Since so many of you have approached me over the years asking for help flying with autistic kids, I thought I’d share my top 30 tips for flying with autism.
Tips for Booking
- Always try to book nonstop flights that start early in the morning to bypass midday delays!
If you are booking, connecting flights make sure you have plenty of time between flights for bathroom breaks and food purchases.The minimum time to connect in the US is 45 minutes for domestic travel since aircraft doors close 15 minutes before takeoff, and 1.5h for international as aircraft doors close 45 minutes before departure.
- Become acquainted with flight details, the point of origin and codeshare rules.
Flights that originate in other than your embarkation airport could be subject to CDC or FDA regulations you might not know about. Our personal example was an Air Tahiti Nui from Paris to Los Angeles we took several years ago. During the flight, the crew sprayed some insecticide all over the cabin (including us) in mid-flight.It turns out the flight had originated in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion where they had experienced a severe outbreak of mosquito-carried Dengue Fever and according to US regulations all flights from there needed to be sprayed.
- Know what type of aircraft you will be on since seating configurations vary between the different airlines and air crafts.
Check the seats before booking on Seatguru.com and avoid booking seats in the wing area (extra noise), back area (a lot warmer and stuffy) as well as near galleys or bathrooms (smells.)
- Ask for bulk seating especially if your child stims.
If the airline denies your request, look into purchasing Economy upgraded seats for long haul flights to make your kid more comfortable.
- Never seat your child with autism in the middle seat where he or she can’t stretch –put them in a window seat or aisle seating with extra space.
- When traveling as a family of three or more, consider booking two seats in the front of two other seats putting an adult family member in front of the traveler with autism, to avoid complaints from fellow travelers of the seat being continuously kicked.
- Booking two consecutive rows might prove priceless on long haul flights for a different reason- if the entertainment sets break down in one row, you can move your kid to the next row and avoid a meltdown over not being able to watch a movie.
If your kid is on a special diet, mention it at booking time!
- Most airline companies offer fast food kids’ meals as a food option that is not only a kid pleaser but will also guarantee he/she get their meal among the first on the flight.
- Ask your booking agent for pre -boarding assistance if your kid tends to wander, and you are traveling with no help with several suitcases.
- Don’t forget disinfectant wipes to clean the food tray and your child’s hands after those bathroom trips.
- Chewing gum or candy is always helpful for landing so make sure you pack some!
- If your child needs a blanket or pillow on the flight, consider purchasing your own washable and lightweight set.
In today’s world, there are more passengers than pillows and blankets on planes and those available might not even be that clean.
- Take an extra set of clothes (including underwear) in your carry-on for you and your child to quickly change into should a food or beverage spill occur.
Many times the plastic cups and silverware the airline provides end up on the floor, broken into sharp pieces.So, if your child likes to walk around the plane with no shoes bring a pair of nonskid socks to protect their feet.
- Bring headphones and ear plugs along to block unwanted noise and always pack an extra set in case they break.
- Make sure you bring a tablet or phone to entertain your kid -along some airlines have started removing their entertainment systems on the planes altogether.
- If your child takes daily medicines take them in your purse for easy access during the flight.
- Discuss with your doctor what to do should your child become agitated during the flight and ask for his/her recommendations.
- We carry two natural remedies for our son-Valerian to help with relieving stress and Melatonin to help with sleep and jet lag issues.
Tips for the Airport
- Make sure to get to the airport early and allocate enough time to go through the TSA lines (45 minutes to an hour before the flight) to avoid extra stress.
- Check if the airport you are traveling through has a separate line for physically challenged persons or families since many do.
- Bring your pre- filled TSA medical forms (print them off the internet) along with your doctor’s note confirming your child’s condition to present to an agent should any issue arise.
- Wear clogs or Crocs instead of shoes to slide on and off during the TSA check line.
- Avoid wearing sweaters, belts, baggy pants and long skirts as they will trigger the TSA agents’ attention, and you might be stuck with an additional pat-downs.
- If your child is squeamish about going barefoot on airport floors, bring a pair of disposable shoe covers.
- Print and bring a map of the airport or airports you will travel through at airport terminal maps .com, so you can know the location of eateries and restrooms, and play areas if and when you need to use them.
- Keep your cool no matter how stressed you are.Remember your child takes notice of your behavior and will become even more agitated.
During the Flight
- Reiterate your son’s or daughter’s diagnosis to the crew as soon as you board since sometimes the airline forgets to note the accommodations on its paperwork.
- Dismantle the flight attendant calling button as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it may be (and will almost certainly will be) pressed continuously by your kid and annoy the crew unnecessarily.
- Be sure to ask your flight attendant for extra napkins-those will come in handy to clean up sticky fingers and spills that might happen.
Always accompany your child to the restroom to make sure they get any assistance they require.
Have you flown with your autistic child lately-Come share your tips and experience with us?