Ask An Autism Mom EP. 51

Traveling and Autism

( The Struggle is Real)

Not only are the kids uncertain about traveling, but as moms we're uncertain as well

"First things that we recommend is really building awareness with the child about what their experience is going to be like. So talking to them about what the trip is going to be like."

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Episode Highlights:

Alice Horn is with us from VillaKey. They are a vacation home rental service in Orlando which caters to special needs families. We'll talk about all aspects of autism travel and parenting tips to make autism vacation enjoyable.

  • 00:36 The story of Alice Horn
  • 02:24 What she is doing for the travel industry for autism families?
  • 07:45 What are the needs of the family with autism during their travel?
  • 10:49 What unique struggles to autism families face that most families don't face while traveling?

Questions from the audience (28:42)

  • When is the off peak season?


Speaker 1: Hi everyone. I'm Jenn Eggert of Lakikid .com with ask an autism mom live. You can join me every Monday, live on Facebook at 1:00 PM eastern to meet other parents, learn tips and share your insights on today's show. I'll be talking with Alice Horn again. We all love Alice Horn and the what she is doing for the travel industry for autism families. I'm going to what Alice Horn introduced herself today for us and explained why she does what she does.

Speaker 2: Well, thank you so much Jen. And a good to meet all of you out there in a, in Facebook live chat land. Um, uh, I'm glad that Jen asked me to tell the story because I came to this, um, this journey a little bit differently than some others. Uh, I am actually the child of an autism parent. My Dad, um, his name was Herbert Horn. Here he is. Um, he was a very shy man. You could see he was a, a pianist serious at the piano and he also had autism. And as a child, of course we didn't really understand what that meant. We didn't understand the ramifications, but we didn't know that it was very difficult to travel together and go on vacation as a family. So it, we were on a tight budget as the, uh, as the, as a family of a, of a professor, there wasn't a whole lot of money and saying in a small hotel room with, uh, two rowdy little girls and my dad was, it was very difficult for my dad, um, to have that experience.

Speaker 2: So we did travel, right We, we went to see my grandmother who lived in a house. Uh, and, uh, so when we went on vacation, it was to visit my grandmother. Uh, we got to stay in her home and we all had our own privacy and our own space. And that meant that for my dad, it was, um, it was a tolerable experience. He wasn't crammed into this small room with, you know, in a noisy and not so private situation. Um, fast forward years later, um, I found myself in the travel business, a CEO of a vacation rental company. And by the way, it's the, I'm the CEO of VillaKey. He, um, a vacation rental company specializing in vacation rentals in Orlando. And one day I was sitting at my computer very much like I am right now and looking at reviews from our guests and I see this one review that was really a game changer and it was from a mom who had a child, was autism and she had just stayed in one of our homes herself with her child.

Speaker 2: And she was just so thankful and so appreciative, um, that she had been able to find a place that was quiet and safe and sensory friendly and private for her child. She didn't have to worry about what happened if he had a meltdown. And so she expressed all of this in her review. And for me that was an happy moment. I realized that, uh, there might be other families like her who, who had challenges with the travel experience. Of course, I remembered my own experience with my dad and uh, that really led to the genesis of the VillaKey with the autism focus.

Speaker 1: Now I just want to welcome everyone again and let you know that you're watching live on Facebook. You can also listen to our podcast or on Youtube. If you want to get alerts to join us live or ask questions live, you can visit live or type the number five "5" in the comments section now. Now, please remember every, like every love, every interaction is appreciated and genuinely, um, welcomed by all of us. I see some of you in the comments are actually posting where you're from today because we're talking travel. Let's post a hello from and posts where you're from. Me. I'm, hello from South Carolina. So let's see, we have Jason. Good morning, Jason and Angela and Shannon and Amber.

Speaker 3: Okay,

Speaker 1: so welcome everyone from all over the United States. We are so excited to see you. Um, if you're just joining us, you're listening to the autism mom show. And today I'm sitting down with Alice from VillaK key, one of the only companies in travel that really focuses on autism travel and being friendly to our autism families. I can't wait to dig into this topic with you, but first a huge shout out to our sponsor. Of course, our sponsors, lakikid . And it'll show you. Again. We have our new writeable lap pad. Very Fun. Alice, I don't know if you've seen this yet. This is so much fun. You can actually use a water pen to draw on your lap pad.

