When routines and holidays collide - heading off on holiday as autistic travellers

Trunki with where's wally book, ear defenders, and cuddly toys



The clock is ticking. Operation Holiday has begun, and we have a long list of things to do as part of our pre-holiday planning routine. It is a time when we will need to tread a fine line between routine and a desire to reduce the demands of going on holiday.

As a family with 2 autistics (myself and Eldest, 8), daily routines bring comfort to our day. They are predictable. We like to roll about in these routines like a soft furry blanket, which provides warmth on a cold winters day.

Add to that the sanctuary that is home, a place where we can potter about, and we are lulled into a sense of security and familiarity. We like the familiar, especially when we are cocooned from the world outside, as we can control much of what happens around us.

Any change results in chaos ... new routines take time to bed in and it is painful (literally) when a new routine is required. So holidays are like potentially heading into a category 5 hurricane - unpredictable and threatening to blow everything in the air. No one wants to go on holiday in hurricane season. This is why we need to plan carefully for any holiday that we head off on. If done properly the storm can be avoided.

It is a month, yes a whole month till we fly. Personally, I’d prefer not to think about it, to ignore it until the very last minute.

I want to just turn up and go. I am already struggling with a change in team dynamics at work, which has left me literally grieving for a team member who has left for another job after more than 2 years of working closely together. I don’t like to plan ahead as I find it stressful. It is like a barrage of commands flying at me, dealing with everything that everyone else wants to have in place. This extra planning is adding to an already full workload, and I really wish I didn’t have to struggle with all the different things we need to consider.

But I know this just would not fly (excuse the pun) with Eldest, as he needs time to think things through and get used to the idea of going somewhere new. Gently easing into the idea of it, and feeling comfortable enough to help us plan what we will do on holiday.

Gently easing into the idea of it, and feeling comfortable enough to help us plan what we will do on holiday.

If I am honest, I don’t like flying (especially with the family) and heading off on holiday as it one big stress. Pack, check you have everything, airport, check-in, security, crowds, gate, boarding, flying, landing, baggage, airport, hotel / home, unpack. Corralling the kids each step of the way. Dragging them about on their trunkies (how are they always underfoot), keeping them focused and/ or entertained, and ensuring their volume stays within acceptable limits. Everywhere you go, there are people. In front, to the sides and behind. Surrounded with nowhere to hide, and no chance to breathe. In short, a total nightmare. Why is why the thought of it is enough to wear me out and question whether I really want to go.

But here we are, a month to go, faced with a checklist of things we need to do to help prepare Eldest and ensure that we are as ready as we can be for the routine disruption that comes with going on holiday. This routine has been developed over the years, built out each time we go away. You can read more about this routine in my next post.

The transition into the holiday destination is pretty guaranteed to be bumpy. With so much to consider and many pushbacks to be worked through, the effort required is exhausting, for us and for Eldest. We are literally fighting off chaos.

So why do we do this? It is a question I have asked myself many times and for a long time, we didn’t. In fact last year, after a pretty horrendous flight I promised myself that I wasn’t going to fly with the whole family again. It was just too traumatic for us all. However, the idea of a family holiday is something I struggle to let go of.

We spend so much of our lives at home avoiding going out due to the challenges it brings, that the chance to go somewhere for a week is a strong lure. 

Plus, as a keen photographer, the idea of exploring another country is enchanting. Staying at home I feel like we are missing out. We spend so much of our lives at home avoiding going out due to the challenges it brings, that the chance to go somewhere for a week is a strong lure. Earlier this year I went on holiday with Youngest as I didn’t think Eldest would cope. Having a split family holiday wasn’t great, as it meant our family was divided. This is why I want to try again - to give us a chance to spend time as a family without the distraction of household chores, and give us some respite from our everyday lives.

I know it won’t be easy, which is why putting in all this preparation is so important. It is also why support for autistic travellers is so important to us. It helps to make a challenging situation, a little less challenging and thus a little more possible.

Fingers crossed with a lot of preparation and a little support we will have a holiday to remember, for all the right reasons.

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