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How To Ensure Successful Travel with Your ADHD Spouse During the Holiday Season

Updated: Apr 9



The holiday season is a time of joy, togetherness, and making cherished memories with loved ones. However, for non-ADHD spouses, traveling during this festive time with a partner who has ADHD can present its own set of challenges. But fear not! In this guide, we'll explore the challenges plus tips and strategies to help you and your ADHD spouse have smooth travels and create lasting holiday memories.


Common Challenges Faced by individuals with ADHD during travel


  1. Sensory Overstimulation: Traveling often involves exposure to new environments, crowded spaces, and different sensory stimuli. For individuals with ADHD, this can lead to sensory overload, causing stress, anxiety and even interoception. Interoception is the sense that allows individual to perceive and understand the internal state of their own bodies. For people with ADHD, interoception affects their ability to recognize and respond to internal signals accurately, like feeling not hungry when they are really hungry, not sleeping when when they have stayed up for 20+ hours.

  2. Difficulty with Transitions: Individuals with ADHD may struggle with transitions and changes in routine. Travel disrupts the familiar daily structure, which can be challenging.

  3. Time Management Issues: ADHD often involves difficulties with time perception and time management. Timely departures, adherence to schedules, and catching transportation can be sources of stress.

  4. Forgetfulness: Packing and organizing belongings can be overwhelming for someone with ADHD. Forgetfulness is a common challenge during travel.

  5. Impulsivity: The excitement of the holiday season and new surroundings may trigger impulsive behaviors.

  6. Medication Management: If your spouse takes medication for ADHD, maintaining a consistent medication schedule while traveling is crucial.

  7. Anxiety and Overwhelm: Unfamiliar situations and the unpredictability of travel can heighten anxiety for individuals with ADHD.

Strategies for Smooth Holiday Travels:


These common challenges are nothing to think light of. For my ADHD spouse, it causes sporadic anxiety for him, even when we are going somewhere fun and relaxing (that's what I thought). Therefore, here are some tips and strategies to help you have a smooth sailing trip:


1. Plan Ahead: The key to successful holiday travels with an ADHD spouse is meticulous planning. Start by creating a detailed itinerary that includes travel dates, accommodation details, and any planned activities. Share this itinerary with your partner well in advance, giving them time to process the information and ask questions.


Extra Tip: Build out the full itinerary on your favorite calendar app and share it with your ADHD spouse. Each event includes all the details of when, where and confirmation numbers.

My itinerary example
My itinerary example

2. Use Visual Aids:

ADHD individuals often respond well to visual cues. Consider creating a visual timeline or checklist for the trip. Use colors, symbols, or pictures to highlight important milestones, such as departure times, activities, and return dates. This can help your spouse stay organized and reduce anxiety.


Extra Tip: Once you finalized and created the full itinerary on your calendar app, print it out the week before the trip and walk your ADHD spouse through the itinerary one event at a time. Answer any questions your ADHD spouse has. I recommend you also do this when you are waiting to board the plan (if you are flying), while you are driving to your destination (if you are driving, not flying), every morning and every evening on your trip.


3. Pack Strategically:

Packing for a trip can be overwhelming, especially for someone with ADHD. Break down the packing process into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a checklist of essentials and encourage your spouse to pack well in advance. Consider using packing cubes or color-coded bags to make finding items easier. Also, encourage your ADHD spouse to start packing earlier, like a week before. This removes last minute stress for both of you.


Extra Tip: When your and your ADHD spouse return from the trip this year, list out what you both absolutely needed on this trip separately, while you are unpacking. Put the list in the luggage and now you both have a packing list for your next trip when you reopen the luggage.


4. Establish Routines: While traveling disrupts our daily routines, establishing some semblance of normalcy can benefit individuals with ADHD. Incorporate familiar routines into your travel plans, such as morning rituals or bedtime routines. This can provide a sense of stability for your spouse amid the excitement of the holidays.


Extra Tip: Two weekends before your trip, do a review of the travel plans and talk about any temporary routines you both like to establish during the travel. Pack a few snacks in your luggage in case of midnight hungers.


5. Build in Breaks:

Traveling can be mentally and physically exhausting, particularly for individuals with ADHD. Plan for breaks during your journey, allowing time for relaxation and recharging. Whether it's a quiet moment at a rest stop or a leisurely walk, these breaks can help prevent overwhelm.


Extra Tip: Plan in calming activities, like massages or yoga classes at your holiday destination to help reduce stress for both of you.


6. Communication is Key: Open and honest communication is vital for a successful trip. Encourage your spouse to express their feelings and concerns about the journey. Listen actively, and work together to find solutions to potential challenges. Establishing a supportive dialogue can make the travel experience more enjoyable for both of you.


Extra Tip: Establish a code word or phrase between the two of you during holiday gatherings that signals things like "I like to leave" or "Honey, that is your last drink."


7. Have a Plan B: Flexibility is crucial when traveling, as unexpected events can arise. Have a backup plan in case of delays, changes in schedule, or unforeseen challenges. Being prepared for the unexpected can reduce stress and help maintain a positive atmosphere throughout the trip.


Extra Tip: Put a 5 key essential personal item (includes clothing) into your hand luggage on just in case your luggage is lost. For us, we typically put a set of clothes, tooth brushes, face wash, phone charges in our hand luggage on every trip.


Conclusion:


Traveling with an ADHD spouse during the holiday season may require some extra preparation, but with thoughtful planning and open communication, you can create a joyful and stress-free experience for both of you. Embrace the uniqueness of your journey, savor the moments, and focus on building cherished memories together. Happy travels!


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