This month’s question for the “Ask Margalit’ is one that many parents have struggled with over the years, and it is how to have stress-free flights with special needs kids.
When I was single and before we had children, flying felt like an incredible adventure.
I may be wrong but nowadays getting on a plane seems far more stressful, and that is without children.Add on kids and the stress level shoots up through the roof!
I live in Houston, Texas, with my husband who is originally from Bulgaria and my twin boys, nine who are “on the spectrum”, so I’ve been reluctant to take them on any long haul flight.
However, the situation has changed this year because my father-in-law who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria has become gravely ill, and we have to visit him.Can you suggest ways to avoid irritating situations that can provide children with autism and their frazzled parents with a relatively stress-free flight?
I hear what you are saying, and it’s true.
The standing in lines and having security checks just seem to drag the whole process out, and meltdowns can be frequent.
For peace of mind, I recommend the three top things that can make your life easier: Global Entry, Airport Assistance, and Airport Lounges.
I can’t mention and recommend the US Global Entry program enough.
It is invaluable for both international and domestic flights; ensuring you bypass the lines and benefit from the TSA’s pre-check program too.
My family members got their cards so now we don’t have to wait at immigration and we can still keep our jackets, jewelry, shoes, and belts on, not to mention my medicines and liquids that can stay in my hand luggage.
The next thing that you can do is ask for Airport Assistance.
It provides travelers with automatic pre-boarding and sometimes a separate waiting area is provided which is great to prevent anxiety from crowds, not to mention, access to the handicap lines when going through security and immigration checks. Airport assistance provides passengers with the option of getting individual transportation within the airport so that you don’t have to be shuttled between terminals in the regular buses or trains, a service we’ve useful after long haul flights when children are tired and irritable
The other benefit of having Airport Assistance is that you get help with kids and luggage on and off the plane which is great when there are air stairs attached to the aircraft instead of the more modern walkway.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the noise and the crowds can be extremely stressful for children with autism as well as adults, so the best way to avoid that is to get access to airport lounges where there is complimentary Wi-Fi, food and a place to charge your mobile devices.
Gaining access to airport lounges is done in one of the several ways; credit cards (you can call the airline to check which ones qualify), upgrade to business/first class, special permission or buying a day pass.
I can’t tell you how many times the lounge has saved us.
Did you know that some lounges even have designated rooms for families that have kid’s movies and DVD players?
In addition, except these three main tips, there are a few others I’d like to mention in passing.
In today’s chaotic world striving to be as self-sufficient as possible is a huge bonus so try to bring as many items as possible to make your child comfortable on board.
As a frequent flyer, I pack two tablets and phones with recharge wires in case the entertainment system on the aircraft fails or at times is absent.I wear a Scottevest that helps me carry electronics, wipes and even drink bottles purchased at the airport onboard.
If your kids need to let out steam, many airports have designated play areas and some like MSP (Minneapolis), and Logan (Boston) have quiet spots complete with rocking chairs.
I can’t stress enough that the most important thing to make your flying experience easier is communication; with your children and with the airline and airport staff.
As a parent, you should let the airline know ahead of time what your child needs regarding accommodations including preferential seating and food.It is helpful to be prepared beforehand, knowing that the authorities and airport personnel are there for your protection and you that you have arranged to be able to take advantage of the benefits provided.
Your children can thereby have an easier journey, and you can have peace of mind knowing that they are content and not about to have a meltdown in public.