Traveling can be so difficult for those on the spectrum. Not only is it a disruption in routine (which can be tough on its own) but it comes with a whole slew of new sensory input from all directions. There may tons of strangers around, unpredictable schedules, odd smells, unfamiliar foods, and cramped seating. On top of that, there are few comforts from home and your lodging could come with fun surprises like scratchy sheets, harsh lighting, and busy wallpaper or carpeting.
But who doesn’t need a vacation? Doesn’t everyone deserve a little break?
From boarding an airplane to navigating a busy theme park to finding a hotel, vacations can be far from relaxing for some families — unless you can rely on someone who knows exactly what you’re looking for and is familiar with autism…
That’s where someone like Sara Nowacki comes in.
As the mother of sons with autism, Nowacki knows the pitfalls of trying to relax on vacation while not being able to get out of defense mode. The first time they went on vacation, Nowacki did tons of research beforehand to make sure her sons would be comfortable, but was left feeling exhausted and anxious.
Nowacki’s experience prompted her to start a new, special kind of travel agency specifically for autism families.
Her business is called Autism Friendly Vacations, and she’s located in Wisconsin. Nowacki works with a variety of hotels and cruise lines, and also works with Disney.
Nowacki isn’t just familiar with autism; she’s a certified autism travel specialist. And specialists like her are trained to recognize that every person on the spectrum is different. So for families with service dogs, or for those who require a special diet, Nowacki knows who to call to ensure that the dog is expected and the cruise line knows about dietary restrictions.
If you don’t live in Wisconsin, don’t worry. She’s not the first person to do this.
As autism rates continue to climb, more people are becoming familiar with the disorder.
So in August of 2017, a new certification for travel agents called Certified Autism Travel Professional was introduced by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Over a thousand agents have been certified since.
These travel agents can help work with the specific needs of your family. Booking a vacation with someone who has industry connections, has formed relationships with autism-friendly hotels, resorts, cruises, and theme parks, and can answer any specific concerns or questions you have? That’s priceless.
To find a certified agent as well as certified autism-friendly destinations, check out the IBCCES’s website Autism Travel.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.