These days, traveling can be stressful and hectic for anyone, but if you have a neurodivergent or autistic child, traveling can present additional hurdles and unique challenges. The good news is there are steps you can take, and things you can do, to make travel easier and less stressful.
Here are a 5 tips to make your next trip go smoother and be more enjoyable for everyone.
1. Plan Carefully
The first thing you want to do is plan your trip carefully. Consider your child’s unique needs. Factor in where your child is at developmentally, and tailor planning, and expectations, based on that, not their chronological age.
Have you already taken trips with your child? Can you attempt a long plane, train or car ride? Would it be better to take a direct flight, or one with layovers to build in breaks? Does one long road trip work, or should you plan for frequent stops? These are things to consider when planning your trip.
2. Consider Off-Peak Traveling
The second thing you want to do is consider traveling during off-peak times. If you are traveling by air, this will help avoid crowds and reduce sensory overload. This can make the experience more comfortable for your child. Weekends and Mondays are typically peak travel days, so try to pick midweek and early morning flights if possible. You can also notify the airline about your child’s needs in advance. We have found that some will be able to provide assistance or make accommodations for you.
While this tip primarily applies to air travel, traveling by train and car during off-peak times can help avoid larger crowds on the train and during road trip stops.
3. Discuss The Upcoming Trip With Your Child
The next thing we recommend is to discuss the upcoming trip with your child. Show them pictures and videos of the destination, and explain what to expect. Use visual aids, stories, or develop a visual schedule to help them understand the sequence of events during the trip. This will help make things more familiar and easier for them while traveling.
4. Create An Essentials Kit And Make It Easily Accessible
Our 4th tip is to create an essentials kit. This should include snacks your child loves, adding extras in case of delays, as well as any medications your child needs. Also include books, games or videos they like to keep them busy. Consider headphones or ear plugs to prevent sensory overload, and make sure to include comforting items that can help if your child is overstimulated.
It is important to keep your essentials kit readily available during your trip. If you are flying make sure it is in your carry-on bag – not checked in at the gate.
5. Be Patient and Flexible
And finally, the most important tip – be patient and flexible, and adapt your plans as needed. Go into the trip knowing that plans may need to change – it is expected and it is OK. Be prepared to “go with the flow” and try not to stress out too much if you have modify your travel plans.
Traveling with an autistic or neurodivergent child can be challenging, but incorporating the above tips into your travel planning can help make your next trip less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone. If you have any questions about traveling with your neurodivergent child, please reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you!