Traveling with Autism? Tips for Successful Road Trips

Every summer questions about car travel seem to top our e-mail inquiries. So, naturally thought I’d share this one as the ‘Ask Margalit’ question of the month.

Traveling with Autism? Tips for Road Trips:Door Mirror


Dear Margalit,

Later this summer for our family vacation we are taking a road trip across five Southern States! I am looking forward to it but also dreading it because our 9-year-old son with autism struggles with being in the car for any length of time.
His older siblings do better, but I guess I need to hear the benefits of driving as flying is not an option this time, and my head is spinning.
Do you have any tips or pointers for me that could make the journey more bearable? I would appreciate it.
Thanks in advance,

Dear Sami,
Let me say right off the bat that traveling by car is one of my preferred options.
I love that I can take along more supplies than on a flight, and I can stop when and where I need to.
If you plan the navigation of the unfamiliar roads in advance, you could have a wonderful holiday to remember.

  • I suggest you use an App or road map to mark off the location of restrooms and parks along the route, as well as chain diners and stores where you can stop and restock as necessary.
  • If your son has a favorite stuffed toy, pillow or blanket – bring it along because the familiarity helps lower anxiety levels.
    I like to use a permanent marker to write a phone number or email on belongings in the event of them getting misplaced somewhere.
  • I keep the medicines my son will take every day of the trip, an extra change of clothing and a first-aid kit, in the front, so that I don’t have to dig through all the packed luggage to find it.
  • Having snacks available is necessary. I have noticed that low blood sugar can trigger a meltdown. Of course, if your child has dietary needs, you won’t want to be stopping and looking for special snacks unnecessarily so bring these in a small cooler.
    I never travel without Ziploc bags; you never know when leftovers from a pit-stop can come in handy.
  • Of course, keeping the children entertained is vital. I am a fan of Dollar stores for inexpensive, age-appropriate games and books that don’t have little pieces that can get lost. If your child has a few favorite video games or DVD’s, bring those along and don’t forget to keep the electronic gadgets charged.
  • It’s good to be flexible and make alternative plans if Plan A doesn’t work.
    Old-fashioned car games like “I Spy” can be a useful distraction and you might want to bring a friend, babysitter or grandparent along to help keep your children entertained – space-allowing of course.
  • As a final tip, I will share with you what I call my “Road Warrior Kit” that has saved us many a time. It has a roll of toilet paper, WD40, Duct tape, Wet wipes, Lysol wipes and a flashlight. All of these multi-purpose items come in extremely handy and even necessary at various stops along the way. Your family’s health, safety, hygiene and comfort are so important.

I hope you have a wonderful road trip!
Enjoy making memories with your family.




  1. Thanks for sharing this. Your tips are very helpful. I am a travel freak and travel a lot. Next year Alaska is on my card.Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness., and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Next year I definitely want to explore Albany.
    People often have a theme that they base their worldly travels on, but how about a mental mantra for your travel? Out of a cheerleading event that consisted of our family shouting supportive words at our daughter who was attempting to kill a rather monstrous spider that the rest of us were too chicken to get close to, came this great quote, “If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!”

    This quote came back to haunt me when on vacation in Seattle. I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids on the Seattle Great Wheel, the ferris wheel overlooking the ocean, but as we approached it, I realized how high it went and immediately panicked! Just as I had decided to put the kids on it on their own, my daughter says, “Come on dad…If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!” What could I do at that point?! She was telling me to stop thinking and creating more fear about the situation and just get on the thing!
    “If you don’t think, and you just do, then it’s done!” We all now keep this quote in our back pocket, ready to whip out at any time to push one of us forward into an adventure we know they won’t regret. No hesitations, don’t allow any time for fear to set in, and be prepared for your kids to turn your life advice back on you

  2. thanks for the post

  3. My adult son with High-functioning autism wants to visit his brother in Taiwan for an extended period of time. We can help him at the first airport, and his brother can help him at the last one. The problem is that he needs to transit to a connecting flight each way in very large and intimidating airports – JFK and SFO. He will be overwhelmed and filled with anxiety! Are there people at the airports who could help him transfer from the arrival terminal to the new departure terminal? I called the airlines twice, and they said he would need to ask for assistance (which would be stressful for him), and that he would only receive the same assistance as a typical passenger. I saw some concierge companies who do this type of thing for several hundred dollars (per airport), but can’t find much info as to their reliability.

    Thanks for any advice you might offer.

  4. that post is really good for us.

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