Updated: Mar 2, 2022
I have no idea what the fascination is with autistic people and trains. At first, I thought it was just our son. But through our travels, we keep meeting other people with autism who are drawn to trains as well. So, that has led me to want to do a little research as to why taking a train across the country can be an experience of a lifetime for an autistic child.
My research has shown that there is a true fascination when it comes to trains and it isn’t just those who are autistic that are fascinated. There are so many different reasons why people on the autism spectrum love trains. While those reasons are wonderful, there are other things you must know before you book your next vacation via train. I cover everything you must know when it comes to trains and traveling on them when you are on a vacation with your autistic child. I always say it is better to be informed and prepared than to go into any vacation with no clue what to expect!
3 Reasons Why Those on the Autism Spectrum Might Love Trains
1. The Wheels
Anyone with sensory interests will automatically be drawn to any object that has wheels. And you can’t deny the fact that there are multiple wheels on a train! Those wheels go round and round, providing hours of entertainment.
2. Different Category
Autistic children love to categorize objects, and this is easy to do with trains. There are multiple train types, models, sizes, and even colors. Your autistic child could easily sit for quite some time matching up different trains.
3. The Schedules
Trains are always on a schedule and we all know that kids with autism love their schedules. Your child may feel compelled to memorize the schedules of a train you are riding on for your vacation. This is also an excellent time to share stories of how trains are not always on schedule and help your child adjust to disappointments like that.
Why You Must Take a Vacation by Train with Your Autistic Child
There are so many reasons why you must take a vacation by train with your autistic child. However, the main reason I always think of is the one that teaches your child how to use all types of public transportation on their own.
Most kids would reach the age of sixteen and be ready to hop into a car to drive. But that won’t happen with many autistic children. Therefore, every autistic child must be taught how to utilize all types of public transportation, including trains.
A vacation via train is an excellent time to work on multiple safety measures. Those skills include what to do if they are separated from their parents and who is a safe person to ask for help. As your child gets older, they can help you read maps and look at the schedules of the trains you want to take.
What to Do Before Taking a Train for Your Next Vacation
Taking a train for the first time can be exciting for an autistic child, but it can also be scary. There are many unknowns that can cause your child to have a meltdown. Therefore, I recommend watching movies or television shows about trains. You should also share different social stories about trains to prepare your child for the upcoming trip.
Younger children will love watching Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington. Older kids may get more out of the stories you share. You may even want to help your older child work on putting together a model train.
Setting up your own train track with trains can also help with showing how trains can get off schedule. Place a tree across the tracks or something else that delays a train for a few minutes or even an hour.
Traveling Via Amtrak
If your next vacation is in the US, you most likely will travel via Amtrak. This train can take you almost anywhere in the country. Amtrak does offer discounts to people with disabilities, as well as a person traveling as a companion. The discount is ten percent for adults and fifty percent plus ten percent off for a child.
You must be able to show proof when you go to board the train. Acceptable proofs of disability include a membership card from a disability organization and a letter from a physician.
5 Things to Know When Traveling Via Amtrak with Your Autistic Child for Your Next Vacation
Traveling by train for your next vacation can be fun. But it will be much better if you know what to expect! Here are a few things to know when you are traveling via Amtrak with your autistic child.
1. Book a Sleeper Car for Longer Trips
Sometimes the trip to your destination will be a little longer than you thought. If that happens, it is best to book a sleeper car, because your autistic child will be much more comfortable for the duration of the trip.
Everyone traveling in a sleeper car has their own space to wait in at the train station. This area is less crowded, so your child won’t be as overwhelmed. Plus, there are bathrooms for this area only, as well as drinks and snacks.
When you enter your sleeper car, you will be away from all the other people on the train. You can go out to get your meals or you can have an attendant bring them right to you.
The sleeper cars also have outlets, which is perfect for when the battery gets low in any device your autistic child wants to use.
2. Bring a Warm Jacket or Blanket
Trains can be very cold, especially during the summer months when the air conditioning is blasting. It is best to have an extra jacket or blanket with you to keep everyone warm. If it happens to be warm on your train though, you might want to be prepared with cold drinks and a fan.
3. Be Prepared for No Wi-Fi
Not every Amtrak train offers Wi-Fi, and you should never count on it working. I recommend planning ahead and having things for your child to do downloaded onto your phone, iPad, laptop, or another device. This will prevent meltdowns during your trip.
4. Be Prepared to Talk to Others
Unless you spend the entire time in a sleeper car, you must be prepared to talk to others. I recommend sharing social stories with your child before your trip. This will ensure they are ready to talk to the Amtrak staff or people they meet on the train.
5. Pack Snacks and Drinks You Know Your Autistic Child Will Like
There is nothing worse than a hungry and thirsty child, whether they are autistic or not. While many children can find something to eat and drink from the store on the train, most autistic children will not. Therefore, it is always best to pack favorite snacks and drinks to keep your child happy for the entire trip.
A vacation with your autistic child via train can be an exciting adventure for everyone! However, you must do everything you can before you leave to prepare your autistic child for the experiences they will have. Failure to do so will result in a less than amazing vacation for them and you.
Are you ready to take your autistic child on a train trip? Reach out to me today to learn how I can help you plan your next family vacation! I can use my expertise to plan a fabulous vacation via train for you while answering any other questions you may have. I will make sure you have the tools you need to successfully take a vacation by train with your autistic child, so you are not stressed out when it is time to leave.
Once your journey begins, you will quickly realize how fabulous this type of vacation can be. And the fun will just be beginning with even more coming once you reach your destination. So, if you haven’t traveled by train before, let me help you tackle this mode of travel for your next vacation. You don’t need to do this alone. Let me do the hard work, so you can do what you need to before you take that well-deserved vacation. Contact me today and be on a train sooner than you ever imagined!