By Caroline Hallemann
January 14, 2016
Surfside Beach SC
Credit: Getty Images

Traveling with children can be a chaotic experience, but when you add the concern of taking a child with autism away from the familiarity and structure of home, ensuring a relaxing vacation can be a challenge.

Surfside Beach in South Carolina is hoping to make things a little easier for families with children on the autism spectrum. Earlier this week, the seaside town’s council signed a proclamation to make the area the first autism-friendly travel destination.

Certainly other spots make accommodations for visitors on the autism spectrum and their families—the Birmingham Zoo, for example, recently launched a sensory-friendly initiative—but no other municipalities have made such an overarching declaration.

“We’re trying to create a judgment free zone, and not just for a few hours but for a couple of days,” said Becky Large, founder of the Champion Autism Network (CAN), who was present for the proclamation signing. “Surfside Beach’s motto is the family beach and they want families to come here and it's quiet and it's small, and we're ready to serve and it's the perfect place to kick off this initiative,” she said.

The Mayor of Surfside Beach, Doug Samples, echoed Large’s sentiment. “Being the family beach, being low profile, less densely populated, it sounded like a perfect match,” he told local news outlet WMBF.

The initiative officially kicks off in April, to correspond with Autism Awareness Month, and CAN’s website highlights events planned for the month ranging from sensory-friendly movie showings to fishing lessons, group events at restaurants, and surfing. The website also recommends accomodations where staff are educated in the needs of families with children with autism.

For more information, head to