Holidays are a stressful time of year for everyone, not just autistic people. From the planning, financing and managing of expectations, there can be a lot of sources of anxiety that can turn the holiday from something to be anticipated and savoured to something to be dreaded and panicked about. If you are on the autism spectrum, many of these stressors can be magnified with uncertainties and unpleasant experiences. Fortunately, there are ways that you can take control of your holiday and turn it into an autism-friendly experience for you.. Here are 5 top tips for making your next holiday a dream vacation:

  1. Know your limits – a holiday trip to see family or just to take a break can be filled with sensory overload. This can be from too many people, conversations about uncomfortable things or simply having to exist outside your comfort zone for long periods of time. Make sure you know how much you can handle, and what you’re going to do when it feels like it’s getting too much.
  2. Plan some scripts – while there are a lot of unknowns on any holiday trip, there are certain small talk conversations that will happen wherever you go. By preparing and rehearsing some scripts to use in family gatherings or at a restaurant, you’ll be ready to know what you want to share and what you want to keep to yourself.
  3. Pack your routines – if you find a routine set of behaviors helps you to regulate before bed or get you ready for the day, make sure that you build these into your holiday schedules. These routines will bring a feeling of calm and familiarity to your day, and there is always time for looking after yourself in this way.
  4. Find time for you – unless you are travelling by yourself, a holiday requires a balance of everyone’s needs and wants, from planning on where to eat to the activities you’ll do each day. It will be important to remember that you are an equal and worthy part of the travel group, so finding time for you and your interests, as well as some quiet time to get you regulated again, will be essential.
  5. Bring your tools – finally, you need to make sure that you’re bringing whatever tools you need to survive outside your comfort zone. Whether this is a device to help you communicate, a phone for playing games and calming down or books to get lost in, you need to plan your packing list with these items (and any accessories like headphones and chargers) at the very top.

A final overarching piece of advice is to make sure that you’re an active participant in the planning process – this will also help you feel prepared for what’s coming up. The beauty of living in the age of the internet is that you can find information on just about any location at or on the way to your destination and get a feel for whether you’d be comfortable going there. Having this information be part of the planning process will help to create an autism-friend holiday for you.