We decided to travel by car since it is only a 4 hr drive. A child with autism will have the same needs that they have at home, as well as some new ones, when traveling. Also, Amin’s “typical” sister needs lots of consideration as well.
I usually write out my list of what I need to pack and as I put things in a suitcase I just cross them off my list – a good way of not missing anything. This practice has saved me lots of time, as well as lots of headaches. Careful planning is always key to a successful and stress free vacation.
It is recommended that if you travel by car you should pick the time when the child is taking a nap. For me, this is not an option, neither of my children have been used to taking a nap since they were 2 years old. My concern usually is that they are well fed before we leave, so we do not have to eat out at the fast food restaurants. I usually pack their favorite snacks as well, so if anyone gets hungry along the way, we have something familiar and that always has a calming effect on them; especially Amin who is very much stuck to his schedule and items that he likes and knows.
It is always wise to take along their favorite DVD’s or music CD’s to keep them occupied during the long car trip. Amin and Safiyya don’t really care for watching movies in the car, they are more interested in what they can see outside. Thank God (Alhamdulillah) – Amin was very verbal and labeling most of the things he was seeing or the things I pointed out to him. Also, I packed a few of their favorite toys and books to keep them occupied.
Our trip was scheduled for 4 hrs and 30 minutes and we ended up driving 6 hrs. I always stop several times for potty breaks and stretching legs, as well as a little play time at the rest areas. Although the trip lasted longer than it was anticipated, it was still very enjoyable for everyone involved.
Once we got to our destination, despite the long trip, he just wanted to run to the beach right away. After they satisfied their desire for being in the water and playing with the sand, we all decided to have dinner.
To make our stay more enjoyable and less stressful, I learned about the environment and its ” hazards” prior to our departure. Despite all the homework I did, we still encountered a near miss with a stingray, as well as a sand crab in very unusual location (Amin’s swimming shorts), stepping on sharp shells and walking on the hot sand barefoot. A shark sighting was also very interesting and we stayed at shore for a while due to the dangerous marine life warnings. Also, Amin got bit by some insects and he had a reaction. This helped me to learn that Bull Frog has a mosquito repellent with sunscreen SP 30 and is DEET free. I got it for him and it really works great.
Using sunscreen was always something I truly dread, but this time I chose an awesome sunscreen that worked wonderful and didn’t make my kids cry or have an allergic reaction. If your kids anything like mine, having an allergic reaction to sunscreen while rubbing their eyes with their hands and arm, and it starts stinging, swelling, leaving red blotches all over on their body … well you need to try Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple SP 50. This sunscreen really works and it is truly kid friendly.
Sanibel Island is truly a great destination for families with autistic children. The beaches are not crowded, they are clean, some hotels offer rooms with a full kitchen, which is important when your little one is on a special diet, so you can make your own food when necessary.
Furthermore, restaurants are wonderful and very accommodating to all the children. How can a child say no to eat just about anything at the “Blue Giraffe” restaurant, or at the Island Cow, the Bubble room, and the list goes on and on. The environment is favorable for all children, autistic or not, and opens up new opportunities for them to explore, learn and entertain themselves. They have lots of activities for all age groups and interests.
It was truly a pleasure to see both of my kids having so much fun. The most amazing sight was how Amin just opened up, he was a different child, talking and manding for much of the time we spent there. This trip was certainly worth all the traveling.