Did you know that autism-friendly travel is becoming more popular?
Four key points about autism-friendly travel that might be in your backyard too! Whether you are visiting domestically or going further away (when international travel resumes), look for friendly travel right for you.
- First, many towns and cities are now autism-friendly, which is part of autism travel at home and around the world. Likewise, they are often also called sensory-friendly cities or towns.
- Second, airlines and airports adopt practices to help children with autism. They also help other sensory-friendly seeking travelers and travelers with disabilities.
- Third, hotels keep adding sensory-friendly rooms.
- Fourth, cruises and cruise lines do more to accommodate their passengers. They do so for passengers with autism. And they do this for passengers with other hidden disabilities. As an example, they offer a specific sensory-friendly cruise experience.
Finally, autism travelers are part of the large and growing group of people who seek sensory-friendly travel.
- Learn, what is sensory-friendly.
- Understand more about sensory-overload.
- Specifically for children, read about autism and anxiety.
Autism-friendly towns and cities.
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. They converted a room into a play lounge and sanctuary. Most importantly, the did this for children with autism as well as all their guests. Also, it includes a plush playboat and a soothing wall with a seaside mural. As the town is on the Atlantic ocean, these are fitting themes. Besides which they added a climbing wall and a cocoon-like padded hammock.
The hotel tries to provide a quiet and calming environment for guests with autism and their families. Furthermore, they also provide a little extra security for guests with children. For instance, they added drawer locks. As well, they moved door locks up higher. Finally, the staff also received additional training to help guests with autism.
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. The room is open to hotel guests. Accordingly, it welcomes both adults and children who need a stress-free and calm space.
Broadway DoubleTree Hotel
Broadway DoubleTree Hotel in Missouri, USA provided additional staff training to help guests with autism. Moreover, they also take initiatives with changing housekeeping options and dining room design to better accommodate guests.
What you might expect from a sensory-friendly hotel:
- extra staff training
- help for travelers with many reasons for their sensory sensitivity
- a sensory room for children
- changes in the guest room itself
Autism Friendly Cruises
Most cruise lines provide additional services to help people with a variety of disabilities travel. For instance, look for a cruise line that has special needs or a disability desk. Additionally, you may also find offers cruises for special needs families.
Autism on the Seas collaborates with several cruise lines. As a result, they provide cruise vacations to families with children who have autism and other disorders.
Autism-friendly ships or autism-friendly cruises will offer some or all of the following adaptations:
- cruising social story
- early access to your cabin
- extra trained, professional staff
- gluten-free and dairy-free food
- more flexibility in programs or events for children
- 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. Hence, more airlines are making accommodations to help people with autism fly in comfort. Consequently, you might have heard of Wings for Autism or Wings for All. This program offered at various airports. It occurs on specific dates and times so families can rehearse and practice aspects of flying.
Many airlines offer disability seating. Furthermore, this benefits families of autistic children.
The following airlines have programs that help passengers with a disability, including autism. So, look for them when you are flying:
- Air France Saphir Program
- Air New Zealand Skycouch
- ANA, All Nippon Airways and their Autism Flight Experience program
- Delta offers programs at times to introduce children to flying
- El Al and their ELALCHIK program that offers special features for children
- Emirates has a Fly with Me Animals program where children receive a stuffed animal souvenir
- Etihad Airways has a Flying Nanny program
- Jet Blue started with the Wings for Autism program mentioned above
- Virgin Atlantic has a bookmark program from Gatwick to Orlando that lets staff know a traveler is flying with a hidden disability
Autism Friendly Airports
In Canada, there are programs where families can participate in airport rehearsals. Specifically, we have found them at the Montreal Trudeau Airport in Québec, the Calgary International Airport in Alberta, and the Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia.
Meanwhile, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Cares is a program in the United States. TSA Cares is a helpline that provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, and other special circumstances additional assistance. Specifically, this happens during the security screening process.
As well, the TSA also offers a travel notification card. It alerts the TSA officer to someone traveling with a disability. As a result, this helps people with a hidden disability. That includes autism.
As well, many airports are becoming more autism-friendly or sensory-friendly. They offer things like onsite sensory rooms at the airport. What is more, these are the autism-friendly or sensory-friendly airports we have discovered:
- 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
Tourist attractions in towns and cities are adapting to autism travel by becoming sensory-friendly. For instance, you will find them across the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and Canada. Furthermore, museums, exhibits, theatres, amusement parks, and even campsites are becoming autism-friendly or sensory-friendly. In conclusion, to help yourself travel, search for places to visit at home and abroad in our Sensory Friendly Finder.
Tourist operators, do you want to get more help understanding how to attract local, domestic, regional travelers? Sign up for our Sensory Friendly Tourism newsletter.
Christel Seeberger worked as an occupational therapist for more than 25 years helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has sensory sensitivity herself; she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016. Sensory Friendly Solutions brings together people around the world looking for sensory friendly living and businesses and organizations who offer sensory friendly experiences.