Hands up who groans at the thought of researching potential new family holidays?
They can be a minefield when you’re a family with additional needs, right?
Often, you have a huge checklist to consider when looking at accommodation. How long does it take to get there? Do they serve the right kind of food? Would it be better to go self catering? How busy/noisy will the hotel/restaurants/pools be? Will your child be able to escape? Will your child be able to take part in any of the activities? Are the staff autism trained? The list goes on…
If you’ve not been before, it can be hard to know whether somewhere will be right for your family and it’s easy to see why many people decide to stay at home or choose to go on holiday to the same place each year. If you’ve found a formula that works, why rock the boat?
However, if you’re looking to mix things up a bit, I surveyed members of my Facebook Group – Travelling the Spectrum – and another local autism group to find out which of their previous holidays they would recommend to other families.
Each family is different and what works for one family might not work for another, but hopefully these recommendations should give you some ideas to consider if you’re feeling a bit stuck.
Check out these suggestions for awesome overseas holidays for families with autistic children – recommended by real parents.
It seems you can’t go wrong with Disney. It was by far the top choice among the parents I surveyed. Victoria from Starlight and Stories says her family’s favourite holidays have been Disney Cruises. She adds: “Our eldest loves Disney with a passion, and you get a schedule each night telling you what is happening the next day which literally runs to the minute. Staff are incredible, and those in the kids’ club have autism training. Lots of food choices – even for our incredibly picky youngest. Can’t fault them at all.” There are some great deals in term time but prices rise considerably in the school holidays.
For more information, visit Disney Cruise Line
If water isn’t your thing, check out Disneyland Paris. Amy, a mum-of-two says: “Disneyland is just fantastic for those with disabilities.” and “it’s truly magical”.
She adds: “If you claim DLA or can get a doctor’s note you should be able to get a green pass and that will mean u can skip queues. With the evening fireworks you get access to a cordoned off area which is almost front row seats and means you avoid the crowds at that time.”
Visit the Disneyland Paris website
And if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Katie, from Alien Planet, recommends Disney World. “Florida must be the only place where we do not seem to experience many meltdowns,” she says.
“My advice here is to go to the guest services and explain that your child has autism. We took a sheet of paper with our sons diagnosis on just in case. This wasn’t required and we needn’t have worried.
“They gave us a little booklet which allows your child and the rest of your party to get a “come back time” for any ride that is longer than 30 minutes. During this time, you’re unable to get a “comeback time” for any other rides so would need to wait in the regular queue if you wanted to experience another ride. If your child is anything like ours and hates to be in a queue, does not like the feeling of being crowded by others and needs space then this option is ideal.”
For more information, visit Disney World
Center Parcs, Holland
A big draw of a Dutch Center Parcs is that it’s often cheaper than its UK counterpart. We’ll save a few hundred pounds by going to Holland this Easter, even when you take into account travel costs.
Hazel went to De Kempervennan with her family two years ago. “Kempervennan is ace!” she says. “Lovely beach around the lake and shallow swimming for the kids too which really helped as W was in and out the water. We often had the beach to ourselves. It’s worth checking out when Dutch kids are at school too as there is an overlap with British hols and that can mean a cheaper quieter week there.
Meanwhile, Carol Quinn also recommends Het Meerdal. “(It) was great. We flew to Dusseldorf and hired a car to drive down. Not sure how the ferry would have gone!
“(De Kempervennen) sounds like it has far more to do on it than Het Meerdal though. Mine love rollercoasters so it was the theme park so close that drew us to that”.
For more information, click here
Club Las Calas, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote
If you like hotel facilities but prefer to do mealtimes yourself, Nicola recommends Club Las Calas in Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote. “It’s self catering accommodation in an enclosed but large complex with pools and bars/restaurants and a great kids and adults entertainment team. The staff all know our kids really well and go out of their way to help meet their needs and make sure we all have a great holiday.
“It’s near some great places to go and beaches etc but has the ability to be totally chilled out too. We always book special assistance for flying and to date have always had a great experience, including staff supporting when our youngest totally freaked out and did a runner. We couldn’t feel more at ease there if we tried.”
For more information, visit the website
Les Trois Chenes, Pays De La Loire, France
Advertised as a place to holiday without prejudice, this small family-run campsite is designed for children and adults with additional needs and their families. The owners have a 15-year-old son who has Aspergers and ADHD, and a nine-year-old daughter who is under assessment for autism. Nestled in the Mayenne countryside of northern France, the family lives in a self built, off grid timber house surrounded by two acres of fully fenced and secure grounds with beautiful views all round.
There are various holiday options and prices, including taking your own tent or caravan, hiring an eight-man tent or staying in a home-from-home bell tent.
The owners run children’s activities such as craft sessions and nature trails. There is a play area with swings and slides, sandpit, water table, outdoor games.
Guests also have access to the archeological site on the grounds where you can have a dig (tools provided).
As one parent summed it up as an: “Absolutely amazing place to enjoy a truly relaxing holiday with our two boys.”
For more information, click here
Bavarian Forest Holidays, Bayerisch Eisenstein, Germany
If you like to spend your family holidays being active and outdoors, I thoroughly recommend this place. We went a few years ago when Big Bear was age two and, if I’m honest, it was the wrong age/developmental stage. He was still crawling, couldn’t walk, but didn’t want to be in the pushchair – cue lots of frustration and meltdowns.
Having said that, at the time we said we’d love to go back when the kids are a bit older as there is so much to do in Bavaria. It’s an adventure to get there on public transport: a flight to Munich then a bus and two trains. When you get there you’ll be given a guestcard (GUTi) which gives you travel free of charge on every day of your stay within the Bavarian Forest on the Bayerwald Ticket network. There are loads of free animal parks in the region, cycling routes, children’s playgrounds, swimming pools, a gondola, plus you can take a trip over the Czech border to the Danube. The accommodation – apartments – is excellent too and includes communal children’s play/game rooms in each small apartment building plus a central visitors lounge, small grocery shop and a wealth of information about the area.
For information, visit Bavarian Forest Holidays
Can Costa Rural, Spain
Can Costa Rural is run by an English family living near Girona in Spain. The couple have an autistic daughter and offer families a holiday in an understanding non-judgemental environment. They also offer equine therapy and gluten/lactose free diet. The accommodation is no smoking and car hire is essential.
The couple has converted an 18th century barn into comfortable self catering accommodation, which can accommodate a maximum of 5 people.
With five-star reviews on trip advisor, this is one to check out if you want to get away from it all but still want things to do on your holiday. As one guest puts it: “If you want a family holiday in a relaxing countryside feel environment, with no one staring at you or questioning you – this is definitely the place!”
For more information, visit the website
- Have you been anywhere awesome abroad on a family holiday? Let me know in the comments below.
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We visited CentreParcs Elveden Forest in November for a mid week break (Monday to Friday) in late November with young adult son with learning and physical disabilities. He loved it, we loved it. Physically very accessible, he especially enjoyed the tricycle he could ride under his own power. He loved the wildlife and the large chalet windows. Loads of food options, reasonable supermarket, and great home delivery from varied takeaway menu. And lots of families with wide variety of special needs. Staff seemed very friendly and autism aware. Great pool with a really fun stand up body dryer! For a price you can book a private (warm) cabana and thee is a mobility bus. We plan to go again, Winter Wonderland is lovely.
That sounds great. We’ve not tried Elveden
H10 Mediterranean Village salou.
Been here 3-4 times and my autistic son loves it. Never stopped smiling. Nice quick flight. Great weather. Beautiful hotel. In the process of booking again.
Thanks for the recommendation!