10 top tips for surviving a long car journey with an autistic child!

Over the years, my son has found car journeys difficult, especially when his sister has decided to wind him up for fun! We have spent many hours in service stations, lay bys and car parks calming down! We have however been persistent with car journeys and recently made it all the way from the North of England to Paris with no issues. Here are my top tips for long journeys in the car.

1. Think about safety!
Before you travel make sure to double check that the child locks and window locks are on. Some children will like playing with the handles and buttons and others may try to get out if they become stressed without thinking about the dangers. Also ensure that your child is well practiced in wearing their seat belt or car restraint.

2. Practice with shorter journeys!

If your child hasn’t been on a long car journey before and you are going to be driving a very long way then it might be worth having some shorter practice trips in the weeks leading up to your journey. You can also talk to your child about car journeys and what to expect and there are some social stories online which could help with this.

3. Allow plenty of time for the journey!

Leave plenty of time to get where you are going so you can stop on the way!

Too many times we have had stressful journeys in the car where we were rushing to get to our destination. It isn’t always possible to leave early, but it does help to leave enough time for scheduled and unscheduled breaks

4. Go prepared!

Bring more snacks than you think you will need, even a picnic. It is good to have some of your child’s favourite foods with you especially if your child is on a strict diet or a fussy eater. Make sure you have water to drink and some small familiar comfort items and toys. My son always insists on having at least 2 of his soft toys and his taggy blanket with him. If you have the space it could be useful to bring a weighted or favourite blanket and pillow too – these may also be useful when you get to your destination if you are staying overnight.

5. Decide on the best time to drive!

I think  our journey to Paris went well because we set off at bedtime and drove through  the night. My son slept a lot of the way. Make sure you are able to get plenty of rest before hand though or share the driving with someone else!

6. It is better to be over prepared!

Before you travel think about ways to help calm your child if you get stuck on a motorway and they are having a meltdown! Plan enough toilet breaks that they won’t end up needing a wee while you are driving. Research your journey beforehand and find places you could stop. Have everything you will need in the car with you – there is nothing more annoying than the one thing you want being in the boot!

7.Try to remain calm!

Driving can be stressful but if your child sees that you are upset, it is just going to make them more upset. Try to be as calm as possible.

8. Travel sickness!

If your child gets travel sick don’t forget to give them the preventative! Believe me there is nothing worse than trying to clean a car seat with service station tissues, whilst calming a child who is having a melt down because they had to put their pyjamas on in the middle of the day!

Consider carefully if items such as ipads or dvd players could make your child feel sick in the car and either linit their time on them or take alternatives.

9. Consider doing  your journey in stages!
If you have tried shorter journeys and worked out that your child does not travel easily, then instead of attempting a very long journey all in one go, maybe you could set off the day before and stop overnight somewhere on the way to make it easier.

10. It gets easier!

As with everything else, if car journeys become routine for your child then hopefully over the years you will find it easier to travel with them! My son was 10 when we drove to Paris but we managed our 9 hour drive with only 2 stops and one short meltdown which was forgotten as soon as we arrived! You can read about our adventure at Disneyland Paris here: https://kidsontour.blog/2017/01/25/disneyland-paris-and-walt-disney-studios/ and here: https://kidsontour.blog/2017/01/16/eurodisneys-davy-crockett-ranch/

Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

4 thoughts on “10 top tips for surviving a long car journey with an autistic child!

  1. Am very impressed – one of my teenagers is autistic and long car journeys have almost stopped in past few years. I will try out some of your advice

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