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Autism-friendly vacations for special needs families

Beach vacation for Autism children and families with special needs

As the warmer season approaches many families start planning a vacation. But what about autism families or families with special needs? What are some fun vacation places to take an autistic child?


These are the many questions that surface when spectrum families think of vacationing.

  • Is it possible to go on vacation at all?
  • Will they accommodate our needs?
  • Will it be fun for everyone?
  • Will caretakers get a break or respite?
  • Will we feel welcomed and accepted?

The good news is autism-friendly vacations and special needs family options are becoming more available. Which is the answer to many prayers!

Below is a list of autism-friendly vacation options that may work for your family. These are not limited to Autism. They include children/adults with various disabilities and mobility issues.

The Arc/Wings for Autism is a U.S. based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with nearly 700 state and local chapters. They have been around for over 60 years and are well known for their advocacy.

What this program does is prepare the ASD individual for traveling by air. Wings for Autism hold specially designed “rehearsals.” The individual and their family can practice entering the airport, go through security, and board a plane. They discuss different scenarios or what to expect when traveling by air. These rehearsals are coordinated through events held in different areas with specific dates. To view the dates and locations, go to there website linked above.

Autism on the Seas (AOTS) is a national organization in collaboration with Royal Caribbean International and other cruise lines to accommodate individuals and their family with special needs. Services include respite times, private activities, private sessions at venues, reserved seating for shows and meals and much more!

AOTS has a professional staff who are educated and experienced. The staff also go through a thorough background check.

You may also choose to get the “Cruise assistance Package” and cruise without a staff. It’s a free service as long as you book through AOTS.

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You have the choice to travel onboard Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines.

This is excellent for those families who want to experience going on an amazing journey on the seas. You can view testimonials on their website at Autism on The Seas.

Surfside Beach Myrtle Beach. If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach, you may want to travel to this South Carolina beach town.

This town is not only known for their beautiful, clean, family-friendly oceanfront, they are the world’s first certified Autism-friendly destination!

Surfside is known for its inclusive community, modified activities, sensory-friendly events and their family-oriented values.

A Stay-cation can also be a great alternative for those on a budget or for those who don't want to travel far. Look through your local organizations. Most will provide respite care and specialized camps. They will provide you with a list of upcoming events and activities your family might enjoy.

Don’t overlook your local parks and recreation department either. Your Parks and Recreation Department may offer adaptive activities and outings.

It is important for families not to feel isolated and left out. There are many options now that weren’t available in the past. This upcoming season is a great time to make memories, relax, spend time together and have fun.

Conde Nast Traveler
Surfside Beach