Autistic packing. 

As kids, we used to spend the entirety of our summer holidays in Turkey. And seeing as this was the 80s, and virtually impossible to find ‘Western’ stuff such as suncream and paper nappies, we used to bring A LOT of stuff. Bags and bags and bags. And as kids get their own baggage allowance, mom would fill our bags with stuff too. I felt like a mule. (Not a drugs mule!! Just an animal forced to carry heavy loads). So, I determined, once I had control over my own packing, that forevermore I would travel LIGHT. And so, I developed an obsession for travelling with as little as possible. Turned it into an art-form. 

Of course, now that I have kids, and disabilities, it adds a whole new layer of complexity, and an added challenge. And a lot of anxiety. And so, I have developed rituals and systems to counter the anxiety. So, I think I might go through my method in case it helps anyone else. 

First of all, usually a few weeks in advance, I write a long and detailed list. I may write and re-write it several times. This year, however, I picked up this pre-made list at my local Tiger store:

Once I have my list, I start gathering all the items into a pile. I also make sure I have cases etc to pack everything in. Most of the stuff goes in my carry-on wheelie and red bag. Did I mention we only ever travel with carry on luggage? Not only saves money, but also we hate waiting at those conveyor belt thingies. 

Now that the kids are older, they have their own wheelie bags and backpacks, though those are mostly filled with toys and snacks. I also bring a spare backpack as they are handy for drinks and snacks when sightseeing. 

Next, what to actually pack? As I know it’s going to be hot where we’re going, it’s easier to travel light. I pack one pair of shorts each for the kids, plus four t-shirts each. I also pack a pretty dress for my daughter. Also swimsuits just in case we end up at the beach. We don’t do beach holidays as the kids prefer city breaks, but you never know! The swimsuits for me and the kids are always of the separate shorts and tops type, no bikinis for us! But also easier to get in and out of than one-piece styles. As we have rounded shoulders, we also need tops where the straps can’t fall off. I also bring prescription goggles as I can’t see a thing without them! 

As for me, I pack three light dresses, which don’t need ironing. This year I seem to have an abundance of suitable dresses to choose from. 

I then roll all the clothing as tightly as I can and put in one layer in my suitcase. 

Next layer is as much socks and underwear as I can find. It is my experience that you can never have too many of either of those. 

Finally, the spare backpack and a light shawl/scarf. Plus night clothes, always on top so it’s easy to reach when arriving somewhere tired. 

The other side of the case contains non-clothes items. I will detail them next. 

First, I only bring as much meds as I need, I take them out of their boxes and put together in a toiletry case. This works ok as I’ve no meds that might require ‘explanation’ ie opiates. It’s mostly paracetamol, antihistamines of various types, and the essential melatonin for the kids. Also I bring a box of Diotalyte in case we get dehydrated. 

Next, I have tissues, various wipes including deodorant wipes and anti-bac wipes. Because we only bring hand luggage, I try to bring the least amount of liquids as I can. So, wipes are great instead. 

I bring my travel razor, just in case i freak out and decide to shave my underarms or legs. 

I bring a travel Tangle Teezer, so my daughter doesn’t end up with too many knots in her hair. 

So, that’s it for the main bag. Now onto my red handbag and the kids bags. 

I bring mini bottles of insect spray, suncream, toothpaste, mouthwash, and China Balm (copy of Tiger Balm) from Tiger. I also bring Mi Wadi Mini to add to water as my kids and I hate plain water but need to stay hydrated. I also bring small bottles of Calpol. I pack these into clear travel pouches, one in my red bag, and one in each of the kids wheelie bags. 

Other things in my red bag: a bag of Chupa Chup lollies, for takeoff and landing during the flight. 

A bag of Wether’s toffees, and a bag of pretzel sticks. So, sweet and salty snacks!

My trusty, foldable, cane/walking stick:

Tissues and ‘nappy bags’. Never leave home without tissues! The bags are great for rubbish, used wipes, but also for any clothes that get wet or vomited on during the trip. 

Speaking of vomit, my kids can get pretty travel sick, so I pack Dramamine too. And mints for nausea. 

I bring these empty spray bottles. I give one to each of the kids and keep one for myself. Handy for filling with water and spraying ourselves to cool off. We are all very heat intolerant. 

The kids also have these handcranked travel fans. We used to bring ones with batteries but these are better plus they treat them like stim toys.

We also bring baseball caps. A plain one for me and these Minecraft ones for the kids. They often wear matching clothes or accessories so easy to describe them if they get lost. 

I also got these lanyards to use in a Dublin airport. They are a discreet way of indicating you need extra help, and allow us to go in shorter queues. You need a letter from your GP stating autism diagnosis and they are very easy to apply for. 

As for the kids bags, they pack soft toys, either Mario, Minecraft or Pokémon characters. They also pack the Switch and/or 3DS. And chargers. Also we pack socket adapters if going to Europe. Also I bring my iPad and iPhone. 

I am also very careful about our Travel Outfits. I always wear baggy trousers with pockets and a long-sleeved top, plus light jacket. The kids wear similar. Because no matter how hot it is at our destination, it will always be raining when we arrive back in Dublin! And no good getting wet while trying to find the car. Plus we wear runners or shoes with special insoles. I don’t pack extra shoes as I’ve never found we needed them. 

And so, I think that’s everything? Knowing me, I’ll remember a few other things last minute! My husband handles the passports, tickets, cash and travel insurance etc. And so, here’s everything for one disabled autistic adult and two disabled autistic children for seven days in France: 


4 thoughts on “Autistic packing. 

  1. I never thought of putting the night clothes on the top! I’m way too anxious and poor to ever leave my country but I do visit my family in England (and I live in Wales) from time to time. We get there for around, I don’t know, seven? And I always have to rustle in the bags to get to them when I just want to get dressed, shower, eat and go to sleep! It’s nice to see autistic people talk about how they travel. The journey is often the hardest part.


  2. i love your logic of packing.
    i have mine streamlined too, with husband’s. mental list first, then eliminate a lot of clothes and still try to keep a combo that will work mix&match to most situations.
    i love packing cubes. flight 001 website/store sells lovely sets, containing my favorite: i have the set in gray (waited for a 50% off deal). i love the clothes bag: one side for clean clothes, one for dirty. i use the shoe bag for underwear and some ikea family similar bags for other clothes, and the cosmetic bag for in flight items. a lot easier yo find clothes and other items and to separate dirty from clean with those (especially when can’t see that well etc).
    i also love using a backpack for day trips even if in us i usually use some kind of purse or shoulder bag. (then again even in us my day bag contents are different from most people as they drive)


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