Holidays with autistic children can be brilliant but they can also be hard sometimes.
Where do you start when it comes to finding the right place? Most of the time you’re spending a significant amount of money yet taking a gamble that it’s going to meet the needs of your complex family.
Have you ever googled ‘autism holidays’ to get inspiration? There’s very little that pops up.
We had a great response to Awesome overseas holidays for families with autistic children – recommended by real parents
However, if the thought of going abroad fills you with fear, check out these awesome UK holidays for families with autistic children – recommended by real parents.
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.
WilderMe has fulfilled a hole in the market for those looking for UK holidays for families with autistic children. It offers retreats to autistic adults and their support staff and autism-focused glamping holidays for families. Families can book a relaxing break in a luxurious sensory geodome and embark on a personal rewilding experience.
Offering stunning sea views, this low impact retreat aims to inspire you to de-digitalise, slow down and rekindle your connection to the natural world. If that wasn’t enough, all profits go towards WilderMe’s autistic projects.
Higher Lank Farm – Cornwall
If you have younger children who love animals, Higher Lank Farm, run by couple Lucy and Andrew Finnemore, could be a winner. This ranks as one of our most successful holidays when we went a few years ago.
It’s a working farm in Bodmin, Cornwall. It specialises in providing holidays exclusively for families with babies, toddlers and children under 12. It offers B&B in the farmhouse or self-catering in two converted barns with private gardens.
Activities include a swimming pool, a welcome tractor and trailer ride, daily animal feeding, two farm-themed play areas, a pony and trap ride, and woodland walks.
We loved the inclusive attitude of the family and the fact they go out of their way to help you relax on your holiday by providing a pre-bookable babysitting service plus home cooked evening meals delivered to you in the self catering accommodation.
For more information, visit Higher Lank Farm
Little Wren Bell Tents – Southwold, Suffolk
Little Wren Glamping, located on the Suffolk Heritage Coast in a designated Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has the space and freedom for kids to run around and explore. Children can feed lambs and collect eggs for breakfast. It’s also close to some stunning beaches. Each tent comes with its own private kitchen facilities and can comfortably sleep a family of 4.
Nicky, mum-of-three who has a 6 year old with ASD/PDA, says: “We’ve been here for the last two years it’s not specifically for additional needs but it’s very safe and secure , small site only three bell tents in a huge field fully equipped perfect for those who love being outdoors. Fab beaches nearby too.”
For more information, visit Little Wren Glamping
Holiday parks are a favourite for those searching for UK holidays for families with autistic children.
There are 40 holiday parks to choose from around the country. It’s a good option if you want your own space at the end of each day and if your child wakes frequently at night, you don’t have to worry about disturbing other families.
Haven’s Blue Dolphin and Thorpe Park caravan parks in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire are two of the recommendations by parents we surveyed.
At Blue Dolphin, in Filey, East Yorkshire, there are heated indoor and outdoor pools plus a multi-lane water slide. For those who prefer to be out of the water, there is freshwater fishing on the lake. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, the indoor SportsDrome has a climbing wall and a roller disco. And if you love beaches, the park is a short drive from Filey and Scarborough.
Becky says: “We always go to Blue Dolphin. They are brilliant with my son who’s a runner. He likes courses so he makes them up. One is running up the ramp and down some stairs in the club house and all the staff just laugh at him and chat to us as we’re watching him
She adds: “We went to the restaurant and he didn’t eat so they offered him some ice cream which we declined as he doesn’t eat it. We explained he eats cucumbers as he was picking them off my plate so they gave him a load on a plate.”
If you’re looking for thrills, the Space Bowl flume in the outdoor pool at Thorpe Park in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, could be a winner. The site also has bungee trampolines and a zip wire. But when it’s time to chill, you can fish on a huge lake at Thorpe Park. There are also miles of sandy beach nearby.
Mum-of-four Hollie says: “We love Haven. Our favourite site is Thorpe Park.”
Meanwhile, mum-of-two Becci is impressed by the autism awareness shown by Haven staff. “We’ve been to Primrose Valley and Reighton Sands. Primrose Valley has more to do but still doesn’t feel busy. The fairground staff were absolutely amazing, the most accommodating I’ve ever come across.”
Gemma says: “My son really enjoys “Haven Perran Sands in Perranporth Cornwall. It’s been our family favourite for 11 years. Their lazy river is a go-to and the beach is walkable down a slope. They are always accommodating.”
For more information, visit Haven
There’s a lot to be said for keeping holidays simple. Although Center Parcs isn’t the cheapest holiday, it’s one of the places recommended time and again by parents of autistic children.
Philippa says: “We have been to Center Parcs Penrith pretty much every year since they were born and they know exactly what to expect. We do the same activities, it’s hugely comforting and we all have a pretty good time, even if it is so artificial.
For more information visit Center Parcs
The Thomas Centre, Lincolnshire
Set up by parents of an autistic boy called Thomas, the Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire aims to provide outstanding facilities for families and groups in houses and bungalows on a dedicated 25-acre site, in a safe and non-judgemental environment. What more could you ask for when looking for UK holidays for families with autistic children?
Facilities include a private swimming pool, outdoor play area, indoor play barn, sensory room, go karts and track, bikes, a gym and beauty treatments.
Louise recommends Thomas Centre. She has two teenage boys age 17 and 15. The youngest has ASD and learning difficulties. “We’ve been to the Thomas Centre and which has a lot to do”, she says.
For more information, visit Thomas Centre
Henry’s Bungalow, near Anderby in Lincolnshire
Henry’s Bungalow, in the heart of the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park, is open all year. It has a spacious modern interior with two bedrooms and a large enclosed garden for up to four guests.
