We are currently preparing for our family summer holiday at the end of July. We have had confirmation it is going ahead so I have a few weeks to prepare.
People often ask how we manage holidays so I thought I’d write a quick post with our tips. As Autism varies so much between individuals what works for one family won’t always work for another. My own children are completely different and experience very different challenges.
We stick to UK holidays so we have never had to navigate the challenges around airports and flying.
We use the same chains of holiday parks and hotels where possible. This means that even when we visit a new destination the park or hotel will look and feel somewhat familiar. The children have been on enough holidays now to be very familiar with our holiday routines and the holiday companies we stay with.
Our holidays are always booked well in advance. The children are fully involved with the planning and selection of the holiday destination, this helps them feel in control to a degree.
A few weeks before we go I start collating photographs and information about where we are staying. I use this to print out social stories. If it is somewhere we have been before I can use our own photos of previous visits. If it is somewhere new I print photos from the websites or email the venue to request photos.
I do the same thing with the local area and the places that we will visit whilst we are away.
Some attractions have very helpfully pre-written social stories or a guide for visitors with additional needs on their website. The Eden Project is a good example, it has a fantastic guide for disabled visitors and even provides links to a blog for a first hand review. https://www.edenproject.com/visit/before-you-visit/accessibility-guide
2020 Covid-19 Holiday Plans
The covid-19 restrictions mean we are having to make additional plans for this year’s holiday. The whole holiday will feel different to any we have been on before so ensuring the children know what to expect is vital.
As well as checking websites for visitors guides we need to make sure we take into account any changes to opening times, restrictions on which areas are open etc.
Indoor attractions may require the wearing of masks, use of hand sanitizers and fixed routes around the attraction. We let the children select their own masks with fun designs. We tried a few designs and materials so we know when they use them they are comfortable wearing them.
If you are unable to tolerate a mask there are some exemption cards online you can order online or print at home:
Hand sanitiser comes in many different forms and varies in texture and smell; both things which can cause meltdowns. We have managed to find some with a smell and texture both Faye and George will tolerate, so we can use our own when required.
Attractions now need to be booked in advance, so we will have a fixed itinerary for the week. This is great as it takes away some of the unknown, however, we’ll be at the mercy of the weather. We could find the days we have planned beach trips are very wet and soggy.
Usually we follow the same routine every time we go away. Leaving early in the morning to enjoy some time at the holiday site when we arrive. Whilst waiting to check in we have a picnic lunch followed by swimming. Once we have settled in to the caravan we get changed and eat dinner before exploring the entertainment on offer.
This year we are travelling a lot further than usual. We will travel half way the day before and have an overnight stop off. This is a change from our usual routine and will be further impacted by the hotel restaurant not being operational for dinner or breakfast. I will need to find out what the new arrangements for eating will be and request some photographs from the hotel. These may be pre-booked room service or breakfast baskets in our room rather than the familiar buffet in the restaurant.
The other thing that makes an enormous difference is having extra adults on hand to help. We try and go on holiday with family which really helps everyone have a good holiday. It means if a day out isn’t going to plan the others can continue whilst one of us can implement sensory breaks etc. We can split up and do different activities if needed to meet everyone’s needs.
As well as social stories and visual timetables we get the children involved in the packing of their suitcases. Some of the things we always pack are:
- Weighted lap blanket, this is good for the journey and doubles up a weight for backpacks.
- Small sensory toys and fidgets are in our bags at all time. We take enough to rotate to keep interest.
- DVD players for the car revolutionised long journeys (once the three children agree on the film choice that is).
- Paperwork for George and Faye, diagnosis letters, DLA letters are useful when on days out and allow them to access many adjustments on offer. It is always worth checking what is offered to make days out easier.
- Packing their visual timetables and reward system help keep things running smoothly. We use Happy Tokens for Faye which can be exchanged for rewards, they are good for saving up for ice creams or other treats on holiday.
I will post holiday photos and updates on social media. If I find any other useful tips whilst we are away I will post on there, so be sure to follow us to keep updated.