Autism friendly holidays
8th April 2018
Staying at Polmanter: a guide for families with autistic children and young adults
Going on holiday with an autistic child or young adult can be tricky. Sometimes it’s plain sailing, and on other occasions, well… You know what we mean!
At Polmanter, we want all families to relax and enjoy their holiday, so we’ve prepared this guide to make your stay as smooth as possible.
We wrote the guide in collaboration with parents of autistic kids in Cornwall, who gave us advice on what facilities families may want to look out for, as well as some great Cornish autism-friendly trips out.
Please ask us anything!
If you think of anything else when you arrive, or if something comes up when you’re here, please let us know. All our front-of-house staff have received training from disAbility Cornwall in welcoming autistic guests.
Sometimes you may have an unusual request – and we’ll be ready to answer it. There is a site warden on call overnight when the Reception closes, so there’s always a member of the Polmanter team to help you.
Before your stay: picking a pitch
Our interactive site map lets you choose the best pitch for you. It uses an angled aerial photo, so you get a really good idea of what the site looks like as well as its layout. This helps you to choose whereabouts on the site you’d like to be: near the showers, or in a quiet corner?
When you click on a pitch, you get a photo of it, so you’ll know what to expect. Please get in touch if you need to know anything else about the pitches before you book. If your first choice isn’t available, we can advise you on similar pitches.
Planning for Polmanter
As all parents and carers know, planning is everything! Some top tips shared by our local experts….
- Look at pictures of the campsite. We’ve tried to make the website really visual, with pictures of everything from the swimming pool to the showers. If you need a photo of something specific, please let us know.
- Have a look at the interactive map, and discuss what the campsite and pitch looks like.
- Check out the local area on Google Maps and Street View.
- If you haven’t camped before, read age-appropriate stories and discuss what to expect, or try creating your own social stories about your holiday.
- Set clear rules, such as don’t go in other families’ tents. Again, this could be a social story.
- First time in the caravan or tent? Have a practice night in your driveway or garden!
- Plan which toys, books and games to take.
- Contact us with any specific requirements or questions.
Because we have young kids ourselves, we appreciate that camping with a family always has its challenges! We hope that the facilities we’ve put in place will help your family enjoy Polmanter.
Our three amenity blocks have family shower rooms and disabled shower rooms, enabling you to use the shower and toilets as a family. There are also custom worktop-height baths suitable for little ones up to three years old. There is a laundrette on site, and an outside shower for rinsing wetsuits and pets.
Polmanter has a 20m outdoor swimming pool with a separate shallow area for non-swimmers and younger kids. There are two outdoor playgrounds and an indoor soft play area. The sports field is a great area if your child need to let off steam. Tennis, mini golf and a games room complete the onsite entertainment. There is also WiFi across the site and a good 4G signal.
If you experience a moment of sensory overload or a meltdown on a campsite, it can be tricky to find a suitable space until things calm down. The sports field is a good outdoor space.
Dining at Polmanter
Eating out can be one of the trickiest things when you have family members with autism. Often an “invisible disability”, families can struggle with a lack of understanding when they dine out.
Our bar and restaurant staff have received specialist training from disAbility Cornwall in welcoming autistic guests. We’ll find you the best table for your group (even down to seat colours if necessary!) and will try to adjust the menu to suit particular preferences. We want you to relax and enjoy your food, and we’ll do whatever we can to help.
Again, have a look at the photos and menus on the website. There is an indoor bar area with dimmer lighting, an airy conservatory, and an outside terrace which leads onto the playground. If you prefer, the restaurant runs a takeaway in the summer, so you can eat on your pitch, and reception can give you menus for other local take-away and delivery services.
An alternative at Polmanter to camping
If you want the fun and convenience of a holiday park, but prefer not to camp, we launched two new onsite apartments in 2018. Each beautiful apartment sleeps four, has its own terrace and parking space, and one has level access and an adapted bathroom.
Food shopping in St Ives
If you need to shop for specific brands, we’re well-served for local supermarkets. St Ives has a Tesco (in Carbis Bay) and three Co-ops in town; Penzance has out-of-town Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons; Hayle has M&S, ASDA and Lidl. The closest Waitrose is outside Truro. The campsite shop stocks a good range of local produce and camping essentials.
Great days out near Polmanter
We’ve spoken with local parents, and here are some of their recommendations for autism-friendly days out in Cornwall.
St Ives has a wonderful selection of beaches, and in the shoulder season, these are fantastic places to explore. In the school summer holidays, St Ives’ beaches become busy, so you may prefer Hayle during the day. With three miles of sand to explore, the beaches here rarely feel crowded.
Other outdoor spaces
If you need a breather when you’re in St Ives, head for the grassy space near The Island. Tehidy Woods (about twelve miles up the A30) is a lovely calm place which easily swallows up visitors during busy periods. Follow the paths through the trees and around the lake.
Cornwall has a fantastic range of places to visit, from mines to museums. Most have really helpful websites or call ahead if you have any specific questions. Places that offer a choice of spaces and activities are popular with local families, such as The Eden Project. For younger kids there’s Lappa Valley near Newquay and Paradise Park in Hayle. The latter has a winning combination of animals and soft play; just bear in mind it can get very busy.
The playground in Carbis Bay rarely gets busy, and it’s surrounded by a playing field. Our two playgrounds have plenty of space, one tailored for younger children and the other more suited for primary age and above.
Grab a coffee
As you know, The Stable Bar is always a safe haven for a pit stop! When you’re out and about, the local Costa cafés come recommended by parents. Please have a chat with us for any other recommendations.
The Plaza cinema in Truro holds regular autism-friendly screenings with the lights on, the sound lower, and a great tolerance of talking and movement. Local cinema chain Merlin also holds some screenings.
Jump4, an indoor trampoline park near Redruth, holds special quiet/additional needs sessions. Because you always need to pre-book, Jump4 rarely becomes too crowded and frenetic, and is a great chance to bounce off some energy.
Of course, no two autistic children are the same, and your child may love busy beaches and eating out! As a rule of thumb, indoor attractions are quieter on sunny days, and the beaches are less busy first thing in the morning or early evening.
Keep in touch
We’re striving to make Polmanter as autism-friendly as we can – so if you have any tips for camping with kids on the spectrum, please share them with us!
And please, if there’s anything else you need to know about camping at Polmanter, please get in touch.
Thanks for reading this, and we hope to meet you soon!
Phillip, Becki and the Polmanter team
Telephone: 01736 795640
For general advice on holidays and trips out with autistic people, see the National Autistic Society’s helpful guides.