Road trips during the holidays are always a fun time! This year more than ever families will be packing up their cars and traveling to see their families for Thanksgiving and Christmas so that they can avoid the crowds at the airports. While this is a great way to social distance, it’s still going to bring its challenges if you have a child on the autism spectrum who doesn’t do well in the car for multiple hours. To help prepare for your road trips during the holidays, we have created a few car ride tips so that you can prepare your child and pack accordingly.
Before You Leave
As you pack and prepare for the big trip, make time to prepare your child as well. For children on the autism spectrum, it is important to know what is happening next to avoid the anxiety and stress they can experience with the unknown. Preparing your child will help them transition better on the day of your trip and hopefully help you to enjoy your long car ride!
Practice Early: Since you probably already take your child on car rides around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, you can use these opportunities to practice for the big road trip. This will help create a sense of routine in the car which will help tremendously when it is time to go. You can also use these short trips to reward them on their progress which will encourage them for future car rides.
Routine: Routine is so important for children on the autism spectrum. Many kids know exactly when it is time to eat, go to school, go to bed, etc. Try to keep a routine while on trips to help your child with the transition. This could be something as simple as packing their favorite snacks or reading them their favorite bedtime story. If you’re traveling overnight and staying at hotels, try picking a hotel you’ve stayed at before and make that a new routine for road trips.
Social Story: Social stories are always a good idea when preparing for something new! Here are a few good ones you can try before the trip to better prepare your child. Social stories help prepare your child for the event because they get to see what will happen ahead of time and become more familiar with it.
What to Pack
Favorite Toy(s): Every child has a favorite toy so it is important to pack that as it typically can help calm them down. Also, bring items that remind your child of home to help calm and soothe them when they start to feel overwhelmed. You will also want to bring some coloring books with scented markers, small instruments, bubbles, a travel-size Etch A Sketch and other fine and visual-motor based activities. This will keep your child busy, and calm, during the road trip.
Meltdown Survival Kit: If you don’t already have one of these, you need it! National Autism Resources has some great tools to help with creating a “Meltdown Survival Kit” that includes items to calm your child in case of a sensory overload (ex: noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, fidget toys, etc.)
Noise Machine: This might sound like an unusual item pack however it will truly be a lifesaver if you end up in a noisy hotel room, or with noisy family members. Portable fans are another option if you are limited on space.
Safe Foods: Be sure pack travel-friendly foods that you know your child is familiar with and will eat. Being hungry can lead to meltdowns which can sometimes be tamed with a familiar snack. Food can also act as oral sensory tools if you give them something like gum or chewy/crunchy snacks.
Shower Bag: Routine is key, right? This comes to bathing as well! Pack up the usual toiletries to bring the smells and textures of home with you. This is also a smart idea so you don’t have to worry about skin sensitivities because you will be using your own trusted products.
Traveling during the holidays should be fun, not stressful. If you are planning to go on a trip this holiday season, be sure to let your ABA, speech, or occupational therapist know. During their sessions they can help prepare your child for the trip by going through social stories and other programs. If you have any questions, please give our office a call at (817) 442-0222 or visit our website!
Have a wonderful holiday season!
-The PediaPlex Family