I have been privileged in my life to be able to travel. I have always loved to travel although I have also hated many aspects of travel. I have ready many blogs where parents have discussed what a disaster traveling is with their kids, especially autistic kids. I am hoping this blog post helps some other parents.
We are currently planning a trip to Washington DC in the fall. I have always wanted to take Sheldon there because he is a history buff and he has always been interested in past presidents. He has an affinity for Lincoln which is really weird because I used to talk about Lincoln when I was a young child. I once had a dream that I spoke to president Lincoln. One of those really vivid dreams.
Anyways my husband decided he wants to ride his bike to Washington DC. He was scared to ask me about the trip. I am more than happy to go to DC :). And yes my husband might be crazy but really let’s just say that bikes are his special interest!
As I said I love to travel… But I also hate to travel. My son also enjoys traveling as long as things go a certain way. He actually loves to go museums but he doesn’t want to spend all day in the museum. Me either! He doesn’t want to spend all day shopping. Me neither!
My son and I are actually perfect travel companions. Although between the two of us we have quite a list of issues to deal with. For either of us to have a good time I plan, plan, plan. I usually have itineraries but I am also prepared to have a back up plan or ditch whole thing for time in the room when needed!
In the past I have tried to go cheap on a hotel but that never ends well. I have had some really uncomfortable experiences in the past. It is funny that previously it never occurred to me why I felt that way. Now I know to embrace my needs. They are that, not indulgences.
Since the hotel is our home away from home for about a week it is really the most important choice of the whole trip. I love tripadvisor because I can go read very descriptive details. I have bathroom issues so I really do care if the tubs are cracked or the drains are clogged. I know other people care about these things but I probably care more.
We will hang out in the room quite a bit because he will need breaks. Which is just fine by me! We usually go out and explore for a couple hours and then relax for a couple hours. It really is too much to be out in a new environment for long periods of time, especially in crowds.
I also picked a hotel that is close to everything. We will be driving there but once we are at the hotel I will not want to drive again. I also want to be able to get back to the room quickly if he becomes overwhelmed.
I will pack all kinds of snacks and drinks for both of us. I know he will want snacks and not want to leave the room. I also can’t stand being hungry. I become very cranky. also made sure that the hotel at room service. He still talks about how great the pizza was from room service in New Orleans last year.
I also make sure there are good places to eat nearby the hotel. I know lots of people do this but it is even a bigger issue with Sheldon. He will usually try a couple of new places and then it will start to become an issue. Sometimes he likes one of the places and we end up eating there multiple times (a hole in the wall called Mother’s in New Orleans has the best waffles btw). Or he will become twitchy and need a familiar restaurant. I am happy to report that there is a Hard Rock Cafe close to our hotel as that is on his list of happy places to go when traveling.
My son could wear the same outfit for days (or no outfit). I have lots of clothing issues. I usually pack extra of everything. That way I am never uncomfortable. I hate being in sweaty clothes or being too hot or too cold. It will drive me over the edge.
Sheldon really likes his pillow so I always make sure to pack it for him. I also make sure to pack hall of his electronics and sensory items. In an ideal world I would take his cat with him. He always wants his cat. I suppose I could get his cat rated as a therapy animal but we have never taken it and I am afraid it would add too much stress for me at this time. Also not sure how the cat would tolerate it! He is a great cat but he has limits. I just make sure that the trip is not too long. How long he can tolerate is directly proportionate to how stressful the trip is overall.
I try to plan activities in small groups or some activities are one trip out on it’s own. He loves museums but he will probably only spend an hour or two in any museum. Each kid is different regarding what activities they like and for how long they will tolerate them. I make a plan but I am also always prepared to drop the plan. I also have alternate list for when he is bored or decides he doesn’t want to do a particular activity.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind with traveling with an autistic is to always keep them comfortable. Strange place, tired, hungry, uncomfortable clothes, lots of people and strange noises combine when traveling and it can cause multiple meltdowns. When on edge we need a break, sometimes a long break. I can’t expect my son to be on my schedule. I have learned that if I push him (or myself) too far it doesn’t end well.
Although we are not going till the fall I am well into planning to make sure it goes correctly. I probably also have a need to make sure that every thing will go well. I also really enjoy planning trips. I am so excited about this upcoming trip 😊