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Creative Autism-Friendly Vacation Ideas

Autism-Friendly Vacation

Although they are supposed to be relaxing and refreshing, vacations can be a high-stress time for people on the autism spectrum and their families. However, with a little careful planning and a few great ideas, you can skip the stress and minimize transitions to allow everyone in the family to have an amazing trip. Try these three creative autism-friendly vacation ideas for yourself!

See the Country on the California Zephyr

Amtrak National Train

If you want to see the country but don't relish the idea of checking in and out of a zillion hotels and dealing with the unpredictable, Amtrak's California Zephyr is ideal. Hop aboard in Chicago and rent a private "roomette" to have a quiet place to get away during your trip. In just over 51 hours, you'll travel through some of the most beautiful country in the United States, including the Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Why It's Autism-Friendly

While the scenery outside the train window is ever-changing, your actual vacation experience remains consistent. What's more, trains and train timetables are a common special interest for some people on the spectrum. Even if the train interest doesn't apply to your family, this vacation minimizes transitions while maximizing sightseeing. Amtrak also offers autism-friendly accessible travel services, including an accommodation for service animals, discount fair for companion adults, and personalized meal accommodations for dietary restrictions.

Cost

Prices start at $120 each way per person for coach seating from Chicago to Emeryville, CA near San Francisco. However, you should expect to spend around $900 per person each way for a roomette. Meals are included.

Spend Spring Break at Legoland

main entrance to Legoland Florida

If your family loves playing with Legos but doesn't love loud and super overwhelming theme parks, Legoland in Florida might be a dream come true. The park offers several accommodations to make the experience fun for people with ASD, and you can make the experience even more autism-friendly by staying at Tradewinds Resort, about 90 minutes away. It's a great option for Spring Break or anytime you want to get away.

Why It's Autism-Friendly

Legoland has tons of accommodations designed to help families with ASD, including 'quiet rooms' with sensory-friendly activities, set ride times to avoid the lines and have a predictable schedule, social stories to help navigate the ride experience, and staff trained in autism awareness and interaction. It may be worth the 90-minute drive to stay at Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, which has several autism-friendly accommodations, including no wait to check in, quiet and secluded rooms, special dietary accommodations, safety kits with door alarms to prevent wandering, and more.

Cost

One-day admission to Legoland starts at about $75 per person and is just under $100 if you want to include the water park too. Tradewinds Resorts has rooms starting at about $260 per night.

Road Trip It to the National Parks

RV in the heights of the Grand Canyon

A road trip lets you set your own schedule, and it's a great way to see some of America's stunning National Parks. What's more, people with documented disabilities like autism are eligible for lifetime free admission to the parks, and that applies to their families too! You can minimize transitions and the unexpected by renting an RV for the trip and camping along the way. The length of your vacation is totally customizable as well.

Why It's Autism-Friendly

The National Park Service offers free lifetime admission to the National Parks if you provide appropriate documentation of a disability like autism. You'll need to fill out a form and send in a copy of identification documents and a statement from the doctor. Renting an RV is a great way to keep things consistent and provide a quiet place to escape when life gets overstimulating, and you have total control over meals. You can set your own schedule, traveling for as long or short a time as you like on any given day. You can also camp at the parks for a discount because of the access pass.

Cost

The cost of this vacation depends on how long you plan to be gone, but an RV rental can cost about $1000 to $1500 per week, depending on the size, date, and location. It's best to look for local rentals in your area to confirm pricing. You'll also need to pay for food and fuel. Each park has its own policy regarding the discount on camping. For instance, Grand Canyon National Park normally charges $18 to $25 per night, but you get a half-price discount with the access pass.

Make Your Trip Inclusive for Everyone

No matter where you choose to go for your next family vacation, you can find a way to make the experience truly inclusive and fun for everyone. The key is minimizing transitions and choosing places that not only accommodate, but really welcome, those with special needs like autism.

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Creative Autism-Friendly Vacation Ideas