Enjoying Days Out & Holidays

Being able to take time to enjoy a day out or holiday with loved ones can recharge the batteries, allow relaxation and promote positive health in numerous ways, if it is done in the right way.

Here is where problems can present themselves as everyone is unique and everyone will have their own “right” way that they would like to travel and enjoy their holiday. Discovering what makes mini breaks and getaways the most enjoyable for yourself can help you reap the benefits of the holiday itself.

Who doesn’t want to feel rested and recuperated, ready to face the world, after a day out or holiday?

We aren’t going to lay out a single, structured solution for this, as we haven’t found one ourselves and we don’t believe there is one. We’re all too amazing to have just one way of doing things! What we have done is brought together some of our experiences and tips that have helped us over the years when planning and taking breaks or holidays. Some may work for you, others may not. Experiment with them, and take away and adapt them so they work for your own situation.

We know you may already have some strategies in place for when you go on holiday - we’d love to hear about your successes (or what to avoid) and any tips or experiences that could help someone else in a similar position. Contact us here

1. Planning and prep - what to expect
2. On the day and the journey(s)
3. Your time away
4. Repeat steps 1-4
5. Home

1. Planning & Preparation

Discovering what to expect during your holidays can help alleviate anxiety and worries that may arise. You can do this through social stories, others' experiences, visual representations, descriptive recordings or written articles.

We have found that having an explanation and understanding of the places and situations, we and our loved ones experience whilst on holiday, can have huge positive effects.

"Google Maps, Street View and Virtual tours of places and venues give me a better idea of what to expect when I get to where I am going." Jessica age 10

We have also found that this is where we recommend asking yourself a few questions. You may already have some of the answers from learning what to expect whilst you’re on holiday. The questions below are suggestions and hopefully thought provoking so that you can adapt them to your own situation.

Try and answer as honestly as you can but remember some answers may be ‘off’ slightly and that's where the experimenting comes in. Next time adjust your answer and see if it helps.

● Do I like and want to plan my trips away?
● What information is important or needed to me about the trip?
● How do I like to plan my trips? Write/type/voice rec, use/draw pictures, excel spreadsheets?
● What does the journey consist of? Are there things I can do to make this more enjoyable/tolerable/relaxing/positive?
● Is there anything specific, to this planning part, that could affect me negatively and affect my trip? Is there a way of minimising the chances of these or adapting to them?
● What do I need to pack and organise prior to the trip? Sensory first aid packs, headphones, fidget/soothing items, certain clothes, certain food etc
● Are there steps I can put in place to help maintain/regulate my emotional levels during the days/weeks/months leading up to my trip?
● How flexible am I if plans change? Are there techniques that I can put in place to help? Can contingency plans be put in place to ease the transition of change?

If you are travelling with other people it can be very beneficial, for all involved, if they were included in this discovery process. It can be a valuable learning experience.

We understand that these conversations can be difficult and sometimes may not even be available. However, we think that where possible, working together can really help. We have found that having an understanding of not only the situation but of each other’s needs and wishes can help you to recognise and minimise any negatives and work towards positive adaptations and solutions.  

Answering these questions will hopefully help you begin to build up an idea of your needs and expectations from a day out or a holiday. What you find out can help you put together a bespoke “Travel guide” for yourself to make taking breaks and having holidays the best possible experience you can have. This can be added to as you discover what works for you.  

Mike shares his lived experience & top tips for planning an outing:

I, like many, have lists that help me to remember what I need to organise and pack. Without these I know I would be in a mess and my anxiety goes north, fast!

I do not react well to quick changes of plans or not sticking to a plan, two things that can often happen when travelling by yourself or with other people. I have reacted extremely negatively in the past to unforeseen changes happening but I have learned a few tricks over the years to help me:

> I have learned to increase my meditation, CBD intake and exercise a couple of days to weeks before I travel. This depends on the length of the journey and my emotional and physical state at the time.

> I make sure I am eating/drinking as healthy as possible (for me), no fast food or carb heavy.

> I try to sleep the best I can but that’s a flip of the coin each night, however I make sure I am rested at least. I decrease the amount of screen time and blue light too.

These all help me to keep my anxiety in check and focus enough to plan my trip. It also gives me the capacity to think about contingency plans for if and when plans change. If anything changes on the flight, I use breathing and sensory techniques. It took me a while to find the right techniques for me and I still explore new ones too.

Mike W

2. On The Day & The Journey

Hopefully, your planning and preparation has got you to a good place mentally and emotionally, and you are almost ready to go. We suggest that you give yourself enough time, and then a bit extra, to get ready and set to go. This way you can make sure all the unique elements you have discovered you need in order to travel are in place.

Again, we can’t deny a list is great for reassurance and peace of mind. How you put a list together really doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you (and anyone else who needs to work off it).

A lot of us here at En-Fold have found pictures and visualisations have also helped.

