Planning for a holiday with a child on the spectrum

18 July 2018

Dear friend,

What do you take into account when booking your holiday? Somewhere with lots of sun, good entertainment, water sports, a pool with lots of slides, peace and quiet? It can be difficult to find a holiday that suits everyone, especially if you have varied needs. 

For a number of years we holidayed in familiar places and stuck to Efteling or Centre Parks. The good thing about Centre Parks is that they are all very similar (the accommodation largely mirroring one another) so our son felt safe, comfortable and immediately at home. But the last few years as he has matured we have ventured further afield. 

With some good planning and organisation you can have a successful holiday for the whole family...

Planning for a holiday with a child on the spectrum:

  • Involve them in choosing the hotel or destination.
  • Mark the date on a calendar and regularly remind them of when you will be leaving.
  • Before you go look at pictures on the Internet and talk about what you will do when there.
  • Choose a smaller sized hotel or a private villa.
  • Avoid going anywhere too busy - try and book at the beginning or end of the season when it is quieter.

  • Take your child on a tour of the hotel/apartment/house when you arrive to familiarise them with it.
  • Give a verbal/pictorial rundown of what you will do each day so they are prepared for what will happen.
  • Check flight times. We try to avoid late night flights. Paying extra to keep your hotel room if you have a late flight can also help as you still have a place to escape if needed.
  • Don't plan too much. Especially the first few days. Let them get acclimatised.
  • Bring a favourite toy/game/video game/music player etc to use as an escape during stressful times.
  • Go with family or friends who can lend a helping hand if needed.

  • Inform the staff of any special needs your child may have. Be specific about those needs. Don't just say he is autistic/has ADHD do say e.g. he won't respond unless you first use his name/he will watch first/he will need help to join in.
  • Your child may not want to join in with the kids club straight away. Break them in gently. Maybe just 1/2 hour to start. Show them the room. Introduce them to the staff. Take a familiar toy/game. 
  • Find a sunbathing spot close to the club so your child always knows you are at hand if they need you. Check in regularly!
  • Have a siesta every day. Tiredness leads to meltdowns. Make sure that your child has at least an hour rest (perhaps in the hottest period). They may also have more energy for the evenings entertainment!
  • Trips to busy and unfamiliar town centres/tourist attractions can be really stressful. Be prepared to leave if your child needs to. Have a safe word or phrase. (Take extra money for a taxi if on a planned excursion.)
  • Food. Some ASD children may have a special or limited diet. Check the hotel menu to see if your child's foods are included. Is there a supermarket nearby? Are there facilities to make your own food? You may need to take some things with you. 

  • Relax! If you are stressed, your child will pick up on this.

Happy Holidays!

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