Autism on the Seas: Vacationing with a Family Member with Special Needs


It was our first family vacation as foster parents…our first vacation as parents at all for that matter! We arrived at our destination after about a six hour drive, the vacation hadn’t even really started yet, and already we were feeling pretty devastated. We were convulsing with the stress of the drive with our van full of little people. We had used all the strategies our parents had used and that we had heard other parents use for taking trips with kids. Why didn’t it work?! The vacation did not get any better. We had some fun times, but they were overwhelmingly overshadowed by challenging behaviors, drama, and stress. We felt doomed that we would never be able to take another vacation again!

We frequently hear from parents who have given up on dreams of family vacations due to their children’s special needs. Over the years we learned how to parent our children differently, and part of this was learning to vacation differently. We have become very passionate about helping others learn from our past mistakes and also about connecting caregivers to resources to help them bond, connect, and make memories with children in their care.

Autism On The Seas

One such resource we recently learned of is provided by an organization called Autism on the Seas. Autism on the Seas develops cruise and resort vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with special needs, including, but not limited to, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and all Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Their services include:

Staff Assisted Cruises and Resort Stays

The AotS Staff cruises with you to provide and coordinate all of the Activities, Respite and Services described below.
– Each cruise is staffed with a minimum ratio of 1 AotS Staff Member for every 3 Guest with Special Needs.
– Each Staff Member is Fully Insured.
– Full Background Checks are conducted (criminal and sex offender) for each Staff Member.
– Each Staff Member holds a degree, or is working towards a degree, in majors of child development, special education, sociology, psychology, social work, behavior therapy, etc.
– Each Staff Member has experience in caring for children and/or adults with developmental disabilities.

Cruise Assistance Package

This package is for Cruises without [AotS] Staff, where you choose your own departure port, itinerary, cruise line & dates. No extra charges from the Cruise Line Prices. Available on Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival, NCL, Princess and Celebrity.

AotS website explains so many services beyond these. Staff provide several strategies and resources prior to travel in order to prepare those traveling with them (which can include extended family and friends). These strategies include communication with the cruise Group Leader for the cruise, increased understanding of the elements of a cruise in relation to the family’s unique challenges, modeling, simulation, progressive exposure, desensitization and coping techniques, social stories, countdown calendars, PECS, assistance in maintaining therapy plans (ABA, Behavioral, etc.), and more. Families can tour cruise ships for free to become acclimated, alleviate some fears, learn more about AotS, and so on. The AotS website includes testimonials and information about private message boards and Facebook groups with previous clients. There are also financial assistance programs and fundraising information on the site.

Excited To See A Program Like This

Transfiguring Adoption has often discussed providing services like this for foster and adoptive families in the future, and we were so excited to see a program like this exists for families with special needs. Visit for pricing, availability and additional information or call 800-516-5247.


Use Discount Code: ND-219

Autism on the Seas will make a donation on your behalf to Transfiguring Adoption
(Applies to New Guests of AotS only)

[Learn More]


Written by
Margie Fink: Development Director Margie received her degree in psychology and has worked in various social work capacities. Margie has been chosen in the past to speak on Capitol Hill about the Refundable Adoption Tax Credit. She is a witty foster/adoptive mom who is able to give kids from hard places loving structure while providing unbelievable homemade cooking. Margie co-founded Community Kids, a resource and networking 501(c)3 created to assist foster, adoptive, and relative caregiver families. Check Out: Thoughts From A Foster-Adoptive Mom

What do you think?

0 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.