Discover Autism-Friendly Travel Both Near and Far

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Within the past years, autism-friendly travel has become popular. This includes both local travel or destination vacations. However, you may not know where to find an autism-friendly destination.  Moreover, it is important to look for travel solutions that are right for you or your family. Therefore, below are four points to consider about autism-friendly travel:

  1. Many towns and cities become autism-friendly.  That is a critical part of autism travel at home. Moreover, it happens around the world.  Similarly, they can be called sensory-friendly cities. Or, sensory-friendly towns.
  2. Airlines and airports adopt practices to help children with autism.  They also help other sensory-friendly seeking travelers. Finally, they provide special assistance for travelers with disabilities.
  3. Hotels are continuously adding sensory-friendly rooms.
  4. Cruises and cruise lines are doing more to better accommodate passengers. That includes autistic people. Furthermore, that includes people with other hidden disabilities.  For example, some cruise lines offer a sensory-friendly cruise experience.

Moreover, autism travelers are part of the large and growing group of people. That means people who seek sensory-friendly travel.

Three resources will help build your knowledge:

Autism-friendly towns and cities

Mother and daughter holding hands walking around autism friendly city.

Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, Canada became an autism-friendly destination in 2017.  It was a town-wide, autism-friendly initiative.  For example, the Hotel Port aux Basques became the first autism-friendly hotel in Canada.  The staff at the hotel completed specialized training. In addition, this hotel seeks to provide a quiet and calming environment. They converted a room into a play lounge. Similarly, it is also a bit of a sanctuary.  Most importantly, they created this space for both children with autism. They invite all their guests to use it. This lounge includes a climbing wall, a cocoon-like padded hammock, a plush playboat and a soothing wall with a seaside mural. The mural represents the Atlantic ocean that surrounds the town. Furthermore, the staff also arranges for additional security measures for guests travelling with children. For example, they add drawer locks. As well, they move door locks up higher.

Another instance is Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States.  They claim to be the most autism-friendly city in the world.

And a third example is Clonakilty.  It became the first autism-friendly town in Ireland.

Hotels are investing in sensory-friendly rooms.

Above all, hotel operators know that sensory-friendly rooms create a better customer experience for their guests.

Sligo Clayton Hotel

In August 2017, the Clayton Hotel in Sligo County, Ireland created a sensory room in their hotel that is open to all hotel guests.  For example, this space welcomes both adults and children who seek a stress-free and calm environment.

Broadway DoubleTree Hotel

A sensory-friendly hotel destination is the Broadway DoubleTree Hotel in Missouri, USA. Specifically, this facility has provided additional staff training to better assist and care for guests with autism.  Moreover, they adapt housekeeping options and dining room design to better accommodate guests with sensory-processing disorders.

What you might expect from a sensory-friendly hotel:

  • extra staff training
  • additional help for travelers that experience sensory sensitivity
  • a sensory room for children
  • changes in the guest room itself

Autism Friendly Cruises

The majority of cruise lines provide additional services to better accommodate people with a wide variety of disabilities.  For instance, several cruise lines include a special needs or a disability desk.  Additionally, there are some special cruises designed for families with individuals that have identified disabilities.

An organization called Autism on the Seas collaborates with several cruise lines to provide cruise vacations for families with children who have autism.

Cruise ship passengers returning to autism friendly cruise liners.

Examples of accommodations by autism-friendly ships or autism-friendly cruises.

  • cruising social story
  • early access to your cabin
  • additional training and professional staff
  • gluten-free and dairy-free food
  • greater flexibility in programs
  • greater flexibility in events
  • inclusion of other families with autism onboard
  • priority boarding
  • priority disembarkation
  • private activities
  • sensory-friendly movies
  • toy lending program

Similarly, Carnival cruise lines have adopted sensory inclusion practices too.

Sensory Friendly Airlines

Flying with an autistic child can be a challenge.  Therefore, more airlines make accommodations to help people with autism fly in comfort.  As a result, you might have heard of Wings for Autism or Wings for All.  This program is offered at various airports. It occurs on specific dates. Furthermore, it gives families the opportunity to rehearse flying. And they can practice aspects of the flying process. 

In addition, the vast majority of airlines offer disability seating.  This special seating benefits families of autistic children as well.

Two boys sitting in airplane seats on a sensory friendly airline

Airline programs that help passengers with a disability, including autism. 

Autism Friendly Airports

In Canada, there are programs where families can participate in airport rehearsals to practice the travelling process for sensory-sensitive children.  For example, these occur at the Montreal Trudeau Airport in Québec, the Calgary International Airport in Alberta, and the Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Cares is a program in the United States.  TSA Cares has a helpline for travelers. Specifically, it is for travelers with disabilities. Examples are medical conditions, and other special circumstances requiring additional assistance.  TSA Cares helps during the security screening process.

As well, the TSA also offers a travel notification card.  This card alerts a TSA officer to someone travelling with a disability. In particular, that helps people with a hidden disability.  For example, hidden disabilities include, but are not limited to, autistic persons, people recovering from a concussion, PTSD and people who have hearing loss.

A happy boy standing in airport travelling with suitcase giving thumbs up.

As well, many airports become more autism-friendly. Or even sensory-friendly.  They offer features like onsite sensory rooms.

Examples of autism-friendly or sensory-friendly airports:

  • Shannon Airport, Shannon, Ireland
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham, Alabama, United States
  • Gatwick, Horley, Gatwick, United Kingdom
  • Miami International Airport, Miami, Florida, United States
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta Georgia, United States
  • Myrtle Beach Airport, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States

Autism Travel

In conclusion, tourist attractions in towns, cities and airlines adapt to autism travel. They become sensory-friendly. Furthermore, museums, exhibits, theatres, amusement parks, and even campsites become autism-friendly and sensory-friendly.  Travel is becoming an accessible experience for everyone! 

Find more ideas about sensory-friendly things to do!

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