Navigating the Adventure: Traveling with Your Autistic Child

by | Jun 27, 2023

It’s that time of the year. The weather is warm. School is out. Airports are bustling with families, embarking on a long-awaited summer vacation. As you look at your own itinerary for summer travel, anxiety rears its unwelcoming head. Traveling with children is stressful enough. However, traveling with an autistic child comes with more than just stress. Every moment has to be meticulously planned. Things that are taken for granted by other families may require extra effort on your part. Traveling with your autistic child may seem like a daunting task at first but with some advanced planning and preparation, travel can be successful and enjoyable for everyone. And remember, just as you plan ahead for yourself, your child may require the same.

Plan Ahead:
Research which airlines offer accommodations for people with developmental disabilities
Contact the airline ahead of time and see what sort of accommodations they can provide for you and your family. The following airlines offer disability assistance of varying sorts:
American Airlines
Southwest Airlines
Jet Blue
United Airlines
Book your trip well in advance so you can select seats of your choice. Does your child require more leg room? Do they prefer looking out the window? Do they need to be seated near a restroom?
Pick flight times that align with your child’s schedule. Do they nap at a certain time? Are mornings easier to manage than other times?
Enroll your family in TSA Precheck for a faster screening experience
Plan activities for each day and create a visual trip binder so that your child can see which activities are planned for each day
Have backup plans in the event that something suddenly changes
Discuss all travel plans with everyone traveling with you, so that everyone is on the same page

Use visual cues to let your child know of an upcoming trip. Mark it on the calendar or set reminders on their device
Create social stories for your child that will help them understand that they are going to travel soon
If your child receives ABA services, plan a meeting with the BCBA well in advance and ask for what sort of preparation they may be able to execute within your child’s curriculum
Contact your airport and see if they will allow you to complete practice airport runs before your travel date
If traveling to theme parks, purchase FastPass tickets to avoid waiting in long lines
Create small activity bags so that your child can have something to do while in transition between activities
Take your child’s nap and meal times into consideration while planning outings
Provide your child with the ability to engage in self-calming activities, such as by using noise canceling headphones, stress balls and fidget cubes

Purchase ample snacks for your child and divide them into Ziplock bags
Offer frequent breaks from activities, whenever your child becomes overwhelmed
Provide your child with choices of activities, so that they can feel like they are a part of the planning
Use visual or written daily schedules, so that your child knows what activities will occur during the day
Provide your child with some sort of routine each day.
Find activities that are enjoyable for everyone that is traveling

Summer time is a great opportunity for families to bond and create everlasting memories! Plan ahead, prepare and provide everything you will need to make it a smooth trip, to the best of your ability.

And don’t forget, you are allowed to have fun too!