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5 Autism Friendly Travel Spots You Might Not Think to Take Your Special Family to

Mom and her autistic son enjoying summer vacation


A post by AngelSense, a GPS & voice monitoring solution designed for children with special needs.

Learn more about how AngelSense’s GPS tracking device brings peace of mind to parents and keeps children safe


A family getaway can be a great way to expose children with special needs to new experiences without overwhelming them. It will also give you an opportunity to bond with your special child away from the stresses of everyday life. And with more and more travel destinations offering autism friendly facilities, it’s becoming easier to plan a vacation your entire family will enjoy.

Some of the best autism friendly spots for special needs families

Children with special needs struggle with change which can make a vacation particularly challenging. However by carefully considering your child’s needs and choosing a suitable destination you’ll make the transition smoother and anxiety free.

What makes an autism friendly vacation spot?

For children with sensory processing issues, crowded places with loud noises and bright lights tend to be overwhelming. In this case, it’s best to avoid theme parks and major museums. You may even decide to skip the more popular tourist destinations altogether. Of course, this all depends on the facilities on offer. Many of the most popular holiday attractions, like Disney World, offer services for children with special needs to help reduce their anxiety and sensory overwhelm.

In addition to helping your child adjust, wandering is another concern for many special needs parents especially when routines are disrupted. Some hotels are quite accommodating and have special latches on doors and bathroom locks to prevent wandering. However, these safety measures are not offered everywhere and are often not enough.
Parents may want to consider investing in a GPS tracking device to make sure their child is safe while on the road. 

Planning your vacation

For many special needs families, planning a fun, stress-free vacation is the hardest part. To help you get started, we’ve put together 5 vacation spots that are suitable for children with special needs. Some of these locations may not be ideal for your child, but our hope is that they’ll give you the inspiration to create the kind of vacation that memories are made of. 

1. Yellowstone National Park

Yellow Stone is a great place or autistic kids

Yellowstone is an incredible experience for children with special needs, and the perfect opportunity to let your child explore nature. Your children will get to see Old Faithful, colorful hot springs and mudpots. The scenery is breathtaking and there’s plenty to see and experience. This is the ideal trip for children who like wildlife.

Travel tips for special needs families:

  • Hotels in the area book up quickly so be sure to plan well in advance
  • The pools have a sulfur smell which may bother children with sensory sensitivity
  • The ground tends to be uneven and can be slippery so good walking shoes are a must

2Tradewinds Resort

This is an autism friendly hotel which does everything possible to accommodate special needs families. The hotel provides autism safety kits which include outlet covers and a hanging door alarm to prevent wandering. In addition, there is a selection of nutritious gluten-free food on offer for children with special dietary needs. There are many fun activities to enjoy including a selection of sensory activities.

Travel tips for special needs families:

  • There are no lifeguards at the hotel pools so parents need to be extra vigilant
  • There are several pet-friendly rooms for families traveling with a service dog
  • Some of the hotel restaurants may be too noisy for children with autism

3. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an ideal holiday spot for autistic kids

There are many skiing resorts in Lake Tahoe which offer adaptive skiing programs specially tailored to suit children with special needs. These programs have been found to be very beneficial for children with sensory and behavioral issues. Ski instructors are taught to use adaptive behavior techniques to reframe seemingly negative behavior, like obsessiveness, as a way to teach children to ski.

Travel tips for special needs families:

  • Be sure to book in advance as the adaptive ski programs fill up quickly
  • One-on-one instruction is preferable until your child feels confident skiing
  • Make sure the instructor is trained to teach children with special needs

4. New York City

This may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of an autism friendly holiday, but this city has something for the whole family. A few of the landmarks not to be missed include Central Park which is a great place to get some fresh air and enjoy a family picnic. The park offers Discovery Kits for kids which include binoculars, a hand lens and sketch pad.

Other not to be missed attractions, include the American Museum of Natural History which offers a special autism program for children. The Children’s Museum of the Arts is also a fun option. Every Saturday they offer a special autism friendly arts program to help children develop social and communication skills.

Travel tips for special needs families:

  • Prepare your child in advance by giving them a virtual tour of the place you’re going
  • In museums and parks your child may wander off. Be sure to give your child an identity take and consider getting a GPS tracker
  • Organize a private tour at museums so your child avoids crowds
  • Book your place at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in advance as places fill up quickly

5. Great America Theme Park

Some amusement parks are autism friendly

This amusement park is ideal for high energy children with special needs. The park has an impressive selection of rides including roller coasters that rival those on offer at Disneyland as well as family-friendly activities. The park does its best to accommodate special needs families by offering front of the line passes. There are also tracking wristbands to make sure your child doesn’t get lost.

Travel tips for special needs families:

  • It’s best to visit the park early in the morning when it’s cooler
  • The best time to visit is during the week as it tends to be less crowded
  • Be sure to bring plenty of water with you

Creating a travel plan suitable for your child’s needs is key, but still, unfamiliar surroundings and large crowds can definitely trigger wandering incidents. That’s where the AngelSense GPS Tracker comes in. With AngelSense you know where your child is at all times — your child is safe and you have the peace of mind you need.

So sit back, relax and have a great vacation!

 


AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for special needs children. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracking solution to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times. You deserve peace of mind too. Try AngelSense Today.

