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Going on Holidays with Autism

Its that time of year again, in the Northern Hemisphere we are all thinking about, planning and hopefully soon going on holidays.

As a family with 2 adults with Autism, proper full strength Autism, we have been away as a family almost every year since 2004. I’ve learned a thing or two and here are my top tips:


There is nothing better than walking off the plane and straight through the baggage area to go outside and get in your pre-booked taxi or to collect your hire-car. Being ahead of everyone else means less queuing, less waiting and less stress. You do not need more than you can pack in a cabin sized bag.

I learned after our first holiday when everything else is different, our kids like things to stay the same.

A big tip on the first visit will ensure the staff will look out for you when you come back. I have literally had a table set up for us when we arrived during a busy time. Going to the same place at the same time each day will help your kids feel more comfortable too. And we always get free cocktails on our last night!


This changed everything. Now I’m free to relax in the cafe without worrying about “entertaining” my son. Most places have free wifi for customers but with the EU roaming, we bring our own data package on my mobile phone. My son has logged on and started watching youtube before the waiter even arrives.

Going on a family holiday with kids with Autism is NOT like taking a gap year to go back packing across Europe!

You are there for a break. Save the “new experiences” for when you travel on your own. Its a big enough change for your kids to be away from home and school. Find a routine, stick to it and enjoy the peace. It will actually make your holiday seem longer!

Its also a good idea to make visuals  to represent each activity you will do each day. Your kids are probably used to that from school and it will give them a sense of control, which reduces anxiety.  Download Grace App and email me for the steps to print and set up a daily schedule to bring along.

It took me a number of years to realise that the reason Gracie wanted to wear her “Autism School” teeshirt every day on holiday was because she was anxious about everything else. So I learned to buy 7 identical dresses and 7 identical nighties just let her be. We still bring the “Autism Tee-shirts” to wear over swimmers on the way to the pool. They are an easy way to tell everyone who we are and why my adult sized daughter is squealing like a little girl and splashing everyone in her zone.

My son used to watch one movie, every night for the entire 2 weeks, despite the fact that he had packed a very heavy selection of DVDs in a folder in his carry on bag. We must have seen “Garfield” 100 times by the time we got home. The following year it was Harry Potter, at least there were 8 films then to have on a permanent loop!

Again it took me several years to realise that he wanted some kind of continuity so I started packing box sets of our favourite tv shows. Now we have a tradition of rewatching all seven seasons of “Parks and Rec” every year. I’ve already bought the box set of 30 rock ready for this year’s trip. Same characters, same setting, but a few more episodes.  It’s our holiday thing and it works for all of us.

This is the world’s greatest initiative and they have been doing it for years. Dublin Airport Authority have ready made Social Stories to help you prepare for going to the airport and getting through all the steps to getting on to the plane. Go here to download. Once you are booked, you can also request a wristband or lanyard that will make it easy for staff to identify you all as a family who needs extra help. Doors will literally open when they see that “Important Flyer” card so be sure to get on to the website and get your request in.

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