Speaker 1: This thing is incredible. My daughter is in love already. Um, again, thank you to everyone from watching who's watching. We've got Arizona, a Pennsylvania, dabbing, Kentucky, Heather in Wisconsin, Angeles and Kansas City and of course my mom in Canada, Hi! Mama. So as you know today we really want to talk travel and how we all know autism travel is extremely different than normal travel. I have two children, Jack is 14 and as you know Riley's seven and with Jack and we never thought anything of picking them up, packing him up and taken off. Jack and I were known for doing what we wanted when we wanted. If we wanted to go to camp, we went to camp, we wanted to do this, we did this. If I wanted to go hang out at a friend's overnight, I would. And then we had Riley and Riley likes her home. Riley does. She struggles even with simply going to sleep at a grandparent's house, which for most children is a huge enjoyment. I know my parents just had my sister's children this weekend and they loved it. All kids love grandma's house will Riley couldn't handle how it was different in the sensory overload. So Alex has looked at all of the aspects of that and kind of broken it down and made it easier for our families. Now Alice, can you tell us what makes this company exactly the way it is

Speaker 2: Sure. So I'm just coming back to the story with my dad and my Aha moment with that one mom. So after we, we kind of came to the initial realization that there was a need out there with autism families. We proceeded to do some research. So we um, I talked to just dozens of families or kids with autism and I, we also did a formal project with the center for autism related disabilities at the University of Miami. We did a focus group and we learned about a lot of the issues that the families who live with autism face. And of course, you know, this all resonated with me because of my dad. And so, you know, as Jen as you were saying, first and foremost, uh, kids with autism, like familiar environments, right Uh, sometimes when they go to a place that is different, um, just by nature of it being different, that's a challenge.

Speaker 2: So, um, what for starters, when they stay in a vacation home as opposed to a hotel, that tends to be a much more familiar environment for them than staying in a hotel. There's no standing in line at the front desk. There's no crowded hotel lobbies. Uh, every family can simply go up to their own front door. We give them a, a code. You enter it in the keypad, you walk into the front door of your home so you don't, and you're, and you're not worried about dealing with strangers or stairs or any of the issues that you might have in a hotel. And then once you're inside the home, uh, we look for homes that have soothing colors, sensory friendly environments. All a of our homes and Orlando are almost all of our homes also do have pools. Uh, they are full homes and the pools are gated off from the home. So when you walk out into your back patio, before you jump in the pool, you have to open a very secure gate. So we add a lot of security issues, alarms on the doors. We know that some kids with autism link to like to wander off. And so we just really pay close attention to all of the needs that, uh, families living with autism face every day.

Speaker 1: Now you kind of are doing over it, but you went over what sets you apart from other companies. You do those more sensory friendly environments. You, it's a home instead of a big, noisy, loud, obnoxious hotel where there is so much going on.

Speaker 3: Yeah,

Speaker 1: and another thing that I love about what sets apart is VillaKey homes come with their own kitchen. Not only does that save you money, it helps with those huge dietary restrictions. If you have any, it helps if you have a child who only eats x, y, Z and

Speaker 2: right. So one of those things that we learned, Jen, is that, um, many families, many kids with autism do have special diets. They might be on gluten free diets or, uh, a myriad of other special diets. So as we know, when, when you're going out to eat with a child who had who, so even just a picky eater or h has special dietary requirements that can be challenging. Um, by nature, a vacation rental home has a kitchen. And so when you walk into our homes, you'll find the kitchen that's fully stocked with, uh, all the equipment you might need. Uh, we can also arrange for grocery delivery. So if you, you know, if you do have, you do want to order those special gluten free ingredients or whatever special ingredient the radiance you may need, that's easy to do. So imagine the experience of just being able to walk into your kitchen, walk into your home, you open that refrigerator. It's already fully stocked with all the stuff you might need for your first meal. Um, really what we're trying to do, Jen, is as offer peace of mind, right Um,

Speaker 3: okay.

Speaker 2: Not only are the kids uncertain about traveling, but as moms we're uncertain about traveling, right So we want to make sure that you know that somebody in your corner and somebody is there that understands the situation, number one, but then can also take care of all those little things that can smooth the travel experience for autism families.

