How the Electronic Ban will affect Traveling with Autism

Much as been said in the past few days about the new reveal electronic ban that the UK and US have put into effect.
Since its reveal on  March 20th, 2017, many have spoken for and mostly against the new regulations. It even has a trending Twitter hashtag at #electronicban!
For the few people who have still not heard about the ban, here are the highlights and how it will affect traveling with autism.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism aisleWhat is the electronic ban?

The US and UK have put in place regulations preventing passengers from using electronic devices on flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries when flying into the UK and US. Though the concept is similar, the countries and airlines on each country’s list are somewhat different.

The UK list

Direct Flights on the following carriers from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia do not allow passengers to carry electronic devices in the cabin:

  • British Airways
  • EasyJet
  • Jet2.com
  • Monarch
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomson
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Pegasus Airways
  • Atlas-Global Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Tunis Air
  • SaudiaHow the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism boarding

The US list 

Direct flights from airlines on the list below from the Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia don’t allow travelers to have electronic devices in the cabin:

  • Egypt Air
  • Emirates Airline
  • Etihad Airways
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

The US list also specifically named ten airports the ban applied to:

  • Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
  • Cairo International Airport (CAI)
  • Ataturk International Airport (IST)
  • King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
  • Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
  • Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
  • Hamad International Airport (DOH)
  • Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
     homeland tweet How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism

Does this affect any US domestic flights?

No! Flights within the US or originating in the US will not be affected at present.

Why was the electronic ban put in place?

Though no specific threat was quoted, the ban has been put in place due to gathered intelligence of imminent terrorist threats to blow up commercial jets using nonmetal explosives that may be difficult to detect by regular airport scanning.

In the past, there have been several attempts like this, the last one being just last year when a bomb hidden in a laptop detonated aboard a flight out of Somalia.

When is it going into effect?

In the UK, several airline companies are already implementing the new ban. In the US, it is about to start on March 25th. 2017.

electronic ban and autism travel pin

What does the electronic ban mean to travelers?

Under the new regulations, only small smartphones will be allowed in the cabin. Other devices will have to travel in the checked luggage, including:

  • Laptops
  • iPads
  • Kindle readers
  • Gameboys
  • E -readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVDs
  • Travel printers
  • Travel scanners

Medical devices will still be allowed after security.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism electronics

How long will this ban be in effect?

Hard to tell!

We were on a cruise in Europe back in 2006 when we were notified that we couldn’t carry anything but medicines and passports in our carry on luggage. Apparently, a plot to blow up an aircraft had just been foiled, and the alert levels were raised to the highest level. Soon after that the 100ml liquid restriction came into effect and never went away.

How will the ban affect passengers with autism?

Sadly, that will be a problem not only for families trying to entertain their kids during long haul flights but for those who are nonverbal and use an iPad to communicate. We all still remember the case of Carly Fleischmann back in 2012, who was told to turn off her iPad despite repeated pleas from her and her parents not to take her means of communication away.

Considering this ban came into effect suddenly it is clear that legislatures didn’t think of all possible ramifications and challenges. Hopefully, in time, nonverbal passengers with autism will be allowed to take their iPads onboard with an appropriate doctor’s note.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism phone

Helpful tips for traveling with autism

Try to reroute your flight

If you are slotted to fly out of one of the airports on the list you may want to reroute your trip to a different country and fly out of there a few days later. Alternatively look into flying with a more kid friendly airline like Etihad and Emirates that offers nanny service onboard to help entertain the kids.

Book a night flight

If possible try to book a night flight and make sure you tire out the kids with some physical activity before getting to the airport. This way they might sleep a few hours and wouldn’t need entertainment.

Prepare your kid!

Prepare your child for the fact that they will need to do other activities than play on their electronics when flying. Make sure you emphasize the positive on how exciting it is to fly rather than detail why electronics aren’t allowed which they may find scary!

Head on to the dollar store

Depending on your kids’ interests fill a bag with reading or coloring materials, Legos, board games, costumes or any other items that can occupy them for several hours.

Notify the airline

Call the special needs desk and let them know about the importance of seating and entertainment for your kid. If you are traveling as a family, you may want to book aisle seats in rows across from each other in case the entertainment system fails in an entire row.

