Family Tip of the Month in Samuel’s World – August

How to Survive a Family Holiday Abroad – Don’t forget the Tomato Ketchup!!

boy and bottle of ketchup

Off we go!!!

Having always gone on holidays for only 1 week this was our first break away for 2 weeks instead of 1 – Italy has always been our favourite place to visit and so we started searching on the Internet about a year ago for a suitable place to stay at.

Disasters in the past!!!

Before we knew about Samuel’s problems we had been on holidays abroad we had always stayed in an apartment or shared complex with other families. This proved to be a disaster with constant tantrums from Samuel either at the poolside or at the various restaurants leaving us all stressed and wanting to come home – now looking back I can see why Samuel was having tantrums over the Tomato Ketchup not tasting the same as English Ketchup or that the texture of the bread was not like the one he has at home from Sainsburys!

Choosing the right place to suit your family!

Not wanting to face another nightmare we decided that we needed to stay in a villa or a house which we did not have to share with any other family. We needed to be away from any neighbours and would need to have our own pool so that the children could shout as loud as they wanted and it did not matter what got chucked in the water! The place needed to be quiet and private with gardens for the children to charge around in with them having their own bedroom each giving Grace the privacy she needed and letting Samuel have a bedroom that he knew was his own so that he could arrange all his toys himself in a certain way without anyone intruding into his space!

What did we find??

We booked through a holiday company called “Vintage Holidays” based in England. They specialise in large county villas and so we choose Italy to be the country we visited, staying just outside of a town called Lucca near to Pisa. The villa had 25 acres of gardens with various fruit trees, a swimming pool, 3 bedrooms and above of we had privacy and space – for me to run off and chill out in if I needed to!! The only downside to all of this was the cost, would it be worth it??

What could possibly go wrong???

Nothing we hoped but that never happens does it?? We booked out flights through British Airways as I have been told they are very easy going with special needs children and their families. I pre-warned them before we left that Sam might get upset getting onto the plane and that he might shout the odd rude word. We checked in on-line which was easy and quick meaning that we did not have to get to the airport 2 hours before hand and were able to choose our own plane seats from the comfort of our own home! Smashing!!! Lester then just had to get the holiday insurance sorted and the currency changed up. It all seemd so simple and calm, was it too good to be true??

What to pack??

The week before we were due to go I had talked to Sam about the flight and had gone through various problems with him that he thought he might have on the plane. Sam produced a long list of what ifs in his head ranging from ear popping, crashing, eating/drinking on the plane,times, duration etc etc. After repeating every problem over and over again day after day he was finally settled in his own mind the night before – we gave him his own suitcase and a picture list of what he needed to pack in it which he spent all evening packing and unpacking but at least he felt grown-up and slightly more confident. Always remember to check their suitcase thought as once he had gone to bed I then opened it to find 1 pair of boxer shorts and the whole collection of his Dr Who creatures!!!!

The big day!!

This was when our problems began – we arrived at the airport to find that all the baggage conveyer belts had stopped working and so therefore all passengers were having to manually load their own luggage which as you can imagine this was taking ages involving lots of queues!. Not a great prospect with an autistic child……

After we had left our luggage in a loading area the departure computers told us that our plane was delayed – great I thought, we can all trot off to the toilet and have a snack – 30 mins later we are still trying to find a sandwich that Sam would like, I ended up getting strawberries from the Business Class Lounge at £4.80 per bowl!!

Gate Closing!!!

With Samuel still chomping on his strawberries the departures computer had skipped from plane delayed to gate closing – we had minutes to run like a maniac – Lester sprinting along ahead with me in tow dragging Sam and Grace to gate no 23 which seemed a long way away! We just made it with a minute to spare….

The plane journey

This went very well which I was pleased about – Sam kept his belt on the whole journey in case the plane crashed and declined the sandwiches which were brought around by the steward and from that moment on lived and breathed Sprite drink which was the only liquid he would consume – were we in for a rough ride ahead with all those sweetners and fizz?? Thankfully not – I strongly recommend this drink as an alternative as a short term measure!!

Time to find our baggage – where is it???

