7 Tips for a Successful Beach Vacation with Your Child on the Autism Spectrum

Wonderful post! Thank you!

Not an Autism Mom

A family vacation at the beach is a lot of fun. But planning for one can be a bit overwhelming when you have a child – or children – on the autism spectrum.

If you’ve never taken your child before, you may be worried about how he might react – especially if he has sensory issues.

A trip to the beach can be an amazing sensory activity for autistic children. It’s the only place my severely autistic son puts his feet all the way down. The sand, water, and breeze somehow allows him to relax, and take in his environment.


I actually live at the beach, and take my four year old twins out at least once a week. One of them was diagnosed with nonverbal autism last year, and my other twin is currently undiagnosed.

So I figured I’d share a little bit of wisdom (insert laugh here) to…

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Fort Morgan Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, vacation

What should I look for in a Vacation rental?

Vacation rentals have flooded the market in recent years and your choices are practically endless when it comes to selecting one. So what should you be considering when comparing properties and making a final decision.

  1. Take your time and do your homework. I know I always try to plan a year in advance and make sure I am choosing the right place for the family. Don’t get caught up in the Vacation excitement and make a rushed spontaneous decision.
  2. Be critical! Things rarely look better in person than they do in the photos. Ever met someone in person you had only seen in photos on Facebook? Ever said they sure look different in person. Well the photos that Vacation rentals post are their “best foot forward”. Look at the photos throughly.
    1. If the posting has more photos of the surroundings than of the interior and living areas then I wonder what they are hiding. I can find pictures of the beach and mountains on Google. Show me what the living space, beds, kitchen, and bathrooms look like where I am spending my hard-earned money to stay at over vacation.
    2. Look for what is missing. Our minds have a way of filling in information that is actually missingWas there a washer and dryer? Did you see kitchen appliances like a crock pot to cook meals in while you are out enjoying the sights? Was there counter space to be able to prepare a meal or two to save cost?
    3. Look at the scale of things. If the sofa takes up the entire length of the Living space and even sticks under the counter bar then maybe the living space is a little bit cramped. If the pillow barely fits across the bunk bed then it could be a tad narrow and small. Is that a Queen bed in the Master bedroom?

Narrow your list down to a few options and then drill down even further.

