Travelling is fun but the journey can sometimes be a little stressful. Especially for kids with autism, all the new impressions may be very overwhelming. Breaking out of their routine can be an enormous stress factor for children with autism. This is why you want to prepare extra well for your next family trip going on holiday with your autistic children.

In honour of the 13th annual World Autism Awareness Day (2 April 2020), we spoke with a few people affected by autism (people with autism as well as parents of autistic children) to share their issues and resolving tips when travelling. Autism is an enduring developmental disorder that alters how a person communicates with and reflects on other people. The condition often includes challenges with social interaction, communication and imagination and sensory processing.

To make sure you and your family can get the most out of your holiday, it is useful to know what to expect.

Before Your Trip


1. Consider the type of destination you would like to visit

Close to nature destinations such as the ocean, forests, and mountain destinations are especially nice holidays with autistic kids. They are away from the crowds and yet offer lots of interesting places to discover. Nature gives them space and a quiet place to calm down if they are overwhelmed. Another benefit of a natural holiday destination is the fact that there are lots of animals you can discover and observe there together. You might want to consider an active holiday such as walking or cycling. This is an excellent combination of activities and relaxing nature for the whole family. Finally, walking is like a superpower because it is believed to be directly connected to a person’s happiness.


2. Prepare your kid for the holiday 

Go through the itinerary with your child, explain where you are going and what you are doing. Talk through different situations and provide photos or videos of planes taking off, going through airport security or the hotels you might be staying at. Remember to include how long the holiday will last and when the family will return home.


3. Research airports, hotels, and other sightseeing locations

If you book with a tour operator, inform the operator about the special needs of your child and ask for assistance. You can also contact airlines, airports or hotels directly as most of them have become very good at accommodating special assistance. You might be able to get priority boarding or access to a quieter waiting area. Some hotels also offer small kitchenettes so you can prepare your child’s food the same way you do at home to keep up with their routine.


During Your Trip


4. Arrange an activity bag

Pack your kid’s favourite books, music or video games and remember to bring headphones in case they are getting sensory sensitive to new impressions. This way, waiting times will be much easier and your child will be able to block out unfamiliar environments.


5. Consider your child’s needs, likes and dislikes

Think of your child’s interests but try to include them into activities that the whole family enjoys. Parks, petting zoos, playgrounds with lots of activities to choose from are excellent activities for the whole family. With active things to do, keep in mind to explain to your child what is happening and what they need to do. For example, being on a water slide means that your kid should swim away and make room for the kids sliding down after.

It is also advisable to always arrange a meeting point; in case you have lost each other and to make sure your child knows where it is. Actively show the meeting point to your child.

Sometimes exploring and just observing nature is already very interesting for an autistic child and gives them lots of space to soak in all the new impressions as well.

In terms of food likes and dislikes, you know what your child eats. So, find out if the hotel provides buffet with foods your kid likes, try to avoid peak times to avoid crowds but also try to balance it with the usual time your child eats to keep a normal routine.


6. Slow down and give space when needed

New places, new people and a change of daily routine can certainly be overwhelming for children with autism and it can take them longer to absorb all the new things. Often, autistic children cannot process all of the situations because of the amount of new, foreign impressions. Thus, they might get upset and shut down or have a meltdown. In these times, you know your child best and often it helps to slow down what you were doing and just give your child some space to rest and calm down.

If your child is looking for support, offer to talk through the situation, distract them with a familiar activity, or do breathing exercises.

After Your Trip


7. Reflect (with your child)

When you are back home, take some time and reflect on your holiday. What were things that went well, what did not? Give your child some time to adjust being back home and speak to your kid about their experiences. Ask how they felt the holiday went. It will give you lots of great insights in order to prepare for your next holiday.

Also, if you were especially happy with certain suppliers, make a note! It will be very beneficial if you can go back to places your child feels a little more familiar with next time. You can also share this with other parents who may be in a similar position.

Finally, we need to emphasize that every child with or without autism is different and you as the parents know your child best. Even with autism, there are different forms and levels of severity which makes generalising impossible. However, these tips may be a good guideline if you plan on going on your first big vacation or travel to a new destination. In the end, try not to overthink it and enjoy your family holiday. Give your child some space and don’t be too afraid and clingy. It’s a special time to bond, get out and have fun. 

If you have any questions on how to prepare for your next trip or if your needs can be met, please reach out to us at

Would you like to learn more about Autism? Have a look at the Irish Society of Autism.

Chushka Biurek – Bulgarian Stuffed Peppers

Bulgaria is a bit off the beaten track as a holiday destination, but it is absolutely worth the journey! The mountains are stunning, peaceful, and full of wonderful sites. You'll meet friendly locals and of course, there is plenty of excellent food to try.  One of our...

Eating with Kids on Holiday

Eating with kids on holiday can be stressful, especially because the food can be so different in a foreign country. In order to help you avoid all of the stress when you have a fussy eater with you, we came up with a list of ideas. Finally, holidays with your children...

Delights of Spain: The Spanish Omelette

Spain is not only well-known for its rich culture and beautiful landscapes but for its delicious and varied Mediterranean gastronomy, which includes the famous Spanish omelette or “tortilla de patatas”. The ingredients to prepare this signature dish are very simple,...

Scones – An Irish Family Tradition

Scones are very popular in United Kingdom and Ireland. I am from Ireland and we usually have scones for mid morning treat every day with real butter and jam. Scones are very traditional and a true delight. If you or your kids haven't tried scones yet, this is your...

Top 5 of the Best Activities in the UK

We all know the United Kingdom for the magnificent Highland and obviously because of Harry Potter, Robin Hood… But there are so many other things to do while you’re hiking across the UK with your children! So to help you have a fun and memorable trip with your kids,...

Ireland Top 5 Activities

Emerald Island is waiting for you! Hiking in Ireland is breathtaking but the country has a lot of activities for kids, starting with the famous sheep farms, through a canoe day. We've selected the best family activities in Ireland just for you!Sheep Farm It is...

Portugal’s Sweetest – Pastel de Nata

Also known as Pastel de Belém, is a traditional Portuguese custard tart made with fresh egg custard poured into a flaky, crispy pastry. It is usually served piping hot topped with icing sugar and cinnamon powder. The scrumptious dessert (which is also regularly eaten...

Kaiserschmarrn – Austria’s Family Favourite

Kaiserschmarrn is Austria's version of pancakes. And everyone loves pancakes, right? Are you recently coming back from a hiking trip from magical Austria? Then you must have tried some delicious, tradtional Kaiserschmarrn. Maybe you were looking for some inspiration...

Tarta de Santiago – Traditional Pilgrim Almond Cake

If you ever thought about doing the Camino with your family, you might have heard of the Tarta de Santiago. It is a Galician almond cake and one of the most typical Camino specialities. Pilgrims have been enjoying Tartas since the Middle Ages where it was appreciated...

A French Essential – The Nougat de Tours

Who never dreamed of being a Queen or a King? Take a seat in Amboise or Blois, on a nice terrace, with the sun warming your face.  In front of the numerous castles and medieval houses, it’s time to take a break and imagine yourself living with the French Royal Court. ...