1. Write down what is in your child’s daily routine. Think about what they like, need, and will surely ask for while away from home. You may not be able to get their favorite food or drink where you are going, so hit the local stores and pack these items. It may help to make a daily schedule while away which includes the time to enjoy some of these items in order to not stray too far from the routine. Think about including “snack breaks”.
2. As a safety precaution, make or order your child an ID tag for them to either carry on them or wear that includes a recent photo, contact phone number of the family, and an indication that your child has autism and may not be able to communicate similarly to the person who finds them. You can also do this with an ID card for older children who are able to carry it on them in a wallet. Some other important information to include are allergies, medications, and if the child is nonverbal.
3. Find or prepare a social story about vacations and traveling. Include possible situations that may occur to make the child feel more comfortable about the adventure that lies ahead. These may include eating at a restaurant or waiting in line (especially for Disney vacations as the lines tend to be long). This can include role-playing by the family and will help with transitions.
4. Going to a new place will include seeing new sights, hearing new sounds, and most likely experiencing new tastes. This may become extremely overwhelming. Make sure your child can access at all times to their favorite coping mechanisms. These may include a tablet, favorite stuffed animal, favorite toy, headphones, or anything that helps to calm them. OH! And be sure to load tons of videos and games onto any electronic device before leaving. Wi-Fi is not always available in flight.
5. Contact the airline and let them know you will be pre-boarding to allow your child a chance to get used to the airplane before others join. Make them aware of the situation and they will help accommodate you to make sure the child is comfortable. Airlines are required to make these accommodations, including having your child board first.
6. Use what is reinforcing and what the child is passionate about on the vacation to boost interest. If the child is into dinosaurs and animals, think about possible trips to the zoo or museums. If they like automobiles, find a city tour on a bus or a trolley. Let their passions guide certain parts of the vacation!
7. Bring your camera and be sure to TAKE TONS OF PHOTOS! Vacations are the perfect time to create family memories that will last forever. Capture as many of these moments as possible! Afterwards when it is time to leave on the next vacation, show these photos to your child and remind them of all the fun that was had. Photos from past experiences could possibly be very reinforcing and relieve any anxiety that they may have about future trips!