December 3, 2016
When traveling, virtually every experience can be new and unpredictable. So it can be particularly challenging for autistic folks. It can involve sleeping in new and unfamiliar rooms in beds that may not be comfortable… eating in noisy, crowded restaurants… navigating public restrooms… driving long distances in busy traffic… or taking public transit in the midst of holiday crowds.
Even under ideal conditions, travel can be demanding for us; add the holiday busy-ness and the hurried rush of strangers, and it can be overwhelming. You can still do it, however, if you plan well and follow through on your plans.
Sometimes when we are exposed to extreme changes it can throw everything out of balance and we can forget to rely on the good coping tools or routines that we have put in place to help regulate life.
One way to deal effectively with holiday travel, is make up an itinerary ahead of time, and stick with it as much as possible. Knowing where you’re going, when you’re leaving, how long it will take you, and what you’ll do when you arrive can provide a greater sense of structure and control under stressful conditions. Here are some common challenges, as well as possible solutions:
|1. New and unfamiliar locations
|Check online before travel begins for images of places you will be staying or traveling through to get a sense of familiarity ahead of time
Take your own bedding and/or pillow with you, so you can relax into something familiar when sleeping in a new bedroom
Bring soothing music to create a familiar environment
Stop or take breaks at your favorite franchises when possible to limit new environments as much as possible
When you arrive where you will be staying, establish a small routine as soon as possible. This could be as simple as taking a walk in a peaceful area or finding a safe corner to stim
|2. Noisy, crowded restaurants
|Find a booth or corner table, see if you can visit at “off-hours”
Pack food and picnic in a peaceful outdoors location instead
Remember to bring earplugs and wear them
|3. Dealing with public restrooms
|Take a bottle of hand sanitizer or sanitary wipes with you, develop a routine for getting in and out quickly
Instead of using bathrooms at gas stations stop at a favorite chain store or coffee shop for more predictable restroom standards
|4. Driving long distances
|Pace yourself with a schedule ahead of time – check the map, figure out where you’ll stop to take a break, and stick to your plan whenever possible
Be mentally prepared ahead of time for changes beyond your control such as airline delays or road construction
|5. Crowded public transit
|If you can, travel in off-peak hours. If you’re in a crowded space, use visualizations, stimming, and steady breathing to calm yourself
|6 Motion/car sickness
|Make sure you are properly hydrated
Don’t read or look down
Practice deep breathing
If you have the tendency to feel queasy, don’t forget to bring a motion sickness bag with you.
|Other (list here)
|Other (list here)