  1. Look at the comfort and amenities with your choices
    1. Bedrooms and sleeping spaces. Look closely at the sizes and quality of the beds. Unlike other items in the rental the beds are used EVERYDAY and for the most about of time! Vacation is about rest and relaxation and how can you enjoy yourself when you can’t sleep well.
      1. What size bed is in the Master bedroom? There is a big difference between a King and a Queen bed.
      2. What size are the bunk beds? I have seen a lot of rental units with bunk beds built into an old closet and they are very narrow and not long enough to be comfortable. In fact they are basically unsafe and dangerous. Again look at the scale of things. Look at the pictures and if the pillow barely fits across the bunk bed that seems like a small bed. Try to visualize the bunk along the wall at the head or foot and see if you can gauge the width that way.
      3. Is it a true twin or full size bunk bed?
      4. How safe does it look?
      5. Does it even have a railing or ladder?
      6. What is the quality of the mattress or bedding? Especially on the Bunk Beds where some people will cut bulk foam and say that is a mattress. Others will use RV or Baby Bed Mattresses as substitutes because of the bunk being that odd size “converted closet bunk”queen-bed-and-no-room-at-the-inn bunks-so-narrow-pillow-barely-fitsBunks-with-foam-mattressprison-bunks-no-railing
        1. Kitchen.  The biggest reason to rent a condo or home versus a hotel is the cooking space.
          1.  Do you have the counter space to cook and prepare meals to save on meal costs? We always like to eat one meal at the rental and one from local restaurant each day with snacks in between.
          2. Do you have the necessary appliances? A crock pot is nice to have. It does the work for you while you are out enjoying the sights and adventures of vacation and is ready when you come home. Just don’t forget to plug it on and turn it on!
          3. Can you fit a pot on the stove top? Some units I have seen barely have enough room under the above stove microwave to fit a pot to cook with.
          4. How many burners do you have on the stove and how big is the oven? Some ovens and stoves are so narrow you can’t fit anything into them.
          5. Does the kitchen size and equipment match the occupancy number?cramped-small-kitchen-no-stove-top-room
        2. Dining space. Once you cook the meal everyone one needs a place to eat it.
          1. Are there at least as many dining chairs as members of your family? Pretty simple to count and see. It is hard enough to get the modern family to sit down for 5 minutes together anymore, but especially difficult if you do not have the seating.
        3. Living space. You see sometimes it just rains. If the family is stuck in the rental can you all comfortable coexist?
          1. Is the living space open enough for us all to fit? Look again at that couch size in comparison to the room for an idea of scale. Also use the tiles in the floor to count and gauge feet in space. Floor tiles are either 12 or 18 inches square as a rule.
          2. Are there separate areas that family members can spread out? Well sometimes you just need a little space too.
            1. Is there an outdoor patio/balcony space you can enjoy no matter the weather?
            2. Is there a desk for child to sit at and color? small-living-space
        4. Technology and TV’s. Those sports teams keep playing and those reality tv shows continue in spite of your Vacation schedule.
          1. Are there smart TV’s? That way you can use your Premium subscription services just like at home. HULU , Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Watch out for the old school tube television!
          2. What are the size’s and location’s of the TV’s? A lot of rental owners think putting a small TV in the upper corner of the room is a good idea. It is awful! Can you imagine a week of straining your eyes, back, and neck to watch that? I hope they give you a FREE chiropractor visit to get realigned! Look for large TV’s mounted close to eye level so you are not awkwardly positioned to watch it.
          3. Is my check in process electronic and is there keyless entry? Being able to check in anytime 24 hours a day is nice because the unexpected can happen. Delays in arrival are common and having to meet someone and be given a key can be frustrating. Modern rental units have some form of electronic access and check in. Also with keyless entry you do not have to keep up with a physical key and everyone in the family can come and go at their desire. tv-just-a-little-awkward-to-watch-free-chiropractor-after-vacation-compressor
        5. Balconies and patios. Who doesn’t like to lounge on the balcony reading a good book or drinking your coffee listening to the waves crash. Too many Vacation rental balconies are just too small to even use!
          1. How large is the Balcony/Patio? Most seem to be very small, barely able to fit two people. This is one of those additional areas for your family to spread out and enjoy some time alone or together.
          2. Can you all fit and is there seating for everyone?
          3. What type of furniture is there? I see a lot of cheap flimsy plastic dollar store junk! Why can’t there be a nice lounger sectional on a roomy oversized balcony retreat to enjoy? no-room-balcony-and-cheap-plastic-chairsmall-two-person-balcony
        6. Washer and Dryer. You can pack lighter when you have a washer and dryer conveniently in your rental.
          1. Is there a washer and dryer in the unit? Don’t assume and let your brain fill in information that is not there.
          2. Is it full size or stackable? Who WANTS to do laundry on Vacation, but at least with a full size unit you can do it LESS often on Vacation.
        7. The furnishings. So many rentals look like they are furnished with the owners left overs. They look like Yard sale finds picked randomly to go together. Who wants to pay to stay in someone elses “Junk Drawer”? uncomfortable-furniture

Take your time and compare! You will find the dream rental that is perfect for your Family! Happy hunting and have a Great Vacation!

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Family, Orange Beach, restaurant

How good is GT’s On The Bay?

Honestly words cannot describe how good GT’s On The Bay is!​ They offer a diverse and one-of-a-kind menu filled with amazing combinations of flavors. I almost always get the daily Dinner creation. No matter how exotic or crazy it sounds you can always trust the chef to inspire your taste buds and thrill your stomach. That is to me the true test of a restaurant when they create things I would never think of. I can just let go of my pickiness and trust the genius artist and food craftsman the chef is. I always say someone with more food talent and understanding choose to combine these ingredients and so who am I to judge. Just ENJOY!! I have NEVER been disappointed in the food or service from GT’s On The Bay. They have a Pirate ship and sandbox for the kids to play in and be entertained, boat pier for water access, and one of our favorites….an oversized Adirondack chair for those selfies and family photos!

What to order…

  • Daily Dinner Special. Check their ​Facebook page for the picture and description of the #dinnerspecial​

  • Appetizer you have to try the Cajun Empanadas or the Totchos

  • Burgers Blend of ground chuck, short rib and brisket and they are huge

  • Pizza baked in a stone hearth pizza oven just right

When you go during the peak times they have two hostess stations one outside for the patio seating and one inside. Park on the side of the building and then walk directly to the gorgeous back patio area to be seated looking out to Wolf Bay. If you want inside seating then park out front and go in the main entrance.

Be sure to walk out onto the pier on Wolf Bay especially during sunset to see all of nature’s beauty.


Family, Foley

What is OWA?

OWA is a family amusement Park and a free Downtown district with timeless streets lined with restaurants and shops. OWA is an entertainment hotspot filled with live music, events, and activities that continues to grow in its offerings. It stands for “big water” and lives up to that name with the water features and pedestrian bridges around the quaint streets and shops that form the Downtown District. We are season pass holders for The Park which is the amusement park section of the entertainment venue  with 21 rides for thrill seekers and families alike.

OWA just opened a little over a year ago and they are growing and adding new attractions constantly. Currently the Downtown District offers….