Tip: It sounds simple, but remember to tailor the vacation to your child's interests. Christine Bakter took her two sons on the autism spectrum to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. "We loaded the trip with special-interest opportunities. Ben is fascinated with lighthouses. Alex with swimming, crocodiles and marine life and peppered in a few things that my husband and I wanted to do." Then they used all the activities as incentives to get the kids to try new experiences: "First we try this, then we will go to the place you want to go." Also, remember that more activities are not always better. "Days spent on the go may not be what your child wants," says Dr. Harris. "To avoid meltdowns, limit the number of things you do each day and plan for plenty of downtime at the hotel."
With the right planning, vacations can even become your friend. "Travel is the time where we feel most normal," says Karla Newman. "The more severe of my twins obsesses about vacations and occasionally has a meltdown because we can't go to China or Israel this week!"