Plan a Sensory-Friendly Vacation

Are you planning your next vacation? Does a member of your family struggle with sensory sensitivity or sensory overload? Travelling can be stressful and challenging at the best of times! Especially so following COVID-19 and long periods of social isolation. A sensory-friendly vacation is a solution for a less stressful and more enjoyable vacation, be it solo, duo or with a group of family or friends.

What is a sensory-friendly vacation?

You may be curious what a sensory-friendly vacation means. Simply put, a sensory-friendly vacation means planning travel that is more comfortable for the senses. Furthermore, it benefits more than just people with different sensory preferences. A sensory-friendly vacation includes:

  • Preparation
  • Packing
  • Travelling process
  • Tourist destination
  • Activities
Infographic explaining 5 ways you can make a sensory-friendly vacation

Prepare in advance

Firstly, an important step to consider when planning your sensory-friendly vacation is creating expectations in advance. Many people who experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload, thrive on routines. It lets them know what to expect. There are no surprise sensory-experiences! Therefore, going on a vacation is disruptive. It involves travelling, staying in a new place, eating different food and doing new, unfamiliar things, with a whole different sensory experience. This research, “Families’ Views and Experiences of Travelling Abroad With Children or Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Ylenia Borg (2021) found that this stress also tends to impact parents and cause frustration, distress and anxiety surrounding vacations 1.

To avoid this, prepare! Talk about any concerns or questions. Create a family calendar for the vacation, with a daily count-down. Encourage children to “play” vacation. Child learn through play and helping them pretend parts of travel in advance is incredibly helpful. Create a written or visual daily itinerary. While on vacation, it is both fun and helpful to review the day’s activities at the end of each day and talk about what to expect for tomorrow. The fewer, “unknowns” the less anxiety for children and adults, alike.

Pack sensory-friendly clothing

Furthermore, pack sensory-friendly clothing. Sensory-friendly clothing is designed to make the sensory experience of wearing clothing more comfortable. This clothing includes features such as using softer fabric, removing zippers and tags as well as reducing seams. Travel can be uncomfortable, choose clothes that are super-comfortable in contrast. Sensory-friendly clothing, like that of Chantilly Comfort Wear is for both children and adults.

Additionally, for any vacations that may involve swimming, consider bringing Frogglez!  Most goggles are made from irritating plastic material that does not fit well to anyone’s head. It pulls on hair and hurts. Whereas, Frogglez are sensory-friendly goggles designed to comfortably fit and stay on your head. Furthermore, these goggles are made from a wet suit material, with adjustable straps and is created to fit just right. Besides which, they come in child and adult sizes. Another great sensory-friendly swimming product is Hammer Head Swim Caps. They provide protection from injury, too, and are less likely to pull on hair because of the special design and materials

Sensory-friendly travelling

For many families, the most stressful part of a vacation is the travel experience. Especially when it involves going through airports and on planes. Oftentimes, the busy airports, crowds of people and loud planes are stressful for everyone.

A strategy to help reduce the stress associated with travelling is having practice runs at the airport. Many airlines around the world are offering families the opportunity to practice the travelling process. In particular, this allows children to develop expectations of what happens when travelling on a plane.

Furthermore, many airlines are now offering autism resources for families. Importantly, this information highlights the different accommodations made to improve the travel experience.

Sensory-friendly tourist destinations

Additionally, another important factor to think about picking the vacation destination. Did you know that many tourist cities and towns are now considered sensory-friendly? Many tourist destinations around the world have made changes to make exploring the area more pleasant for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

A great example of a sensory-friendly vacation spot is Port-aux-Basques located in Newfoundland, Canada. This town offers accommodations for children with autism and to educates the community about sensory sensitives. Additionally, the town has made several sensory-friendly changes. This includes adding sensory rooms at the hotel, sensory-friendly play structures and creating spaces for children to safely explore.

Young family touring a city on a sensory-friendly vacation.

Prepare sensory-friendly activities

Lastly, choose sensory-friendly activities while on vacation. This includes movies and performances, for example. Furthermore, plan those sensory-friendly activities ahead of time.

In conclusion, plan a sensory-friendly vacation and your family and fellow travellers will thank you!

Chantilly Comfort Wear, Frogglez Swim Goggles, and Hammer Head Swim Caps are all Sensory Friendly Solutions’ Favourite Things. Sensory Friendly Solutions’ Favourite Things recognizes products that help people manage sensory sensitivity or reduce sensory overload.

Here are more sensory-friendly travel ideas to look for:

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  1. Borg, Y. (2021). Families’ Views and Experiences of Travelling Abroad With Children or Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder. OAR@UM.
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