Rachea, who has two sons, age 7 and 8, both awaiting autism diagnosis, says: “We spend our holiday time in the UK and have stayed in a lot of bungalows. The eldest favourite was Henry’s Bungalow near Anderby in the Lincolnshire Wilds. Completely detached away from anyone with it’s own garden all the way around the house and lots of floor space in side on level really helped the boys.
“It also has it’s own hot tub. It’s a five minute drive to long, relatively quiet beaches and surrounded by countryside.
Nearby we’ve also stayed in Sutton on Sea which I love for it’s old seaside charm. No slot machines, a family splash pool and a more relaxed pace.
Most evenings in late July we had the beach to ourselves.”
For more information, visit Henry’s Bungalow
Luccombe Hall Hotel, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Luccombe Hall Hotel is stunningly nestled in four acres of clifftop garden with breathtaking sea views. The hotel has direct access to the sandy beach below and a range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities. There are lots of different room options.
Keeley, who has two children age 6 and 3, says: “UK hot tub and enclosed garden is a tried and tested format that works very well for us.”
She stayed in a superior garden room with a hot tub at Luccombe Hall. She adds: “My autistic son loves the hot tub and it has a nice enclosed garden, lots of things to do nearby. Perfect.”
For more information, visit Luccombe Hall
Tom’s Eco Lodges, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
Tom’s Eco Lodge is made up of domes, safari tents, wooden cabins and eco-pods on Tapnell Farm, on the edge of the Isle of Wight. It has a restaurant and a farm park with soft play barn and animals to meet. There are walking and cycle trails nearby.
Emma says: “We’ve had a few very successful trips to ‘Tom’s Eco Lodges’ at Tapnell Farm Park on the Isle of Wight. The short ferry ride is just about manageable for our daughter who gets very anxious travelling. Then it’s only a short drive to the eco lodges – lots of space and a calm environment and a choice of tents, huts or cottages.”
She adds: “Being right next to the farm park means we can be there for opening and my daughter gets to play in the amazing soft play barn before it gets too busy. She is then very happy spending time with all the animals. There are some good cafes and a really good restaurant on site too. We love it there so much we are going back for my 40th this summer.”
For more information, visit Tom’s Eco Lodge
Spectrum Breaks, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
The Hartlands is a Victorian autism-friendly holiday centre situated in Shanklin on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Facilities include an indoor hydro swimming pool, cinema, IT room, activity and sensory room, relaxing area, games room, art room, gymnasium and sauna.
Louise has two teenage boys age 17 and 15. The youngest has ASD and learning difficulties. She says: I loved our holiday on the Isle of Wight last year. We stayed at Spectrum Breaks in Shanklin which was brilliant.”
For more information, visit Spectrum Breaks
Pinewood Park, Scarborough
Pinewood Park in Scarborough offers camping and touring areas with hardstanding pitches, alongside a selection of Yorkshire glamping. There are tipi tents, camping shacks and cabins, luxury glamping lodges with hot tubs and western wagons.
Rebecca, who has two children age 9 and 5, says: “My two loved Pinewood Park in Scarborough last year. We stayed in a tree cabin which our little one thought was a Minecraft house.”
For more information, visit Pinewood Park
Whether it’s in a tent, a campervan or a motorhome, camping can be a great holiday for families with additional needs, but finding the right campsites can be tricky. Mum-of-four Nicky speaks for many of us when she reveals her family’s requirements: “Nothing too quiet, orderly and regimentally laid out for us. We would feel too on display if H was having a bad time.”
Snelling Farm Campsite, Dorset
Snelling Farm Campsite in Dorset, reportedly makes the experience a little less stressful. Set on a working farm, the camping fields are mostly flat, making pitching up easy. You can choose your own spot and needn’t worry about keeping to a set pitch size because there are acres of room.
A mum-of-three, whose children are 9, 6 and 2, says: “It’s a working farm with lots of open space. Few rules, no marked pitches plus a ford about 15 minutes walk away which is fab to play in.
For more information, visit Snelling Farm
This beautiful, relaxed, family-run campsite for tents, campervans, caravans, motorhomes and everything in between is set in the heart of the Welsh countryside.
Nicky says: “We like open farm sites. H loves animals so that always goes down well. They both loved Fforest Fields – would highly recommend. Plenty of open space, cracking shower/toilet block, great walks up through the treeline and their own lake for kayaking/wild swimming. Campfires allowed and a little cafe/bar with gorgeous cake”.
For more information, visit Fforest Fields
Self catering cottage, Betws-y-Coed, Wales
A self catering cottage is sometimes the most relaxing option for families and the easiest way to set up a home-from-home. Katherine says her family’s holiday to this cottage in Betws-y-Coed, the gateway to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, was a favourite for her autistic son. It’s particularly accessible for families who are on public transport.
Katherine says: “My son still talks about a holiday cottage we visited in Betws-y-Coed (pictured above) a few years ago because it was above a cafe (had its own entrance) that did pizza at the weekend – they brought us our takeaway on plates which impressed him. Barely any garden though but lots of outdoor space in the area plus a little railway museum and reasonably easy to visit other good places for castles, beaches and steam trains if you are on public transport like us.”
For more information, visit Sykes Cottages
- Do you have a recommendation for a fab UK break? Let me know in the comments below.
- If you enjoyed reading Awesome UK holidays for families with autistic children – recommended by real parents, join my Facebook group Travelling the Spectrum for more travel advice and support from other parents.