Yes you have guessed it – all still at Gatwick Airport!!!! It was not loaded onto the plane and so we were without luggage for nearly 48 hours. What else could go wrong????? Surely not…..

We had booked a hir care from the airport and were told when we arrived that the pick-up point was now down the road and you needed to queue up for a bus – this was very hard for Sam as I had not talked about this part of the journey but he did accept the situation fairly well holding on to his Sprite bottle!!

Getting to our Villa!!

Remembering to drive on the right hand side of the road with directions on lap Lester and I headed off and went straight onto the wrong motorway – once on you can never seem to get off …..nearly 1 hour later…..we finally get onto the right road only to break down!!!! The gear box on the hire car failed and we started to roll back down the hill!!!! With Italian car drivers all beeping their horns I got Grace and Sam out of the car to stand on the grass verge wishing “Good Luck” to poor Lester stuck in the middle of the road.

An angel arrived!!

For nearly 30 mins I stood there trying to calm 2 children in the heat until a kind man came to Lester’s rescue and the car was pushed to the side of the road. The man spoke some English and had children of his own and was was an angel from heaven! He took us into a local supermarket and using his own money rang the breakdown people explainiing in Italian what had happened – having rushed for the plane Lester had not exchanged our money to Euros and so we were penniless!!!

Negotiation time.

It took Lester nearly 2 hours to finally persuede the recovery man to take us to our villa – our options were a hotel for the night or to take a train!!!!!!!!!!!! None of those looked appealing with Grace and Sam in tow now starving hungrey, thirsty and tired…..

We arrived at our villa at 1am in the morning instead of the predicted time of 4pm the day before with Lester having to go to a cashpoint machine in the middle of the night so that the recovery chap could be paid for the journey!!!

The villa’s occupant!!

Not being able to see our surroundings in the middle of a mountain forest we stumbled into our home for the next 2 weeks only to find a scorpian greeting us on the door mat – thank goodness I spotted that before Sam did otherwise I don’t think anyone would have got any sleep that night!!!!

Our holiday

Well with all what had happened leading up to getting their we did all have a good time – the villa was smashing and had everything I had wanted – a gorgeous pool and gardens – privacy and above all peace!!! We had a resident deer who came to eat apples off the tree every morning and Sam spent most of the time trying to catch the many lizards who roamed the grounds! I managed to read 3 books which is a rarity and we did all chill out most of the time. Sam did have the odd disagreement but nothing major. We even managed to take a drive out to visit the lovely city of Pisa – for anyone going up the tower, purchase a ticket as soon as you arrive as there are time slots in place to avoid queues! Avoid going to the many beaches if you can as these are all private and you have to pay to sit on them – not cheap at £18 for 2 sun loungers and an umbrella!

The ups and downs and what to take with you.

I thought I had packed most items that we might have needed over the 2 weeks – the villa had a DVD player and so we had packed various films for us all to watch – Sam spent most of the days either watching Dr Who or watching – yes – Dr Who!!!!!

We were able to play with blow up balls and inflatables in the pool without someone blowing their whistle which usually happens if you are in a shared complex! I even remembered a pump to blow everything up with – a must if you don’t want to exhaust yourself too much!!!

Most of Sam’s suitcase contained all the items he has switched on when he goes to sleep – except for his Lava Lamp which he would have taken but with airport security hot on liquids at the mo I thought best not!!

A must to buy for any journey are those squidgy cusions you can now get which have tiny balls in them – they come in various shapes and sizes and are great to lay your head if you want to go to sleep.

Don’t forget chargers for phones, Gameboys and Nintendos!!!! Oh and spare batteries………….

This was our first holiday that I worried about Sam and his food quota for those 2 weeks – as he has got worse over the past year with his obsessions so has his food choice – most things have to be eaten with tomato ketchup. We tried over 10 different types of bread before we managed to find one that he did taste and like, the same proceedure repeated for the ham, cheese and cakes!! I even managed to find English Cocco Pops for him for breakfast but it seemed to make a difference just because we had bought the food from Italy.

So what did I forget to pack which would have solved a lot of headaches and would have helped Sam eat his dinners???

TOMATO KETCHUPNEVER LEAVE WITHOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!