A few years ago my mother decided to take us to Europe. I don’t remember traveling before my son. Did I always plan every minute? Did I always research restaurants so much? Maybe I have always been this way and it just works really well with him so he was meant to be mine.
My husband hates to fly so every other trip had been by car. When you travel by car you can take all the comfort items and there are no issues. Packing for a two week trip to Europe means making tough decisions. He has a dinosaur pillow that is a really big comfort item for him. Unfortunately the pillow would take up too much room so that was one of the first discussions that had to occur. Luckily I was able to reason with him and over time he became okay with not taking the pillow. I remember friends thinking I was absolutely crazy in taking him on his first flight across the Atlantic. I prayed a lot about that one. Luckily they now have a wonderful program for kids with autism http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/02/nj_autistic_children_brave_con.html
I would recommend anyone taking an autistic kid on a plane to do this. I wish it had existed in our area when we went. Instead all I could do is talk my son through what to expect in security and on the plane. I was so worried and the plane ride was completely without incident. He actually slept through the 8 hour flight on the way over!
Our first week was in Paris, France. We learned how to say chicken and french fries in french but we didn’t think to learn how to say “no sauce”. That would have been really helpful to know! He was very good about it and to this day when we try new restaurants we tell him to pretend he is in Paris. My son thinks in patterns and he loved figuring out the Metro and leading us around. It was such a great experience. He also loved the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river cruise. We also took a day trip to Normandy and Mont St. Michel which we all enjoyed. But the highlight was a day trip to Disneyland Paris. We have the best pictures of him smiling and laughing on all of the rides there. That was a great trip.
The second part of our trip was a cruise in the Mediterranean which left from Barcelona, Spain. They do not speak English there. When we first arrived there my mom was in the front of the cab trying to point to the map and explain what hotel we were in. The hotel was labeled with the number 18 and I heard my son very quietly saying something. All of a sudden I realized he was speaking Spanish. Holy crap I forgot he has had some Spanish and really enjoyed learning it. So I started repeating what he is saying and the cab driver understands and takes us to our hotel!! I couldn’t praise my son enough. If it wasn’t for him and his wonderful mind that just works wonders sometimes we would have been sitting in that cab forever! Barcelona was the most beautiful city and I wish we had spent more time there. The Barcelona Zoo is amazing and right down the road from our hotel was a Pizza Hut. It was definitely his kind of town!
The cruise ship of course had all of his appropriate kid food and we had no issues ordering. We had some wonderful shore excursions. One of the highlights being swimming with the dolphins in Malta. He loves animals and this was one of the most favorite things he has ever done. My son is currently planning to be a marine biologist when he grows up and I wonder if swimming with the dolphins gave him have some real life experience to help him decide.
A few of our stops were in Italy and of course pasta and pizza are on his list of foods! He still talks about the pizza he ate in Florence that had seaweed on it. I really don’t think it was seaweed but he is convinced that it was because of the texture. The tour guides were really good about making sure he got plain pasta for the lunches they provided.
Unfortunately we did not get to enjoy Rome. I have a very good friend from Rome and he told me to just rent a car to drive from Civitavecchia where the boat docks. That may have been great advise for another family. The issue actually wasn’t my son. My husband freaked out with trying to drive and didn’t listen to my directions. So we got lost in Italy. We had a great idea to park at a hotel at the outskirts and take a cab in. We figured could get the business card from the hotel and give to cab to get back. It would have been a great idea but we were running low on cash and I was frazzled and I apparently dropped the rental car keys in cab. I realized this when we were walking in to the coliseum. So then we had to retrace our steps. The nice cab driver dropped them off at the hotel for us. But we were kind of done by then. I guess on the bright side we ended up having a relaxing day on the cruise ship!
We had a wonderful trip and it has given him a great perspective on the world. I think the trip has given him a very broad interest in history and the world. He usually dreads writing papers but he has written a research paper on D-day and also a paper about traveling to Paris. He has World History this year at school so I really hope that he does well in this class after having traveled the world!