Five Sensory-Friendly Vacation Spots for Children with Autism
- Morgan’s Wonderland
- Disney Theme Parks
- Beaches Resorts
- Royal Caribbean Cruises
- Myrtle Beach
Finding a great travel destination for children with autism can be a struggle. Many vacation hot spots are packed full of bright lights, loud noises, and overwhelming scents – all things that can lead to a meltdown. Luckily, as awareness of autism is growing, so too are options for sensory-friendly trips. Here are five of the best places for vacationing with children on the autism spectrum.
Related resource: Top 25 Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online
Business tycoon Gordon Hartman developed this theme park for his daughter and the special needs community. Every ride is wheelchair-accessible, and visitors with special needs receive free admission. An entire section of the theme park, called Sensory Village, is designed for children with autism, and sensory-friendly relaxation rooms are scattered throughout the 25 acres. In 2017, a water park with heated pools was added to the grounds. The park is located in San Antonio, Texas, and is adjacent to several other disability-friendly locations, including an accessible sports program.
Disney Theme Parks
For children with a special interest in Disney movies or characters, no experience can beat a trip to the theme parks. However, for children with autism, a vacation to a theme park can quickly turn into a nightmare for the entire family. Disney theme parks offer several autism-friendly options, including quiet zones for children to decompress and an online guide to rides to rides so families can plan ahead to avoid overstimulating options. Also, families can schedule specific times to ride certain rides to avoid waiting in loud, crowded lines for long stretches of time.
The Beaches resort family is working hard to be a top vacation spot for autistic children. They offer children’s camps run by certified counselors with autism training and age-appropriate activities for infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers. Plus, Beaches has partnered with Sesame Street to bring Julia, a character with autism, into the Beaches experience, so children will have a familiar face waiting for them.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
On a cruise vacation, families will visit new cities, spend a week or so in a new environment and meet lots of new friends. For children with autism, cruises can be an overwhelming experience. That’s why Royal Caribbean has created a special program, featuring autism-friendly toys, priority check-in, a cruising social story, and dietary accommodations. On some sailings, families can take advantage of respite rooms, extra staff members and private services. For children with special interests in sailing, families can meet with the Captain at a special reception, ask for a behind-the-scenes tour or just sit back and watch their child enjoy exploring.
According to CNN Traveler, Myrtle Beach is one of the first autism-friendly communities in the country. Thanks to one mom’s dedicated efforts, restaurants and stores across the beachfront have been trained on autism. Families can ask for quiet seating, attend sensory-friendly movie nights, take surfing lessons from autism-friendly instructors or even get a GPS tracking band for their escape artist children. The local airport also offers a sensory-friendly decompression room.
Children with autism deserve the same experiences as their neurotypical peers. With these five sensory-friendly and fun travel spots for children with autism, families can make childhood memories without any meltdowns.