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Adults traveling on the autism spectrum?

Don't know if anybody else is on the spectrum but I wondered if anyone has done a RS tour? I have traveled a lot in the US and mostly do road trips.
I always think it helps to know what I am getting into basically. So I like things planned out in advance.
Did have a few questions though--
Best earplugs for airplane, airport noise? I don't listen to music.
Do Flare Calmer work? I'm wondering if it's a scam
Going thru customs (I see a lot of advise re TSA but not customs and can't remember what happens).
Any other comments re: folks on the spectrum traveling.

Posted by
1193 posts

Only you know how your autism affects you and the challenges it is likely to pose for you so it’s very difficult to give advice. Every autistic person is different.

Consider how you cope with things like plans changing at the last minute because any travel can be prone to delays. How do you cope with confined spaces on a plane or bus? How do you find spending time with strangers as you will do on a tour? Ask yourself these questions and see if you feel like a tour is something that you’d feel comfortable with and enjoy.

Bose noise cancelling headphones are good.

Posted by
2475 posts

Re: Customs- on the plane coming back, you’ll get a form to fill out (which you present when going through Immigration) on which you list your purchases and amount spent. As long as you spent less than $800.00, and also that you’re not trying to bring in prohibited categories (e.g., plants), you can just say ‘nothing to declare’ upon arrival. (I once had to root through my luggage and throw away a Portuguese orange I had forgotten about).

Posted by
7026 posts

Re: Customs - on the plane coming back, you’ll get a form to fill out on which you list your purchases and amount spent.

Not always. Delta has not passed out any customs forms on the last two overseas return flights I've taken. It's not a problem for me because I use Global Entry but just saying....

pleiades3, that said, if you get one, fill it out. If you don't, just follow the lines to Customs and and they will ask you if you have anything to declare. Usually the answer will be "no." Then they send you on your way to Baggage Claim (if you have checked a bag). If not, you just head towards the exits.

Posted by
8655 posts

You will go through two lines on entering whatever country you are going to, and then on return to the US. One is immigration, also known as passport control, where they determine if you're allowed to enter the country. Then, after picking up any checked bags, you go through Customs, which is where they check to see if everything you are bringing into the country is allowed. Nothing to declare is just a walk-through. At any point, they can ask you questions about where and what you are doing. And at any point, you can be asked to show your passport for security reasons.

Posted by
4480 posts

Can you handle other people breaking rules on the plane and tour? Example: people with more or larger carryon luggage than is allowed. When a stranger reclines his seat on the plane so that his head is basically in your lap for much of a 6 hr or longer flight?

Posted by
4595 posts

Not to dissuade you from a Rick Steves tour, but have you tried any tours before? RS tours have to to 24-28 people on them. That feels like a lot if you prefer regularity around you. Perhaps do a short bus trip of this time near home to see how group dynamics work for you.
I was recently on an Intrepid tour with a fellow clearly on the spectrum. He had done 2 back to back tours, but handling them well. Our group size was 8. Age range was 24-64, most being under 30. I would put him in his early 30s. Because of the younger ages, I think they adapted well to include him.
He was the smart one. We all caught colds, but he didn't as he kept his mask and handwash routine...and his need for more personal space was easily accommodated.
Intrepid has a reasonable amount of independent time built into trips. You could spend time solo, or with a smaller group. He is quite a world traveler, so had found ways to maintain his needs.
I am hypersensitive, so I use earplugs or ear buds (no music playing) when I am feeling a lot of sound stimulation, but never heard of these Flare Calmers. Does the Autism Association or a similar group have recommendations for it or similar devices? Seems there is one called Loop.

Posted by
49 posts

To answer some questions: Yes, understand that everyone's different. I have already paid for the tour so there is that.
It is a Your Way Alpine Europe. Since my two favorite things are sketching and hiking, should work out for me. I have taken a tour where we were herded around and this didn't work so well, I was constantly trying to get off to myself. But I do have a lot of coping/compensation skills. I don't like people breaking rules otoh, I am used to it. It drives me crazy when people let their dogs off leash in a park, but that's because my dog gets excited and pulls me. I think if someone pushed the seat way back I would talk to the flight attendant. Someone carrying too big a suitcase, I'd be more annoyed. I think I'd feel much like everyone else about that.

Thanks for all the explanation of customs. That was helpful.
I am not sure re: cancellation headphones, used to use these but they produce pressure (anti-noise I believe is the term). I don't know which autism association to trust but a friend of mine who is an OT recommended Loop, so I might go with that.

Posted by
1193 posts

I think it’s great that you’re going to give a tour a try and you’ve found one that sounds like it will suit you well. A tour is less stressful than independent travel so although I’m sure there’ll be some annoyances, there’ll also be lots of benefits.

Posted by
49 posts

I couldn't find it but someone suggested looking in the scrapbooks--good idea. I also am in a FB group (RS My Way Alpine tour--don't know the rest of the name). Someone is already doing it and posting pictures, talking about where they are going and so on.
Oh yes, I have done tours in the US though mostly small ones. For instance took a tour of Yellowstone-- it was wonderful and exceptionally well run, for instance the guy took us to his own private geiser! I don't know who ran it but did a Harry Potter tour of the UK (well Scotland and Britain only). I didn't think it was run well and there were many more than 24-28 people--I think 6 coaches. They rushed us around from what thing to another. I also was assigned a roommate. I am doing the single supplement so I can enjoy my own time.

Posted by
323 posts

Hi Pleiades3

Here is the link to the tour scrapbooks.

I hope that this helps you feel comfortable with your travels. I commend you for taking this step outside your comfort zone and I also am admiring of everyone that loves to travel!

Lots of good wishes and strength sent your way! I think you have received a lot of good advice here and perhaps might speak with a mental health professional if you think it proper to help you have a successful trip. Many smiles and good wishes sent to you! I hope that you enjoy your trip!

Posted by
2491 posts

Delta has not passed out any customs forms on the last two overseas return flights I've taken. It's not a problem for me because I use Global Entry but just saying....

Same here and no GE for me. 2 flights last year on Delta and no physical form. The agent just asked upon arrival if I had anything to declare.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi pleiades3,

You've probably already gone on your tour, but I'll add my two cents on the noise-canceling/earplug issue. I'm also on the spectrum and I have the same problem with the suction noise! I still use them, but just as noise-softening ones and to listen to podcasts and music.

I haven't tried Flare Calmer, but I do recommend QuietOn (full disclosure I'm an affiliate, but only because I love them--I wrote about them on my blog and Medium). They're a small Finnish company and the reason I love them is because (a) I can't normally stand anything inside my ears (and these have squishy pads that mold to your ears), (b) they're truly noise-canceling without the suction, and (c), they are not wifi/bluetooth, which means you don't have more pesky EMFs than you need, particularly when you sleep. They're very expensive, but worth every penny.

I'm so glad you decided to get your own room. I can handle being in group settings like a tour if I have a place I can retreat to--an impossibility with a roommate.

I can't see if there was anything I missed that others didn't already address. Happy to respond if you want to report back on how it went!

Safe travels,