Bring autism-friendly items

Pack a set of kid-friendly headphones and a power cord to juice up your smartphone during the flight. Most aircraft have USB ports under the seat.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism watching tv

Allow ample time at the airport

Traveling after March 25th from the tagged airports to the UK or US? Pre-pack your devices in the checked luggage in protective bubble wrap and get to the airport as early as possible since chances are there will be queues, confusion and even chaos and some instances. Considering this was just sprung on the travel industry it’s hard to gauge what exactly could transpire.

So what should you do?

At this point, I would advise everyone to leave any devices they don’t need at home to prevent theft or hacking.
You may want to purchase an inexpensive throwaway laptop or tablet to use for traveling that you won’t regret losing. Alternatively look into renting an iPad for your kid in the destination you are going to –some hotels do it free of charge.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism humor

Additional ways to protect your devices

  • Check with your credit cards and home insurance for electronic item coverage in case of theft or damage. Many times you may be able to recover the cost of your lost/stolen/broken device through their programs.
  • To prevent identity theft, back all your information and data the day before your flight and store it on a cloud or memory stick. In addition, you can store any personal information in password zip files or delete info from your device (I know – quite the hassle, but still better than becoming a hacking victim).
  • Make sure to fully turn off all devices and apply a passcode to prevent hackers from accessing your data.
  • Carve your name or at least initials on each device to make it easily identifiable.
  • Some hackers can trace particular devices via GPS tracking. Therefore, make sure to register all devices under an appropriate app like ‘find my phone.’We’ve found that the Tile system helps us keep track of our electronics.

Will you be flying out of the airports on the electronic ban list with your family? How are you planning to entertain your kids?

 

 

 

 

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids while flying pin

Airline travel is a stressful experience for any family. For a family with children with autism, however, there are many aspects to airports that are not autism-friendly by default. To help mitigate problems, parents need to be proactive in both contacting the airline and preparing themselves. Here are our nine tips for accommodating children with autism while flying.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying outside

Register for TSA Precheck or Global Entry

Registering in the TSA precheck or Global Entry can help make the airport screening process much less intrusive for a child. Both programs allow children to keep their shoes or jackets on through screening. They also don’t have to unpack their electronics or small liquid containers. While waiting in the screening line, parents should explain their child’s special needs to the TSA agent. They are fairly compassionate, patient, and accommodating when they are aware of the situation.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying line

Ask for Bulkhead Seating

When booking a flight, parents should ask the bulkhead seats or aisles for additional room and accessibility. If there is no availability for bulkhead seating, they can always try to trade with someone else if they are lucky enough to find a compassionate fellow traveler. This occasion may be another instance when parents speaking candidly about their child’s special needs and being their advocate may pay off.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying seating

Order a Special Meal

Many jokes are made about the food served on flights, all with just cause. Most airlines serve unhealthy, stale food that barely equals cafeteria fare and with little to no choice. When flying, parents can request a special meal that addresses their child’s dietary needs. Though not all airlines can accommodate all requests, most will try. Specially requested meals are better suited for a child’s needs and are served first which means a kid with autism won’t have to wait a long time for his or her meal.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying food

Ask for Wheelchair Assistance

Parents should look into requesting wheelchair assistance at the airport, especially when they have a short layover time to navigate between terminals. Trained Airport staff can help carry luggage and guide families to the right gate so no one will get lost and wander aimlessly. Many kids with autism who do not have mobility issues can still benefit from a wheelchair in instances when they need to be contained and monitored.

 

Nine ways to accommodate kids with autism while flying wheelchair

Get a ScotteVest

Buying a ScotteVest might be the best idea for families since one can wear all items needed for the flight and have them readily available at all times. The 42 pocket vest allows parents to carry a large number of valuable items through TSA. The items in the vest are also not counted as luggage or carry-ons. Furthermore, the Scottevest will allow one to have passports, ID’s, cash, and boarding passes at their fingertips. It also helps prevent pickpocketing.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying crowd

Invest in a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Getting a hot spot to use around airports might be the best $10 or $15 parents can spend to keep their child occupied. The hot spot allows kids to stream movies or go on the internet while waiting calmly for the flight.

