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6 Tips for Traveling With a Kid Who Has Autism

If your child has autism and you need to travel, here are 6 tips to make it easier for both of you.

Travel with kids

Traveling with kids can be a challenge for every parent, but it’s also hard for kids with autism. Going to new places and being in unfamiliar environments for long periods of time can be disconcerting and frightening. 

If your child has autism and you need to travel, here are 6 tips to make it easier for both of you.

  1. Consider a babysitter

If the idea of traveling with your child seems like too much, consider getting a babysitter and traveling alone. While it wouldn’t be wise to hire just anyone, you can ask someone you trust who already has a relationship with your child. 

For instance, maybe one of your older children, your spouse, or a close relative would be willing to care for your autistic child while you travel.

It wouldn’t be too hard to train someone to learn your child’s routines. If you’re worried about things you usually do with your child outside of the house, like shopping and therapy, there are ways around this. 

For instance, you can set up grocery delivery and make things even more convenient by switching to in-home ABA therapy so your child’s sense of comfort doesn’t need to be disrupted at all.

Leaving your child in someone else’s care can be a good option when you can’t afford to risk anything holding you back on your trip.

  1. Find ways to keep your child busy

 Traveling can be frustrating for everyone, especially kids who are used to having their needs met around the clock. If your child is prone to boredom, you’re going to struggle when you travel. Don’t expect perfection, but find ways to keep them busy, even if it means breaking some of your hard-and-fast rules. 

For example, let them stay glued to their tablet while you fly or give them a steady supply of their favorite snacks. Sometimes you have to do things differently to keep the peace in a public space.

  1. Bring noise canceling headphones

Headphones with built-in noise cancellation are a massive support to many kids with autism, and they can be especially helpful when traveling. Planes are loud during takeoff and landing, and while some people find the light noise of a train soothing, this can be irritating to children with a high sensitivity to sound.

  1. Buy digital copies of their favorite movies and music

 Make sure to pack your child’s tablet or iPod with all of their favorite music, movies, and games. Most kids love digital entertainment and if you normally restrict their usage at home, they’ll take full advantage of being able to have unrestricted access to their device while they travel. 

Your kids probably have several favorite movies they can watch over and over again, so be sure to download them to their tablet. Movies provide long-term entertainment and if your child is really into it, they’ll finish the whole thing (if they don’t fall asleep first).

  1. Plan ahead for seating arrangements

 If you know your child likes to kick their legs and move around, request aisle seats from the airport. This way, they’ll be less likely to kick a seat while you fly. It’s not a perfect solution, but sometimes having an aisle seat will mitigate the issue enough to prevent a complete disruption.

You can also request bulkhead seats, which have a larger footwell cutout that will allow your child to kick their feet around without hitting anyone else or their seat.

  1. Visit the airport or train station with your child ahead of time

One thing that can really make a difference for your child is helping them know what to expect. By taking your child to the airport, bus depot, or train station to check things out ahead of time, you’ll start to make the traveling experience a little less uncertain. Some airports offer desensitization tours specifically for people with autism. Other organizations have programs that let kids practice boarding an airplane.

For many kids, just visiting a place once will make it more familiar and therefore less scary the next time. For instance, if you take your child to the airport to get used to the sights and sounds, it will feel less frightening when you’re actually going there to board the plane. 

Expect breakdowns 

No matter how well you plan your travels, you should always expect to have at least one breakdown. Hopefully, it won’t be anything major. However, nothing goes perfectly to plan. Do your best to support your child, but don’t be surprised if your plans are slightly disrupted.  


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Filed under: Travel Guide

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