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4 Smart Tips for Visiting Hershey, PA with an ASD Child

This article was written by one of our Sweetest Families brand ambassadors. Follow Meredith on social media and through her blog here:

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Hershey, PA  is a huge part of my family's story!

My family loved visiting ever since I was a baby, and working at Hersheypark (kiddie rides!) was my first-ever job! I then went on to work at The Hotel Hershey, and it's been such a joy to visit years later with my own children. We have enjoyed some really special visits this past year as part of Sweetest Families, and I'm happy for this chance to share some smart tips for visiting Hershey, PA with an ASD child!

Those of you with children on The Spectrum know that many parts of travel are trickier with these kiddos than with neurotypical children. Things other parents might not consider (activity exhaustion, stimuli overload, separation from routine, and more) can make or seriously break a day for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) parents. 

With this in mind, I've got some smart tips for visiting Hershey, PA with an ASD child. We've got a kiddo on The Spectrum, and since we love Hershey, PA so much, we made dedicated work of sorting how we could best make a visit to this sweet spot shine for our family!

4 Smart Tips for Visiting Hershey, PA  with an ASD Child

  • 1. If you can, stay on-site at a Hershey property. The benefits of direct shuttle service, early admission to the Park, and on-site activities are HUGE when visiting Hershey, PA with an ASD child. The saved fuss of sorting transportation (read: no unnecessary expenditure of energy) and early admission to avoid crowds (read: nix overstimulation and stress of waiting in line) are alone tremendous. Add in that Hershey properties provide activities and entertainment for the kids--you are golden: if your child gets wiped after an afternoon at the Park, you can head back to your room for a change of pace while still enjoying some special fun.

  • 2. Make use of Hersheypark's Accessibility Program. It is very smart and user-friendly and well, well worth using! I explain the full scoop HERE, but in short, this program allows you to bypass long, stressful wait lines and identify what rides may be more sensory overload than others. Also part of the program: Quiet Rooms. There are currently two in Hersheypark, with plans to update with the new Hershey's Chocolatetown in 2020. We are big amusement park-goers, and like clockwork, at 3pm, my son requests a break from the fun. We head to the closest Quiet Room, take 15 minutes to decompress, and are then ready to kick up the intensity once again.

  • 3. Prepare your child for what's in store. During the summer season, this will be high crowds and high heat. Game plan how you will battle this (i.e. frequent water breaks, time at the water park to cool off, ice cream treats in the afternoon, etc.) 

In the offseason, Hersheypark in the Dark is fantastic to visit! But you should prepare your children for seeing unusual costumes and sights, and for what it will be like for them to be in costume (if you choose to have them dress up). See these tips also for trick-or-treating with Austism.

Visit Hersheypark in the Dark Trick or Treat trail for special spooky-season delight with your kiddos!

If visiting during Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, you will want to address the cold temps and scads of colorful lights ahead of time. If you have an odor-sensitive sensory child, you may also want to chat Santa's reindeer. My son is so overloaded by smells, he finds it very difficult to visit this spot. His sister, however, loves the reindeer! So, ahead of time, we set secure boundaries: he can keep a comfortable distance from the animals and understands we will only stay for a few minutes. This preliminary game-planning does loads to make a smoother, more peaceful visit for all of us!

  • 4. Enjoy ALL that Hershey, PA has to offer! Hersheypark is definitely a highlight, but if you need a bit of an escape from the hectic pace and intense crowds, there are other spots to touch down! We loved visiting Hershey Gardens--so full of kid-friendly fun and a delightful off-pace treat! We also found The Hershey Story to be such a treat, and can't wait to visit Hershey Theatre with our kids!

Listen, friends, trekking out with your ASD child will always present some special challenges. But, you can do this. Also, it can be a really, really fun experience for your family. Grab these smart tips for visiting Hershey, PA with an ASD child, and get ready to enjoy a very cool getaway with your family!