5 tips for a vacation (that actually feels like a vacation)

We recently returned from a perfect family vacation. We had two goals for this trip: relax and spend time together as a family.  And we did.  Here’s how you can, too:

1. Be realistic – While everything can’t (and shouldn’t) be about Helen, she does have very real limits and needs over which she has little or no control.  Keeping this in mind makes the trip go smoothly for her and, consequently, everyone else.

2. Simplify travel – By the time we usually arrive at wherever we’re going, Helen is already working with a deficit.  The more complicated the travel, the harder it is for her nervous system to stay regulated.  Whenever possible, choose travel methods and times that are the least likely to be busy or chaotic.  We chose a location close to home and left on a Sunday morning.  When we pulled up to a restaurant and it was busy, we passed out snacks and kept driving.  We ate later at a much quieter location.

3. Social Stories – Of course.  Our destination had lots of pictures online, and we made sure to look at them often.  I also made a picture story of things specific to our family.  For instance, the first part of the picture was all of us driving, as well as things we might me doing in route (reading books, playing on the IPAD, stopping for a snack, even looking out the window).

4. Pack well – I made sure to pack Helen’s favorite stuffed animal and baby doll.  Her clothes were comfortable favorites (with tags).  Since we would have access to a kitchen, I made sure I had plenty of Helen-friendly foods.  And, of course, all our go-to therapy equipment was on hand.

5. Know what you need – Since eating poses one of Helen’s greatest needs, having a kitchen was a huge sanity-saver.  Think about what would be the most helpful for your family and plan accordingly.

So, where did we go?  We rented a cabin at a State Park during the off-season.  It was quiet, but there were lots of activities in walking distance.  This meant we could try things as a family with little risk.  If things became too stressful, Helen and I could just go back to the cabin and the boys could continue on.  We had a kitchen, so food wasn’t a constant issue.  It was a short drive, eliminating the need for frequent stops.  It was exactly what we needed.

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