Are you planning a holiday with an autistic adult?
It is always exciting when planning a holiday, but there are certain things you might want to consider when travelling with someone Autistic. Our Autism Development Worker, Sharon Marsden, has some top tips to help you prepare for your holiday, and to ensure everybody enjoys their time once you reach your destination.
  1. Choosing where to stay:
You may have been flicking through holidays in brochures, or looking at places online, but before booking it is important you do your research. Have a look at the facilities provided and check whether the staff understand autism or disabilities, a call or email to the hotel may help, or if booking with a travel agent you could contact their Special Assistance team to ask for more details.
Consider what might make the autistic person anxious, i.e., sensory needs, transitions etc to ensure the destination is suitable for the autistic person you are travelling with. TripAdvisor forums and social media groups can be a great place for finding answers to important questions, and you may find other people that have been in a similar situation and are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.
2. Preparing for your holiday
Autistic people can find change difficult and visiting somewhere new may lead to high levels of anxiety, meltdowns or behaviours that cause concern. If you are going on holiday with an autistic adult, try to involve them in planning the trip. This is a fun activity to do together and will help reduce some anxieties.
Top tips when preparing for your holiday:
  • Spend time with the person looking at photographs in a brochure or on the holiday companies’ website.
  • Use visual supports, such as a booklet with photos. This can help them remember where they are going and what it will look like when they get there.
  • Prepare a timetable in advance, taking into consideration any obsessions, repetitive behaviour or routines that person has.
  • Use a countdown calendar, both for preparing how many days before going away as well as how many stays until returning home.
  • Think about what situations they may need to understand (such as delays or unavoidable changes to travel plans) and how you can use social stories to help them prepare. (For more information, please contact Lesley, our Aspire Total Communication Lead or Sharon, our Autism Development Worker on 0161 607 7100)
  • Take ‘comforters’ that the person uses to help them feel safe and relaxed. This will be personal for each person.
  • Carry an autism alert card that gives a brief explanation of autism. (For more information about the alert cards, please contact Sharon, Aspires Autism Development Worker on 0161 607 7100)
Take into consideration any special requirements
Inform your holiday provider of any special requirements the autistic person you are travelling with may have, such as:
  • A need to sit in a certain seat or area of your transport.
  • Any medication needs, i.e., storage, amounts travelling with you.
  • Sensory needs, i.e., requires room with blinds to reduce light or a room away from loud noisy areas.
  • Any item of comfort you may need to take with you to reduce anxiety.
You may be given the opportunity to complete a form or send an email detailing these needs. We recommend you follow up any verbal communication in writing and take a copy of this on holiday with you.
Many tourist attractions will allow a carer free entrance, and/or arrange special access to facilities, if you show them some evidence of the person’s disability, for example a letter showing that they receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments. It may also be useful to have a copy of any letter which states the persons diagnosis so remember take important documents with you.
Always make sure that you have travel insurance that meets the requirement of the autistic person you are travelling with. You can search for travel insurance by using a medical insurance comparison website.
3. How to travel
How you get to your destination can impact on how your plan ahead and prepare for your journey:
Travelling by plane
Discuss your check-in arrangements with the airline. They might be able to arrange a special check in time or have a quieter area of the airport where you can wait. You could also ask about boarding as they may let you board first or last.
Take anything that is going make their journey more comfortable such as headphones to listen to music, ear defenders, books or comforters.
Many airports and airlines now have far more autism awareness and have produced procedures and guides for those travelling with an autistic person:
  • Manchester can provide special assistance and give you a lanyard to wear as a discreet way of showing airport staff that you may need help. Check out these websites for more help and guidance-
Manchester Airport Autism Awareness Booklet
Invisible Disabilities | Manchester Airport
Trains and boats
Travelling by train or boat can be a less stressful experience for some autistic people. Again, it is important to take anything that is going to provide a distraction and make the journey easier. This could be access to their favourite music, a much-loved book or comforter.
Many train stations and ferry ports will offer special assistance for disabled travellers. Contact the stations or port you are travelling from and to before your trip to explain that you are travelling with an autistic passenger and ask what support they offer.
If travelling through Europe, you might find it useful to read advice on passengers with special needs.
For more information or guidance please contact Lesley, our Aspire Total Communication Lead or Sharon, our Autism Development Worker on 0161 607 7100.

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