As a child I spent many summers traveling with my family. I
was fortunate enough to see more than half of the United States, thanks in part
to our cross-country vacation during the summer of 1988. So naturally, when I
had a family of my own, I was anxious to pass on the love of traveling to my
own kids. I can only count on one hand the number of summers when we have not
gone on vacation. Debbie happens to be a pretty good traveler, and I credit
that fact to making summer vacations a part of our routine every year.
This year we took a trip to St. Louis. While Vince was
driving, I was thinking of all the things we do to make sure the vacation is
fun for Debbie. Of course, we also keep Joey’s needs in mind, but because of
Debbie’s autism we have to take extra measures to ensure peace in our world.
For example, we do not fly. We have flown twice with Debbie
and she remembers the experiences even though they happened when she was very young.
She has made it quite clear that she does not enjoy flying. Taking off and
landing are especially tough on her, causing major meltdowns. It is terribly
hard on Debbie; besides, I don’t appreciate people staring at us while she is
melting down. We are also saving a lot of money by not flying. Even if you
consider the cost of gas – and sometimes a night at a motel – it is still less
expensive to take a road trip than paying for airfare for four people.
Another travel don’t for us is going on a cruise. Boats
don’t excite Debbie. We did go on a cruise a few years ago, but after three
days she was done. The routine of not having a routine was too much for her. She
was too old for Camp Carnival and the activities for her age group were
developmentally inappropriate for her. Evenings were also hard. Since that
cruise Debbie has told me repeatedly, “We are not going on a boat!” She doesn’t
want to do it, so we don’t.
So what do we do instead? We spend a lot of time in my SUV.
Last year we drove to Disney World and the year before that we went to Boston.
We have been up and down the east coast, and now we are venturing west. Debbie
travels great on land. She enjoys looking out the car window, fooling around
with Joey, playing with the iPad, and singing along with her favorite pop
To keep things going smoothly, I pack familiar things from
home. We bring her Sponge Bob weighted blanket, the iPad, as well as comfort
foods such as chocolate pudding, applesauce, and Oreo cookies. We also prep her
well in advance of our vacation so she knows and understands what to expect. We
explain what activities we will be doing, how long we will be gone, and when we
are going home. As long as she knows what to expect, she is happy to go with
our vacationing flow. If it works for her, then we do it!
I am happy to have been able to share many of my childhood road
trip experiences with my kids, and I hope that some day they will be able to
pass the traveling bug on to their own children.
Do you travel with autism? If you do, how do you handle
vacationing? I would love to hear about your tips!
xoxoxo ~ Julie
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