and dislikes, especially our son’s.
On the very last night, they even surprised him with two portions of bread pudding that were not on the menu.Everyone in the main dining room was extremely helpful during breakfast and lunch times too, catering patiently to our every need.We enjoyed both formal nights, especially since the boys were not required to wear a jacket, tie, or even a long sleeve shirt.
Instead, I brought short sleeve, button down, pure silk Hawaiian shirts [twenty dollars at our local costco], and soft cotton long pants from Nordstrom’s, that magically make even huge lobster butter stains disappear, in contact with soap detergent and water, for them to wear.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SURF TURF

Our Cabin

Our room steward was equally helpful, supplying our room with extra towels, pillows, and sheets on a daily basis. After complaining about the warm temperature in our room, and the technician’s failure to correct the issue, the chief engineer came to our cabin in person to oversee what could be done.
Moreover, the hotel manager came to our table, in person, to ask us if everything had been corrected.

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CABIN

On the third day, the boys each got a bag of goodies from Club O2, accompanied by a personal invitation.They politely declined, but enjoyed the gift bag nonetheless.
The truth is we were all pretty tired from the daily trips we took and chose to bond as a family over the great option the cruise line offers of pay-per-view movies in the room.Room service, a favorite with most kids, was unusually fast with orders, even at peak hours.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend FRIENDS

The captain was gracious to sign Jeff’s ceramic ship model, while Wee Jimmy, the Legend’s cruise director gave him a ship on a stick.Needless to say, Jeff’s was floating in souvenir heaven.

Luckily, we managed to visit all our intended ports of Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel but did get some windy days from the end tail of tropical storm turned hurricane, Alex.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CAYMAN

The important lesson to learn is that during hurricane season you should book your shore tours through the cruise ship, especially in ports that require tendering, as you never know when the high winds will pick up and change your plans!

In the Grand Cayman, we visited the sandbar with stingrays and a turtle farm, both great sensory, and educational tools. Skip the little town of Hell which is a store selling funny t-shirts with an owner dressed as the devil, unless you want to sample a different sensory perspective of surprise hugging and kissing.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend ROATAN

Snorkeling in Roatan and Belize was amazing, and I do have to commend the tiny local sand flies that are ever so polite, you don’t even notice when they come, bite and leave.Even better is the fact the bite sites do not itch and disappear overnight.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend PARROTS

In Cozumel, we opted to explore the Eco park of Xcaret, with its caves, lazy river, zoos and turquoise lagoon.If you ever decide to go, make sure you pay a visit to the magnificent butterfly garden and the rainbow colored macaws that use discarded feathers to clean out their beaks!

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend HAMMOCK

Disembarkation was an easy affair too, and we reached Tampa airport in plenty of time to spare, after using Alamo’s free shuttle.Completing the memorable experience, United Airlines decided to upgrade the four of us to first class on the Tampa-Dulles segment and to Business class on the Dulles-Los Angeles flight, by itself a memorable event on a historic day.

Happy July 4th everyone!

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism pin

For parents of kids with autism, one of the best tips I can give when taking a cruise is to get the kids acclimated to their cabin as fast as possible.The key to doing that is communicating with the cabin steward efficiently and relaying the necessary accommodations to him or her as soon as possible. For those not acquainted with how to do so here are a few useful tips to follow so you can get the necessary cabin accommodations for travelers with Autism.

Meet your cabin attendant as soon as possible

Try to meet your room steward as soon as possible after boarding, since it might be necessary to make certain adjustments to your cabin.Be patient, courteous and remember they are busy and tired, particularly on embarkation days when they wake up early and have the task of clearing the cabins to prepare them for next travelers.After the usual pleasantries exchange , asks him or her for the following cabin accommodations.

Clear the fridge

Ask the steward to clean out the cabin fridge of sodas, snacks and alcohol as soon as possible so you can store your foods and beverages that you bring back from the buffet or room service to help with those late night hunger attacks.
Another good reason to do so is the sensors on the fridge door might falsely charge your cabin account for an item even though you only moved it to a different location inside the refrigerator to make room for your bottle of water.
Carnival Legend:Towel Animal

Remove  Breakables 

To avoid accidents injuries or damages ask for any breakable objects like standing lamps, glass tops and mirrors to be removed from the cabin especially if your kid has a history of meltdowns s or likes to touch everything.
Inquire about the availability of guard rails for the lower beds if you are concerned your child is in danger of falling out of bed.

Ask for hypo-allergenic bedding 

If you have a pronounced feather allergy like I do, ask for hypoallergenic bedding (including pillows and blankets) as well as a complete change of your bed linens to make sure there aren’t any allergen residues on the bed.
Most cabins have the possibility of separating the large main bed into two twins, so you might want the room steward to do that for you as soon as possible. Not only will it provide you with a slightly larger area to move about, but it also might be helpful if your young family members decide to play “musical beds” and switch beds in the middle of the night.
If your family members enjoy afternoon naps tell your steward you would like the beds ready 24/7 otherwise you might find the top bunks or sofabed closed till the evening.

Cabin Accommodations 4 Travelers With Autism:Our Cabin

Request  an extra tv remote control and  additional seating

Getting an extra TV remote and chairs to sit on is always a good idea as most cabins have one single seat that is not enough for a family of four.Extra chairs might prove helpful as an additional door block if your child wanders and needs to be stopped from exiting the room at night.

Ask for extra  linens

If your child has ‘night accidents’ or suffers from OCD  and takes several showers during the day you need more than your usual linen and towel allotment. It is much easier to get extra supplies in the cabin ahead of time than to sit on the phone with guest services begging for the items in the middle of the night.

Ask  to turn the room speaker volume off

If your child is noise sensitive, the loud daily announcements will bother him or her so it is better to turn the volume off inside the cabin.You can still listen to the reports by opening the cabin door or reading the daily newsletter.

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