Jun 14, 2019

Parent Trips from Summer Trips

Notes from a GWAEA autism consultant and mom

Whether you are going on a day trip or a longer vacation this summer, many kids can struggle when they are away from home in a new location/new routine. This can be stressful for EVERYONE! My own kids have struggled with anxiety and meltdowns on our family trips through the years. We’ve already started prepping our kids for the family vacation this summer. Here are a few things that have helped our enjoyment of the trip (and our sanity!):

parent tips for summer trips.png
Visual preview/preparation of the trip - at home

  • Visit the websites of any locations and show photos to your child of places you are going to visit.
  • YouTube often has videos of locations/destinations (waterparks, nature centers, amusement parks, etc.) which can help your child know how to prepare so they aren’t as overwhelmed or intimidated when they get there. (The kids might also start making their lists of what they DO want to do and what they DON’T want to do).


Surviving the hotel

  • We always pack the favorites - one favorite animal, one favorite blanket, a favorite mini pillow (mine don’t like the hotel pillows). Try to bring a few things from home.
  • Noises! Our family of light-sleepers typically needs to put the hotel fan to ‘on’ (provides white noise for sporadic hallway noise such as doors opening/closing). My kids all sleep with music at home, so we also pack a speaker so we can play sleep/meditation music to replicate their home experience and block out more unfamiliar noise. Some kids (and adults!) do much better sleeping at hotels if they wear ear plugs, which are often available at the front desk.


Visual schedule of the trip.

I remember when my youngest child, Quinn, had a massive meltdown (sorry hotel neighbors!) and he was reciting over and over “hotel, hotel, hotel… home!” and was confused when we were going to stay at more than one hotel and how many nights each hotel would be. I grabbed the little pad of paper by the hotel phone and drew a grid of the days that we were going to be gone and then sketched little ‘hotel’ buildings in days we would be in hotels (I put a ‘star’ next to hotels that would be a new hotel/hotel change). Then, I drew our home in the last box. He folded up and carried that piece of hotel paper EVERYWHERE and would cross off each day as we were on the trip. He has now ‘graduated’ to Google Docs (age 9), but has already requested that I map out our itinerary for him for future trips so that he has it.  

Our family loves trips - seeing new sights, exploring nature, and learning about history. However, it’s much more enjoyable now that we have these trip tricks that help keep anxiety a little lower!


Kelli Robertson is a trained speech-language pathologist who has worked at Grant Wood AEA for 19 years, and is currently a GWAEA autism consultant and assistive technology coach. She also is the parent of three kiddos who are unique thinkers/learners.


Category: The Carpool Lane