Speaker 2: Now do you have any travel tips for our autism families Absolutely. And uh, you know, I think for any mom or, and, and dad , traveling with a young child, preparation is key. But that holds especially true for a child with autism. So one of the first things that we recommend is really building awareness with the child about what their experience is going to be like. So talking to them about what the trip is going to be like, a explaining that they're going to be staying in a home just like their house, their own house, but you know, with their own bedroom. But it's going to be a different house. And to make that a little bit easier, we provide a social story. Um, it's on our website and you can download a social story and sit down with your child and just really go through all the steps of traveling. So not only do we, we show pictures of what it's like to be in a vacation home, but we also, uh, include what it's like to go to the airport, whether it's like to ride in the car to the airport, uh, you know, all the elements of that trip so that they can be familiar ahead of time. And that's so very important. Where the child who has autism,

Speaker 3: yeah.

Speaker 2: Now what unique struggles to autism families face that most families don't face while traveling.

Speaker 2: So I think that, uh, you know, overcoming the, the, just the fear of trying something new is, you know, is the first thing we tried to help you through that situation. But then also I'm going through, you know, we have the fact that that flying can be challenging for families with autism as well documented. So, you know, really being able to perhaps doing a trial run with the airport, uh, talking to people and security ahead of time, letting them know that you're traveling with a child with autism, not only at the airport, uh, in the plane itself. Really being able to communicate fully with everybody so that, uh, folks are prepared if there is a meltdown or you know, if there's something that happens that might be a little bit different than what they, they usually experience. Um, and then of course bringing the, all the, um, the special equipment that you need as a family to help ease the trip, the, the headphones, the, um, uh, and LakiKid has so many great products, the weighted blanket or the, the neck pillow, whatever it is that, uh, as moms, we know what makes our child feel comforted and just making sure that your child is surrounded, was there, there special things that will make them feel familiar in that home.

Speaker 1: Perfect. Now I know you're super excited about something that's coming up in the very, very near future.

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Speaker 1: This summer, Alice is embarking on a huge adventure. I actually researched it after I spoke to her and discovered that in a group setting, she is number one for this project. People are not realizing this yet and doing it. I will let Alice explain what's coming up in August.

Speaker 4: Okay.

Speaker 2: Well some of the great things happen because of collaboration, right And because of the wonderful people that you meet. And so in August we are doing the very first group family tour of Disney and all the Orlando attractions. So universal aquatic, uh, which is just uh, just became autism certified and some other uh, Orlando destinations. And this will be a group experience for up to 10 families. It is August 19th, I'm sorry, August 18th through the 24th. So it will be a week long trip. Every family will be staying and their very own VillaKey home. So every day, uh, they will be heading off to let's say the magic kingdom. They will be going with my wonderful friend and collaborator, Nicole Tivo, who is an autism mom herself and also a wonderful family travel agent. And she will be accompanying the families, troubleshooting anything that comes up, answering questions, giving advice on how to get the past as, how to navigate the, the crowds and the line's a Disney, uh, finding a quiet places to escape to if that's, uh, if that's needed from time to time.

Speaker 2: So she'll be there to, uh, to guide everybody through the experience. We'll also be doing a welcome dinner with all the families. So it'll also be a great bonding experience for all the families to get to know each other and really share experiences. So, you know, for many of the families, we think it'll be the first, um, time they may travel with their child. And so it's an opportunity to do this together as a group and really share that very, um, uh, adventure some, exciting first travel experience. That can also be a little bit nerve wracking. So, you know, there's comfort in numbers for all of us.

Speaker 1: Oh yes. And I just want to say the wonderful thing about this group travel is you're not being held to, you have to go to Disney this day. If your child is not up to going to Disney with the group, you can opt out. Nicole will not feel upset if you say, I think I need a day to let my child swim and decompress in the home. And that's one thing that Nicole, being an autism mom, she'll understand and will accept. So I think that's wonderful that you have a schedule, but it's not, you are forced to do every little thing.

Speaker 2: Exactly. And she, she understands that so well because she's been through all these experiences herself. And, uh, the, as I said, most of the homes still have a pool. So, you know, hey, if you want to chill out by the pool for a day, moms and dads with a glass of wine, kids in the pool, and a very secure gated setting, uh, that's perfectly fine too. And it's really about finding your own pace and, uh, having that support if you need it, but also being able to retreat if that's what you prefer.

