Updated: Oct 3
Packing for a family vacation can be quite stressful. You never know what you may need that you are not thinking about. However, packing for a vacation with an autistic child can be even more stressful. Forgetting one item, or bringing the wrong item, can create a meltdown. I have quite a bit of experience packing for vacations with my autistic son. And I can tell you that each vacation gets a little easier. I would love to help you plan your next autism-friendly vacation. Contact me today to get started!
Packing for Your Vacation with an Autistic Child
Over the years, I have learned to never bring my son’s stuffed toys (friends) with us on vacation. If my son really needs one of his friends, I will usually have him choose one that is far from his favorite. Trust me when I say it is better to lose a non-favorite stuffed animal than a favorite one while on vacation! A few of the items I do consider must-haves for autism-friendly vacations include:
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Weighted Lap Blankets
A weighted lap blanket can help your child feel safe while flying or riding in a car. Larger weighted blankets are not feasible for travel, due to their weight and size. However, I have found that a lap-sized version works well. The best part about taking these weighted blankets is your child can use them for bedtime or during downtime at the hotel. You can also opt for a weighted stuffed animal, to snuggle with at night or during the flight.
Autistic children sometimes need a fidget toy or two. These toys are small and fit perfectly in the pockets of carry-on bags. I recommend bringing a few different ones with you on vacation.
Electronics can be a lifesaver during an autism-friendly vacation. They can be used during travel to keep your autistic child entertained. Or they can be used during downtime while on vacation. It is important that you begin your vacation with fully charged devices. And that you bring all the charging cords with you, so you can recharge the devices as needed. It goes without saying that the devices should be fully charged before you make the return trip home as well.
Ear muffs are helpful for blocking out louder sounds and background noise. Slipping these over your child’s ears can help them from becoming overstimulated. They can also remove the distractions that are everywhere while on vacation and keep your child calm in overwhelming situations.
Keeping things organized during an autism-friendly vacation is key. Compression packing cubes can be used to fit more into your luggage. The tech packing cubes are perfect for storing tech devices, as well as charging cords. I recommend getting one of those cubes for each person in the family and conveniently storing them in your carry-on bags for easy access.
I love the assistance I have received through the TSA Cares program when traveling with my boys. I simply contact them prior to my trip to ensure a passenger support specialist is available when I arrive at the airport. These staff members can help you by answering any questions you have, helping you clear security, and will even make sure you reach the correct departure gate.
Autism is a hidden disability, which can make it difficult for others to understand why you need help while traveling. Many airports have started giving travelers with hidden disabilities a sunflower lanyard to wear. When airport staff sees a person wearing a sunflower lanyard, they know that those families may need a little extra help.
While these last two things cannot go in your luggage, I feel they are an important part of getting ready for an autism-friendly vacation. So, as you are packing your bags for your vacation with your autistic child, I want to remind you to get these things set up. Of course, I can help you with TSA Cares and the Sunflower Lanyard while I am planning your autism-friendly vacation.