Minimising stressors and triggers on the day of travelling can help towards keeping you in a positive state of mind. This could be specific things around travelling itself, or it could be anything in general that is unique to yourself. If travelling invokes negative emotional or reactions then, where possible, avoid anything else that could cause the same or similar reactions.

Fun activities and soothing techniques can work wonders when travelling. Whether you are driving a car, or are on a coach, train or plane, try to incorporate activities and techniques that you benefit from.

Obviously if you are driving there are certain restrictions however, use what you can to make it a fun drive. Music, podcasts, audiobooks have worked well for some of us, whilst planning regular breaks at picturesque locations is another great suggestion. With more freedom as a passenger or on trains and planes you may be able to think of some different activities to do.

Here's Mike again:

“If I know I am travelling by train or plane I will make sure I have a notepad, laptop or phone so that I can write (normally creative writing these days). The combination of the movement and the writing helps soothe me and keep my anxiety levels in check.”

Mike W

3. Your Time Away

Breaks and holidays are full of new and different situations, some which you can plan for and some you may not be able to. Being mindful of your wants and needs can help you to reap the benefits from these breaks. A break can have numerous benefits and being able to enjoy it to your fullest only compounds them.

We have some useful tips to help maximise your enjoyment whilst you are away:
- The questions asked previously may have already started to give you an idea of planning your trip, what is important to you whilst you are away and what you would like to do.

- Be honest with yourself and put positive steps in place so you can do the things you want to whilst away. A great reminder for anyone taking a break is to keep up your positive habits that you do already. If you meditate three times a day, factor this into your trip. If walking soothes you, factor it in. If you need regular decompression time, make sure you factor it in. You get the idea. Keeping your positive habits/unique life hacks in place will help towards you getting the most out of your trip away.  

- Try to recognise your own emotional levels and triggers and have plans in place if you feel you need to adapt to a situation. You may be able to ask family members or loved ones to support you in this by helping you recognise negative triggers or behaviours you may not.

4. Repeat Steps 1-3

Every trip and holiday has to come to an end, but this is another opportunity to utilise the information you have discovered in your “Travel Guide”.

It is also a good idea to be mindful of this so you can give yourself enough time to organise yourself appropriately.

Whilst you are away it can be a really good idea to run through steps 1 and 2 again in order to help packing and to prepare yourself for the journey home.

5. Home

Whether you have been on a day out or you have been away on holiday, it will have an effect on you. It does on everyone. Who’s heard the familiar saying of, “I feel like I need another holiday now!” from people who have just returned home!

Travel and time away can be tiring and will affect everyone differently. Is there anything that you could put in place that would help your transition back to home? These could be anything but they will be specific to you.

“Decompression time, music and drawing helps me settle back into home life. I try to make sure I have a day to myself, after my break, so that I can reset my energy and emotional levels”    

Mike W

Again, this may take some experimenting and maybe even some trial and error. Stick with it though and keep asking yourself, and others, questions so you can discover those answers unique to yourself and your needs.

We believe it is possible that you can create an amazing environment and situation for whenever you travel. Not only can you make it the most positive experience for yourself but also for the people around you too.

Useful Links

Families Online - https://www.familiesonline.co.uk/blog/autism-friendly-days-out-across-the-uk

FACT Northants - https://www.factnorthants.org.uk/events-northampton

Autism Links - https://www.autismlinks.co.uk/support-groups/group-support-east-midlands/northamptonshire-parent-partnership-service?region=

Northamptonshire Trampolining Gymnastic Academy - https://www.ntga.co.uk/classes/special-needs/

Geek Retreat - https://geek-retreat.com/

Holiday Pirates - https://www.holidaypirates.com/travel-magazine/autism-friendly-holidays-our-guide_14953

Holiday Cottage Compare - https://www.holidaycottagecompare.com/blog/2018/11/how-to-find-an-autism-friendly-holiday-cottage

Disabled Holiday - https://www.disabledholidays.com/about/holidays-for-children-with-autism.html

A Curious Journey - http://acuriousjourney.com/awesome-uk-holidays-for-families-with-autistic-children-recommended-by-real-parents/

TUI - http://acuriousjourney.com/awesome-uk-holidays-for-families-with-autistic-children-recommended-by-real-parents/

The Thomas Centre - https://www.thethomascentre.co.uk/holidaysforfamilieswithautisticchildren/

Adults with Autism - https://adultswithautism.org.uk/autism-friendly-holidays/

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Disclaimer: En-Fold does not endorse treatments, interventions and therapies but lists them so people can make informed choice. This site is for information purposes only and is a starting point for readers to look into options that may fit or resonate. Remember, therapies for autism, like any condition, should be discussed with a trusted medical practitioner or certified therapist before use. All information, data and material contained, presented or provided here is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed as reflecting the knowledge or opinions of En-Fold, or as providing legal or medical advice. All treatment decisions should be made by the individual in consultation with a health care provider. Case studies provided are done so in good faith, and based on the personal experience of the individual submitting them. En-Fold are in no way endorsing the establishments that are mentioned but offering peer reviews to inform readers.