If you had told me a few years ago that we were thinking about taking our kids on an overseas family holiday, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Back then, a basic trip down the street was a nightmare and more often than not would end in tears.
It didn’t happen overnight and it was a very long process to get to this point. A combination of gradually building up a tolerance with regular outings, increasing time frames, various locations and being as prepared as possible, has helped us to achieve this dream.
We started by increasing the length of time we would stay at a park, a person’s house, different parks, different houses, exposure to a variety of places for longer amounts of time. Eventually, we could manage a whole day out, an overnight stay and an annual holiday interstate. So, we decided to take a leap of faith and book an overseas trip to Fiji.
We chose a destination that wasn’t an overly long flight, somewhere hot, with a pool and beach at our doorstep because that’s what our kids love to do. My parents also came with us for extra helping hands and support.
Airports are always challenging with crowds of people, having to line up in an orderly fashion and follow processes. Thankfully all the staff are very helpful and accommodating. We found that if we explain our situation, they usually help to make things as quick, easy and painless as possible to help get through all the queues. It definitely helped having been on a few short flights before. The kids seemed quite comfortable and excited once we were on the plane. Another positive was overnight flights, so the kids slept most of the way.
Every time we leave our house, we take everything but the kitchen sink. So obviously, when going on a trip, we take all the necessary essentials to comfort or entertain the kids if necessary. Better to be over prepared, rather than not have a particular item needed to rectify or surpass a public meltdown.
We always have our survival backpack on hand with a change of clothes, underwear, wipes, water, favourite snacks, favourite/sensory toys, headphones, I pad and spare change to help with a potential situation. We took it everywhere, to breakfast, the beach and the pool because you just never know? Murphy’s Law the time you don’t have it, you will need something no doubt.
The kids are quite fussy about food, with very limited diets. So, travelling to an unknown foreign country, we were happy we took a suitcase full of their usual snacks with us.
We chose a resort that friends had stayed at recently. They reassured us that it was family-friendly, the people were friendly with all essentials within walking distance and had been the best holiday they had ever been on. So, we thought it sounded like a pretty safe place to try.
It is confronting observing other children and families and seeing what they can do. But for us, the fact that we were even there was a monumental achievement. We fell into a routine… Breakfast, room, pool, room, beach room repeat. Both kids were really happy and comfortable with that and to be honest we couldn’t have wished for more. Something we thought might never be possible was, in fact, a huge success.
Two years later… We have just arrived home from our second overseas trip to Bali. Again, choosing a destination with warm weather, a recommended resort with pool, the beach and all essentials close by with my parents tagging along again too. We were totally prepared with our survival backpacks, snacks, favourite toys and more confidence. Both kids were so well behaved on their longest flight yet, excited in fact.
Overall, we had another great time away but every day is still a mental battle. As prepared as we can be, there is always a scenario or situation that occurs and we are constantly on edge as to how the kids will cope or react.
I had a confrontation with another mother who was yelling at Thomas to take stuff out of his mouth. A little girl asking Madi to be her friend then got upset when she couldn’t talk or play with her. We were asked for the kids to wear shoes to breakfast. We had difficulty finding food they would eat. We were really stressed from constantly preventing them from drinking the water. Both kids were verbalising their desire to return home a few days early. Thomas vomited on the plane landing and we literally came crashing home with a car accident leaving the airport.
Just a few of the negatives but I’m choosing to focus on all the positives and continue to strive for us to live our best lives.
We are living, learning, growing in confidence and becoming more comfortable every time we go away. Another successful overseas family holiday, making memories to last a lifetime.
Monique Cain is the author of The Everyday Autism Series. You can follow her blog at: www.theeverydayautismseries.com.au/