Autism on Vacation
When you have a child on the spectrum, you can't take a "vacation from autism". When planning outings or vacations, we sometimes have to work around our family member(s) with ASD. Now that summer is approaching, and many of us go on vacation, or to local places for fun activities - I want to review the "autism friendliness" of the places that we have been.
Our family fully believes that ALL children (ASD or not) should be a part of our community and actively participate in vacations, outings and all other fun stuff!!! Also, our family believes that the neuro-typical kids should have a good time as well! This will take planning when setting up your vacation, but it is well worth it in the end when you see your family happy and excited at their well-planned vacay!
Some of the places that we take our kids (2 ASD and 1 Neuro-Typical) EVERY summer.. and please, DON'T GASP... Six Flags, Castaway Cove, Camping, Skate Whirl and MANY Restaurants, Picinics, and Parks!!
If any of you have a review of an ASD-Friendly Vacation , please email me your story and with your permission, I will post it on the site!
If any business owners (we accept fancy schmancy resort owners too.. LOL) would like for one of our "Autism Families" to review your location and rate its "Autism Friendliness" - please see the home page for my e-mail address, and we will get back to you!
Free or Inexpensive Ideas for SUMMER FUN!
Weeks Park - FREE (They have a summer concert series on Tuesday Nights)
Kiwannis Park - FREE (Prairie Dog Park, Playground, Restrooms, Picnic areas)
Iowa Park Spray Park - $2.50 (Pool, spray park, picnic tables, shade, restrooms, snack bar)
Lucy Park - FREE (Playground Areas, Duck Pond, Biking/Rollerblading/Walking Trails, The Falls, Frisbee Golf, Swimming Pool (small fee applies to swim).)
Great Wolf Lodge
At first glance, this place seems to be the least autism-friendly place to vacation! But once you start experiencing it, you find that your kids (even the ones w/ ASD) are having a BLAST! Here are some tips and reviews based on our experience.
1. Choose a weekday! We went on a Saturday night (you get 2 full days of waterpark for 1 night stay). It was very crowded on Saturday (almost DOUBLE the people than Sunday!) The crowd can be very overstimulating for some, and can keep you from getting a "home base" table to keep your things. We found that when it was that crowded, the outside area was less crowded and easier to keep tabs on the kids while playing outside.
2.Make check-in a breeze! Send ONE person from your crew (the one who holds the credit card) to check in and get the information and wristbands. The wristbands are VERY IMPORTANT as the adult bands double as a room key, and all bands are your "entry" to the waterpark. If you lose the band, it is 30 bucks to replace! You may check-in and use the facilities at 1pm, but your room may not be ready until 4. Our check-in was a breeze, and our room was available right at 1. I would not advise taking the whole crew, luggage, etc. to wait in line. One family member staying in the car with the kids is the best idea.
3. Make a schedule! Think of who will be with the kids and who will be at the table watching the stuff (if you don't buy a locker). Determine if you will eat meals at the resort, or go out to eat. Prepare your children ahead of time so you don't have meltdowns when it is time to leave the waterpark. Rotate "duties" so parents don't get burned out! We are making an HOUR by HOUR schedule next time we go!!
4. Take advantage of their other activites! They have a little area where kids can do crafts and play bingo for prizes. They have an area just for teens to play guitar hero and x-box. They have a grown-up spa, and a kid's spa! They have a show in the main lobby a few times a day, and they have bedtime stories at night. They also offer a "MagiQuest" game that my kids BEGGED to play, but we didn't allow them to.
5. Get prepared for NOISE!!! You can imagine what it will sound like with hundreds of children screaming at an indoor waterpark... and it is very loud in there! (It is MUCH better outside though). There is no music playing at the waterpark.. which I am used to, so that was weird. Also be prepared for the possibility of noisy children and teens running down the halls when you are trying to sleep. We actually had to call the front desk because kids were slamming luggage carts into our door. The "MagiQuest Game" takes place ALL over the hotel, so if you are the unfortunate person that has to be in the room closest to the "hidden staircase" I am soooo sorry!
6. Make the staff autism aware! When checking in, tell the front desk if your child has sensory issues prohibiting them from wearing a wristband. They worked with us and allowed me (as his parent) to wear the child's wristband with our own.
7. Go GFCF! - You are not allowed to take outside food into the waterpark area, but you can have outside food in your hotel room (they even have mini fridges and microwaves in the room). We took GFCF breakfasts, snacks and drinks to keep in the room, and if the kids wanted something from the snack bar, they ate french fries. Our kids were too busy playing to worry about food though!
Overall, it was a GREAT trip, and we will definitely try to go again! :) Tiffany