Speaker 1: Now I know we have, um, the link for your event in August. There it is right there on your screen. Um, I'm going to ask Miguel if you could also put it in the comments so that it's easier for people to click on. I would appreciate it. This is the link for their Disney group in August. Now. I really think that Alice has taken her life experience and made it into something rare, something amazing. She would make her father really proud. I bet you he's extremely proud knowing that his little girl has turned his experiences into such a beautiful experience for other autism families. We all want to make our parents proud. Let's admit it, the, I don't think I know one person on the face of the earth. That's why whenever I see my mom comment, I'm always like, Yay, my mom's watching. She's going to be so proud of me today.

Speaker 1: We all want to make our parents proud. Now Alice has gone about it in a way that not many people would think of. She has taken this very personal experience and made it into something amazing. Something that benefits so many autism families every year. Like I said, you can visit her website at my and there's also the vacation forward slash autism Disney group. Now if you have any questions for myself or Alice, please post them in the comments section. Now I will be checking, um, Angela White, you asked about the a lap pad. Let me just touch on this real quick for a minute. This is not available yet. We are running a Kickstarter for this very, very soon, but do not forget and I will have Miguel posted in the comments. We have a page that you can go to to learn more about our brand new weighted lap pad and to enter a contest to win these secret phrase for this contest is my LakiKid . Again, when it comes to the secret phrase, it is my LakiKid .

Speaker 3: Okay,

Speaker 1: so any questions for today Let me go back to scrolling. I just wanted to touch on that before I forgot. We have so many people. We have Oklahoma. Raquel, thank you for loving us so much. I love to go live. I know Alice, this is her second time. On our show. She loves to be here to help support autism families. Alice isn't just one of those people who says, I'm going to help autism families. Alice is one of those people who puts their boots on the ground and she actually gets the work done.

Speaker 2: Yes. And Jen, you know, I think that all of us, right, we spend the majority of our time working. And so having the opportunity that to do something that's meaningful and help others is just a gift. Right. And Jen, I know you experienced that, the gift of being able to help others every single day. Jason, the founder of LakiKid, um, you know, I know that's a very, very important part of his life and his work at LakiKid . So you know, we're just blessed that we can do this kind of work and I just want to thank everybody out there for, you know, being part of this journey because it's really, it's a gift for us to be able to do, to be able to help others.

Speaker 1: Exactly. And we come about it in different ways. Not everyone comes to the same place the same way. We all know that Alice came by route of being an autistic man's daughter. I came about it because of Riley, Jason about it because of his son. So we all have come to the same place, but we've traveled very different journeys. So in sharing our journeys we show that it's not always the same, but you're still accepted and loved here no matter where you come from and how you got here.

Speaker 2: And Jen were okay if I share, I know we still have a few more minutes if I share some of the stories that I heard from parents when we're kind of learning about the need for travel or do we have questions from that

Speaker 1: question Um, two questions. What is the cost of the vacation homes And I know you said that they vary, right

Speaker 2: Sorry. That's for the, if you, if you're curious about the tour, then you know, by all means visit the website and check out the cost for the tour. But you can also visit our vacation homes if you're, you know, for just as little as three days for a weekend. And um, they do, depending on the time of the year, they vary from $120 a night for some of the smaller homes all the way up to $500 a night of course for a very large home at, at peak season. So everybody can definitely find something that suits your needs and keep in mind that even our smaller homes have a three, four or five bedrooms. So you're sharing that costs around around several, you know, quite a few people. So it becomes much more budget friendly than staying in a hotel.

Speaker 1: So Shannon, go to my Villake and that will answer all of your questions on exact pricing because every home is a little bit different and every home has little bit different layout set up offerings. So that way you can look at the homes that would be most enjoyable to you and the price they are now, April, what is included in the vacation package. Please check out the website we gave of the vacation more slash autism Disney group. We'll give you all of the information you need on that group. Alice, is there still spaces in that group for August

Speaker 2: Absolutely. We actually just, the website just went live today for the tour so we absolutely still have spaces available and you know, we welcome your participation and uh, either Nicole or I are happy to answer any questions so uh, you know, feel free to reach out after the interview and we'll answer any questions that you might have about the tour.

