Sensory-Friendly Post-Pandemic Travel

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As post pandemic travel opens up again, are you planning a trip for work or vacation? As people become adjust to travel opening back up, sensory overload remains a concern. Therefore, it is important to consider the impact on your own personal sensory preferences on post pandemic travel.

Sensory Overload and COVID-19

Sensory sensitivity and sensory overload remain a problem, despite the social isolation nd physical distancing of the pandemic. According to a study conducted by Sensory Friendly Solutions, 91% of survey respondents indicated that the pandemic has made them experience more sensory overload, not less. There are many reasons that social isolation and physical distancing cause more sensory challenges including:

  • Face masks make communication more difficult.
  • Hand sanitizer smells and is often sticky.
  • Socializing after periods of isolation is unfamiliar.
  • Lights seem brighter after the generally reduced lighting at home.
  • Noises seem louder, again after the generally reduced noise at home.
  • Signs are plentiful, marking new directions, and are often confusing.
  • Crowds make people apprehensive.

Survey respondents indicated heightened anxiety returning to shopping and going on outings as result of their sensory preferences. Furthermore, it may take several months for people to begin to adjust and feel comfortable in public and busy environments. In fact, your adjustment may take a lot longer or never return.

Young man standing at airport front desk experiencing sensory overload.

How does sensory sensitivity relate to post-pandemic travel?

Many people concur that travel is an extremely sensory-rich experience. Consider the last time you were at an airport. Recall the busy crowds, loud noises, bright lights and unfamiliar feeling of being in a big building, trying to find your way around. For many people, travelling is overwhelming.

Being in a new country or even a different city can lead to sensory overload. Oftentimes, people feel comfortable with the familiar at home. As a result, exploring a new location is overwhelming. Furthermore, stay-at-home orders prevented many people from going to visit new places. We are all out of the habit of visiting new places. Therefore, the thought of leaving home causes greater stress.

Moreover, consider how you feel after being mostly at home for a year-and-a-half. The thought of travel is likely stress-inducing!

Lastly, plane rides can be very stressful for people. With or without the worry of COVID. Furthermore, many people may feel uncomfortable sitting close to strangers in a confined space. Planes often do not offer very many sensory-friendly modifications. As a result of this, this may further cause an individual to experience sensory overload.

Infographic describing 3 ways to create sensory-friendly travel post-pandemic.

What is sensory-friendly travel?

Sensory-friendly travel includes any adjustments made to the travelling experience, tourist destinations and/or amenities. These changes make it enjoyable for people. These suggestions are especially important for post-pandemic travel!

Woman sitting on plane between two passengers experiencing sensory overload.

Sensory-friendly travel in the skies!

A feature that more and more airports are offering is giving families the opportunity to practice travelling. This involves navigating around the airport and planes, themselves. This experience allows children and parents to develop expectations about the traveling process. As a result, this makes the traveling process more familiar and a less stressful process.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides identification cards for people with a disability. Importantly, this is especially useful for people with hidden disabilities, such as a sensory processing disorder.

Lastly, many airports have quiet spaces, or sensory-friendly rooms. These are a place you can relax. They may be silent spaces. Or, have comfortable seating.

Sensory-friendly tourist destinations

In addition to sensory-friendly travel, there are sensory-friendly tourist destinations popping up around the globe. Cities and towns are making sensory-friendly changes to events and locations in their borders to make people comfortable. This may include anything from sensory-friendly shopping to a quiet zone in parks. For many families, visiting a sensory-friendly city or town makes vacations possible.

Sensory-friendly hotels

The last aspect of a sensory-friendly travel experience is offering sensory-friendly hotels. Oftentimes, sensory-friendly hotels will have features that create a less stimulating sensory experience for guests. This includes:

  • Quiet zones in public areas.
  • Additional staff training to support guests with hidden disabilities.
  • Sensory play areas for children.
  • Less noise overall.
  • Adjusted lighting. Fewer bright lights.

It is important to recognize that travel will not feel the same following the pandemic. Additionally, people and their personal sensory preferences have also changed. Sensory-friendly travel is key!

Interested in learning more about sensory-friendly choices?

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