We have just returned from our best holiday ever. Without a lie, our very best experience as a family. Which is amazing, considering how worried and stressed we were going in.
The three little bears enjoying the view from the lookout at Lake Taupo
We took a chance and travelled to New Zealand for our first overseas adventure as a family. With two kids on the autism spectrum we were worried that we had taken on too much – that we we would spend most of the trip dealing with meltdowns, upset and stress.
Instead, the preparation we undertook prior to leaving home really helped address some of the natural stress of the trip and led to a very successful, enjoyable and rewarding holiday. This is how we were successful in taking the kids overseas.
So here are 5 tips to make your overseas holiday with your kids a success too:
1. Develop an itinerary for the kids
Nathan prepared an amazing itinerary for the kids in the form of a social story. This laid out exactly what we expected to do each day and allowed them to become familiar with our plans before setting out. The story showed our route visually but also included fun facts to keep them entertained. I have linked to our kids itinerary – NZ Holiday Book-final.
2. Seek their input
We discussed the options for each day and sought the kids input into what we should do. We ensured we made time to see Carter Observatory for Gilbert and Wellington Zoo for Matilda as these fed into their interests. It certainly helps the nervous traveller to have something of their own to look forward to!
3. Invest in noise cancelling headphones
These are a god-send. They take out all the ambient noise of the flight and allow you to concentrate on listening to music or watching a movie or playing a game on the inflight entertainment system. Our kids didn’t even know that we had taken off, they were so absorbed in what they were listening to with the help of their headphones – well worth the investment!
4. Build rest time into each day
It is so important to build rest time into your itinerary. It can be hard to justify slowing down when you have limited time in a particular country but taking it slowly and not pushing too hard will definitely make the holiday a greater success. We built in a few days where we didn’t have any set plans and having a rest really did pay off for us.
5. Encourage them to document the holiday
While we traversed the North Island we encouraged the kids to make their own memories. Gilbert took video of the different destinations and found comfort in talking to the camera about what he was seeing and experiencing. Matilda wrote each night in her diary and loved sharing this with us each night. We also made sure we talked to Delilah each night about her favourite part of the day. We found this was a really effective way to get the kids excited about each new destination.
These were undoubtedly the most successful approaches we found to help the kids adjust to all the changes that an overseas holiday poses. But I would love to hear your own tips for when we do it all again!