Autism can make vacations quite stressful. Because you are somewhere new and exciting, the simple things that your child with autism can handle can get ahead of you. There are plenty of methods and ways you can prepare for any vacation, especially in a big city, that will ensure you have a fun trip for all the family.
City breaks are a brilliant way to catch a lot of culture in one short trip, but can equally feel quite chaotic. If you have never visited a large metropolitan city like New York before, it may well be worth visiting a smaller city closer to home first. You should also do plenty of research so that when you get there, it will be easier to navigate. Just like with everything else in autism, don’t leave anything to chance. Prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
Try Booking an Apartment, Not a Hotel
Hotels are the usual for most vacationers because they are safe, easy to find and come with perks like room service and a pool. However, they can also be quite overwhelming for some people with autism. They can have noisy entertainment, lots of people relaxing and playing in the same area and may have a limited menu of food choices. Add in the many smells to go with the sounds and you have a recipe for disaster. When I am traveling alone with the children then a hotel is a necessity. When we travel as a family though, apartments can be a more frugal option.
While it may not necessarily come with a pool, an apartment will give you a lot more flexibility – especially when it comes to meal times and food preparation. An apartment will also be a bit quieter as there won’t be any entertainment going on or other people around. With an apartment, you are guaranteed a suite of rooms rather than a couple of rooms that are close-by. This allows you to give your child with autism their own space to relax and recharge.
Sites like Airbnb and hdb rental Singapore can be a great place to find places.These apartments are often in residential areas of the city which make them quiet compared to inner city rentals or hotels. You usually have a full kitchen at your disposal and a large fridge to store favorite snacks. Having the full apartment also works if you don’t want to eat out every night because you can cook a proper meal for yourselves when you are in. This is great for those families with food allergies.
Do Plenty of Research and Look at Maps
Preparation is key for any new experience and that is doubly true when you have a child with autism. Cities are, by their very nature, large sprawling and slightly chaotic. If you have a good idea where you are and what to expect, this will be a little less overwhelming and be more exhilarating than scary.
One of the easiest ways to look at a city in real detail is by using Google Earth. You can rotate the planet to see where you are going, have a look at your own house and then have a look at where you are going to stay. If you have some tourist attractions in mind, you should also have a look at these on the street view. This should help everyone get acquainted with the destination city. It will make the new place feel less new which make for a much less stressful excursion for your child with autism to navigate. It’s just one way you can set your child up for success.
While you research together, you might also want to look into what sort of food there is locally. Do some research into which restaurants and cafes will be most appealing. If there is one advantage of globalization, it is that you may also be able to try some similar food from a local take out. Getting into the swing of things as soon as you can will really help with reading the menu as well as working out what sort of portion sizes and flavors to expect. Not to mention that you will have an inkling of what your child may or may not eat. This is important for picky eaters.
Getting Around the City
Spending all day walking around might be a good way to take in the atmosphere but it is also exhausting and might be less than fun for your kids. Do spend a bit of money ahead of time on some decent walking shoes anyway. Don’t be tempted to wear brand new shoes if you are planning a lot of walking.
When you are walking around the city, it might be worth holding hands to make sure that your child with autism doesn’t suddenly dart away. The city is full of temptation and worry so sticking together in a pack is the best thing to do to stay safe. You might also wish to have a backup plan such as teaching your child to recognize a police officer in the city so that should they get into any bother, they can find an authority figure who will keep them safe. We would never dream of traveling with Logan without his Angel Sense tracker on at all times. His safety is paramount to all our adventures. We also make sure that an adult is assigned to him at all times. The Logan adult is not responsible for any other child or anything but Logan. Michael and I like to tag team this responsibility so as to not overwhelm one of us.
Public transport is usually the best and cheapest way to get around but it can be overwhelming for anyone – let alone someone with autism! If there is a subway system, try using a larger station first so that you can stand out of the way and watch people moving for a while. This will help you to acclimate to the rhythm and see what everyone is doing before you try it yourself. Give everyone a map to follow as well so you all know where you are and how many stops are left. This helps to keep your child with autism something to do. Never underestimate the power of keeping your child with autism too busy to notice the sights and smells. This is also where the Logan adult comes in handy to help alleviate anxiety or meltdowns before they get out of control.
Many underground systems require you to stand on the right while others walk down the left of an escalator. This means that you must stay in single file so make sure that your child with autism is in the middle of the group so they are following and being followed. This alleviates the need for them to make a decision that they are unable to process quickly.This method should also help with the speedy doors of the train so that if they don’t make it onto the train, there is still someone with them to get the next one. Never underestimate the benefit of having that one adult assigned to your child.
Planning Your Day
Big cities are perfect for lots of busy days, but you should certainly try to pace yourself and go at your own speed. The best thing to do is to have one or two main things you are going to do and then filler suggestions. For example, if you are going to New York you might decide to visit the Rockefeller centre in the morning and go up the Empire State Building in the afternoon but could fit in a brief trip to Central Park in the middle to get a bit of peace.
As well as planning the day, you should also pack your bag carefully. Take along some snacks just in case you can’t eat at your usual time and remember to have a bottle of water or juice ready. Cities have their own micro climates and can be much hotter than the rest of the country, especially on subway systems. Ear plugs or headphones should also be packed to help with the noise of the trains, people and city sounds in general. Having your child’s favorite snack will prove to be invaluable as well.
Everyone can have fun on a city break and with the right preparation and a few extra details, autism shouldn’t get in the way of all the excitement. Remember to take your time and go at the right speed for your family. Everyone finds cities tiring so there’s no shame in going back to your apartment for an early night if you want to!
Try to make the trip as inclusive as you can by involving everyone in the planning process from start to finish. The more you can bond over the idea of the holiday, the more likely you are to have a great time together while you are there. Go with the flow of people, enjoy yourselves and see what the city has on offer.