Speaker 1: And I do want to say for those of you in our Facebook group, Alice is in our Facebook group. I will tag her in post today and if you have any questions for Alice that were not answered just now or you want to connect with her one on one and talk to her privately, I will take her. And she is always wonderful at talking to us. Is this nationwide Chinon Unfortunately as of right now, they are only in Orlando. I know Alice has dream is to someday be nationwide. They are working on expanding, but currently it is just the Orlando area. That's correct. Now Alice, if you want to go ahead and give us one quick story before we have to sign off, that would be great.

Speaker 2: Sure. So you know, one of the things that I really enjoyed and to all of the autism parents was just learning about their experiences. And the one that really stayed with me was from a family or there's many that stay with me, but one was from a family that did stay in a hotel with their child and they checked in and Lo and behold, he proceeded to have just the, you know, a huge meltdown which went on for a long, long time. And it was sort of echoing through all the hotel rooms. And this poor family was actually reported to security at the front desk because they were suspected of abusing their child. So you know, that to me just, well, first of all, it brings home the fact that everybody just, everybody needs to be sensitized and made aware of what it's like to raise a child with autism because that should never have to happen to anybody. But then also, you know, if that does happen in a home, you have privacy. So, you know, that was just one of the things that resonated with me. Um, as you know, just confirming the need for having your own private vacation home when you travel as an autism family.

Speaker 1: Now, we have one quick question, Alice. Angela, why a longtime viewer wants to know when off peak season is

Speaker 2: Great question. Um, so Orlando, as for those of you who have been to Disney in Orlando, you know that it can be very crowded and it can be very expensive. So, uh, we find that if you have flexibility to travel when other kids might be in school, those are great times. The, our slot two slowest months are, uh, in May, uh, and also the very beginning of June. So before people really start coming for, um, for summer travel, um, in September and, and actually the less two weeks in, uh, in August tend to slow down a little bit too because a lot of the southern states go back to school then. So you don't have, um, as many kids visiting. Um, so I would say, um, second, two weeks of August, all of September, all of October, and then November through thanksgiving. And then of course, um, thanksgiving becomes very busy again,

Speaker 1: right with all the holiday

Speaker 2: I am beginning of December before you know, so there's a little bit of a gap there, uh, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas as well.

Speaker 1: Now, Angela, I'm going to suggest if you're actually thinking of doing Disney, when I tag Alice in group later, maybe talking to her, because I know your needs are different than most. You homeschool your son, so your timing compared to most families. Timing is a little bit different.

Speaker 2: And can I just reject to Jen and I, you know, for moms who do home school, a lot of the parks have curriculum that you can use as you're going through the park and turning it into an educational experience. And you of course there's Epcot which is very educational. Universal has a educational experiences built in. So Hey, you know, uh, turn it into an educational experience.

Speaker 1: Oh, Angela, I know you well and I know that you are thinking those little wheels in your brains are turning, thinking educational, Epcot. Disney, I can do this. So that's something I did not know and that's very interesting how you can turn your simple Disney trip into an educational trip. Now unfortunately, I need to wrap it up for today. Um, I want to thank all of you for joining us, especially Alice. We love to have you on our show. You're always welcome to join us. Um, I will be tagging Alice live or live, sorry. I will be tagging Alice in our Facebook parent group, which is . You can join us there at any time and we would love to support you and show you that you are not alone in this autism journey. Alice will be tagged in a post in there today so that people who have questions and want more in depth information, they can look.

Speaker 1: I will ask that once I take Alison and the posts, she posts her links for her web site as well as her August program so that you guys can get more information on that now. Thank you all for joining us today. I'm Jen Eggert. Ask an autism mom by lakikid .com and you could join me every Monday at 1:00 PM eastern for more parenting tips. Remember, you can always join our parent's support Speaker 1 Source Title also, if you have any about today's show, visit ask where you can leave us any questions and I will answer them on an upcoming show. Also by typing the number "5", the number five folks in the comments section. You can subscribe to Youtube by clicking the subscribe button and then hit the bell to get notifications on when we go live. So you can try this on many different platforms. We are expanding every week, it feels like. So please join us. I will have a blog written up about today's show later this week, so please check that out and thank you for watching everyone and remember, every child brings good luck.

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