Posted in Autism, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

DS-ASD~7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families

DS-ASD~7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families

My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). We’ve had our share of family vacations traveling across the country and overseas.  It’s not always easy and breezy, but with some planning and preparation, your vacation can be less stressful and fun for everyone.

7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families:

1. Prepare social stories and visual schedules including the mode of travel, and what is expected from your child. Review the vacation destination venue online with your child. This will give them an idea of where they will be going, and what they will be doing. Print pictures of the vacation venue to create a daily activity schedule. Visuals will provide a blueprint for your child to understand what will be happening, this will lessen their anxiety.

2. When booking accommodations, look for a comfortable and quiet retreat for your family. This may mean a separate living area from the rest of your family or friends in some cases.

3. Bring medications, snacks, comfort items and highly preferred toys/sensory objects in your carry on bag. In addition, it’s wise to pack an extra set of clothes for your child.

4. Plan short, flexible and open-ended adventures on your vacation. Build in time for breaks as needed.

5. Work in at least a few activities that your child will love.

6. Eating familiar foods will help your child feel more at home in a strange place. Check restaurant menus online beforehand, especially in the case of any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Once on vacation, we forgot to buy Ranch dressing, this lead to my son having a meltdown.

7. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. As much as you can, try to watch for the triggers that may cause your child to have a meltdown. See what you can do to cut these off at the pass before things escalate.

Vacations while fun, can be challenging for a child with special needs. Prepare in advance with comfort items, visuals, and look for possible triggers that may cause anxiety and discomfort for your child. Build in as much predictability as possible. Keep a relaxed and flexible attitude when approaching daily activities. It’s okay to cut things short, if it gets to be too much. Being prepared, planning ahead and staying flexible will help families have a smooth and enjoyable vacation this summer.

That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂


Follow Nick:

Instagram @nickdsautism

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With a  Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall




Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

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