Nine ways to accommodate kids with autism while flying counter

 

Travel with Carry-On

Parents should try to travel with only carry-ons if at all possible. It is cheaper, more efficient, and helps to keep track of belongings while lessening the chances of anything getting lost or stolen. If families only need one carry-on per person, they may want to consider packing an empty backpack inside their carry-on. This way, when they purchase or acquire things on the trip, they can fill up the backpack and return with a carry-on and a personal bag.

Nine Ways to Accommodate Kids with Autism while Flying seating

Pre-Book Transfers

Parents should arrange pre and post-flight transportation to their destination to avoid long and frustrating waits for cabs. If using a transfer service or shuttle service, parents may want to alert them ahead of time that they will be traveling with someone with special needs. This way, the cab service can shorten the wait time if possible.

Nine ways to accommodate kids with autism while flying luggage

 

Download the Airline App

Parents should download multiple apps on their cell phone or tablet for their child to use while waiting at the airport. There are many educational and game apps that are free or almost free, and there are many apps now specifically for children with autism. Furthermore, parents should download the airline app for access to in-flight entertainment. They should take a portable charger for all electronic devices to juice them up during the flight if necessary.

Nine ways to accommodate kids with autism while flying app

Have you taken your child with autism on a flight? What are your tips?

 

Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism

10 Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism pin

Flying can be a stressful experience filled with lots of complicating factors. Families with autism will likely run into problems adjusting to the often confusing, overstimulating environment of an airplane. Not to mention that most airlines do not have the ability to provide every accommodation, so parents are often on their own. The following is a list of the top ten most frequently asked questions from parents traveling with their children with autism that we get at Autistic Globetrotting, with answers that should hopefully make your next trip with your kid much easier.

1. My son won’t keep his shoes on during flights. What can we do?

Take his shoes off when you first board the plane and place them under the seat in front of you. You could also bring a special bag to put them inside of, and then store them in the overhead bin. If you take them off when you first board you can prevent him from taking them off and throwing them or possibly having a tantrum because he cannot get them off easily in the cramped quarters.

 

2. My son loves buttons. I’m afraid he’ll continually press the buttons on the airplane. Is there any way to mitigate this?

Explain this to the flight attendant when you first board the plane. Also bring a small toy that has a lot of buttons. A familiar or fidget based toy should distract him before he becomes inquisitive about the ones next to him. There are many fidget toys you can find on places like Amazon, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that will keep your son focused.Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism food

3. My daughter is a picky eater and hates airplane food. How should we make sure she’s not hungry?

Bring her favorite snacks on the plane. I highly suggest feeding her before you board, maybe even before you get to the airport if you know there won’t be anything she likes in the terminal.

 

4. My child gets frequent stomachaches/headaches; should I pack meds or do they have them on board?

They cannot dispense medications on the plane. It would be wise to bring your own OTC medications before you board, or ask your doctor about taking them prophylactically before boarding.

5. I’m always reluctant to ask for pre-boarding as others might judge me or make nasty comments. Is this something I should worry about?

Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism overhead

You should, by all means, ask for preboarding. Since you will be among the first to board, you likely would not hear any rude or ignorant comments anyway. Furthermore, many disabilities are invisible in nature: diabetes, seizure disorders, heart failure, and others. It would be only out of pure ignorance that someone would judge you for looking out for your child’s special needs.

6. My teen stims and keeps kicking the seat in front. In one instance someone almost hit him. How can we prevent this from happening?

Ask for a bulkhead or aisle seat and insist on one if possible. Should you not get the seat you requested, carry autism information cards with you to inform your seat neighbors. If your child truly makes the flight unpleasant for the person in front, you could offer to buy them a cocktail or internet service while in flight, with a sincere apology. Kindness goes a long way!

Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism sitting

7. My toddler is scared of loud noises. Where should we sit on the plane?

First of all, bring noise canceling headsets if possible. Second, the front of the plane is the least noisy. Avoid sitting right over the landing gear or in the far back at all costs.

8. My son needs a lot of personal space. What do I do?

Unless you can afford to fly in first class, your options are rather limited. Bulkhead seats do provide a bit more room, so we would recommend booking those. You can also have your child sit in an aisle seat for more legroom, but make sure that they don’t accidentally trip people walking through the aisles.