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Published on | Activities, Autism | One comment.
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17 Comments

  1. Mary Kelley July 16, 2016 at 6:44 am - Reply

    You left out Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas. Amusement park designed for children and adults with special needs. “Where everyone can play”.

  2. Livie July 17, 2016 at 2:16 am - Reply

    I love this and there are some great ideas. Disney is great with my son. One thing that needs to be modified though is that a service dog (not a therapy dog or emotional support dog) is allowed in ANY hotel room not just a pet friendly one. A service dog is allowed anywhere the general public is per ADA law. The owner/family would be responsible for any damage the dog did, but this should NOT be a problem with a trained service dog. We’ve traveled many places with my son’s dog.

  3. jeff harris July 17, 2016 at 5:44 am - Reply

    My 4yr old keeps on escaping from motel,hotel’s, and even condo’s and villa’s..I’ve moved furniture, rigged booby traps but he still escapes. Thank goodness nothing has happened other than him spending 6hrs with dfacs, 45 min with port security, and me almost going to jail for negligence. .but I try everything .and have an open mind and am willing to give anything a chance.any and all suggestions are welcome.

  4. Miranda lightner July 20, 2016 at 9:59 am - Reply

    In Lubbock Texas the movie place called the Alamo house does amazing thing’s for special wonderful kids with autism my daughter has autism an the staff is great there

  5. Suzy Kulshrestha July 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    I’m surprised that you included Yellowstone. It’s a beautiful place to be sure, but the hot springs could be dangerous. We just visited there with my teenage son, and I was thinking that I was glad we didn’t come with him as a toddler/ preschooler when he might have tried to jump into the boiling pools. Kids have to be able to follow safety rules there more than at many other naturally beautiful places. As his age now, the big problem was no wifi and no cellular service.

  6. Sandra July 22, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    What a great list! If you ever need Chicago area spots let me know!!

  7. hollie July 24, 2016 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Can I please have a bigger list of places to go I have a six yr old with autism

  8. Ann Marie Hughes October 18, 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Wisconsin Dells. The resort (Wilderness) we go to has EIGHT waterparks and since your hotel/condo/villa is ON SITE (with free transportation all over the place) if someone is overwhelmed, you can simply go to the room. Also with kitchens in many rooms, you can cook for a kid with eating issues. Also tons of other stuff in the town.

  9. Crystal Hinson October 18, 2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    What if need and went one of these angels devices. But you can’t afford it. You your self has a disability. Crystal

    • Sidra October 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      We are working on different ways to make AngelSense affordable for every family. Currently there are several options:
      Funding – Some families have had success with the following: Insurance, Medicaid Waiver, Easter Seals, Tax deduction, and local state programs.
      Here are some resources we put together about other ways for families with special needs of finding funding (even if you don’t go with AngelSense): http://support.angelsense.com/Pricing-and-Shipping/880992871/Funding-options.htm
      We are also encouraging anyone to write to their state representatives in support of the Keven & Avonte’s Law that would require insurance companies to cover the cost of GPS trackers for children that elope.
      Hope it’s helpful!

  10. Je fan October 26, 2016 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Be careful with the boardwalks across boiling water at Yellowstone. It is hard with small children too.

  11. Tiffany October 29, 2016 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    All Cedar Fair parks offer ASD passes for spectrum kids so they do not have to wait in the lines. We have visited several of their parks and they have been great!

  12. Tia Abina October 29, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    @jeff Harris, talk to a doctor to prescribe a sleep aide at night. Melatonin is an over the counter. You can purchase from Walmart, GNC, Vitamin shop. I have used sublingual dissolving tabs. Start 1 mg (or the lowest) right as child is in bed, will not work for walking around. If child does not respond to Melatonin try CLONIDINE. Talk to your doctor as a sleep aide. You can buy those door alarms from the dollar store to stick up on main room door and bathroom during your visit for peace of mind. Good luck.

  13. lynn October 31, 2016 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Confused whether my adult son is having a tantrum or a meltdown…He has his routines and if one cant be for the day, he starts melting down..Say if we are going out to rent a movie (and he wants only to go to redbox) and I am not ready yet just having my coffee, he comes out every 3 minutes to ask if and when I will be ready.Sometimes its 7am and I am in bed, he is standing over me asking me to drive him somewhere. I think its a mix of spoiling, tantrum, but when we are going out, I see he is visibly shaken, his hands and his head, so then he always says he is sorry but after that he starts asking for his next routine of the day, which is “when are we getting pizza” I get threats of him saying he will eat a hershey bar (he is diabetic) if for one day his routine is not possible..so its groundhog day once again…

  14. daun November 26, 2016 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Wild adventures, valdosta Georgia, we went n a Sunday in sept. Our 7yr old autistic son loved it all the staff we’re wonderful and friendly. Gabe was tall enuff to ride everything, including all the coasters!!! And we never waited in any lines. And the weather was fantastic. If you order your tickets in advance you save I think $12 we had a great time.

  15. Emily January 11, 2017 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Cedar fair parks no longer allow front of the line passes. I live in the town where their main park is, and they stopped that a couple years ago.

    • Sidra @ AngelSense January 17, 2017 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Thank you for the information. Sorry to hear they stopped the front of the line passes.

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