9. My kid always spills his food on himself and around us. How can I prevent it?

There is no way to cure clumsiness, but you can practice at home by playing “the plane game” before you leave and by modeling safer ways to move cups and liquids. You can also pack a small, plastic Dollar Tree table cloth and use that over your lap and theirs. Should something get spilled, you can toss it or ask the flight attendant to dispose of it. Also, alert the flight attendant of your child’s tendency and ask them to fill their drink low. Keep the can or bottle on your tray table, not theirs, between refills.

Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism seats2

10. My fear is sitting on the tarmac when the plane gets warm, as my son is heat intolerant. How do I help my child stay comfortable?

If you know you will be traveling during hot weather, pack some wet wipes or moist towelettes. You could also pack an empty baggy and right before boarding you could stop at a restaurant in the airport and ask for some ice cubes to place in the baggy. The baggy can be used as a cool compress or your child might find it soothing to suck on ice cubes. Also pack a small, hand-held, battery operated fan to help keep cool.

We hope these answers helped you and your family feel a bit more at ease about your next flight. If you have any questions that weren’t covered here, we would be happy to answer them personally or on our Facebook page. Even if you have a small incident, don’t let it deter you from traveling. We wish you safe and happy travels!

JetBlue Airline’s Autism-Friendly Service

When it comes to airlines offering top-notch autism-friendly service, JetBlue has been one of our favorites.We recently had our first opportunity to test their accommodations for ourselves and see exactly how autism-friendly the airline truly is.

For many years I’ve been following with interest JetBlue’s efforts to help travelers with autism get accommodations when they fly to their intended destinations. In fact, many of you can attest to the fact that I am one of their biggest fans; I’ve been thrilled that the company makes such a concerted effort to reach out to the special needs community especially those with autism. I have personally attended mock flights which are created to encourage families with autism to fly and I have written several posts about the airline.

Here’s my overview of our own experience flying JetBlue.

Booking

For starters, I booked my flight online and was thrilled to see how the airline has specific forms parents can fill in and explain their kid’s diagnosis and specific accommodations needed. Later that same week, I followed up with a phone call to the airline customer service. It is important to state if you need pre-boarding as well as specifying either bulk or aisle seats. Even though at that point I was informed by the rep that my request would not be possible because all seats were already booked; they arranged for us to be seated close to one another, which was great.

At the Airport

Upon arrival at the airport, the ticket counter was well organized with many self-service machines and staff to help. I spoke to the representative again explaining our needs and she managed to reassign our seats and seat us together in row 6 since the aircraft didn’t have many bulk seating rows available. We were grateful for that.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Ticket Counter

JetBlue doesn’t offer any lounge service at the Fort Lauderdale airport yet, so we ended up just sitting at the gate.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Gate

I need to mention that at this point there was a slight uncharacteristic hiccup. My son’s accommodation was mentioned to staff a fourth time at the gate when we got there 45 minutes before take-off. I was assured that the staff was fully aware of our needs and we would be called to board early. Much to my surprise there was no verbal announcement or call to board for people with disabilities whatsoever. This was really upsetting because we were in plain sight of the gate staff.

Boarding

When I approached the gate supervisor I was told that they board people with wheelchairs first and that travelers with autism are just put first in the regular passenger line. So, we were finally allowed to board with 250 visibly impatient passengers behind us rushing us and pressuring us to get out of the way.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Overhead Bin

Out of breath and stressed, it took us a few minutes to put our luggage up in the overhead compartment, find our seats and settle our son which led to some dirty looks and grumblings from fellow passengers who had no choice but to wait behind us. Thankfully, as I mentioned above, this was a one-off glitch and JetBlue has definitely more than made up for it as you will see.

We already felt much better when the flight purser, Brett, came over after takeoff and apologized for the service we had encountered at the gate level and did ask whether we needed any help on board.

So, How was the Flight?

The JetBlue aircraft was a Boeing 777 with three seats on each side. The seats were moderately comfortable and made with leather.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Seats

Each seat had a built-in screen where travelers could watch movies and DirecTV or use the WiFi; both purchasable. Most seats also had an outlet that passengers could recharge their electronic devices in underneath the seats. The overhead compartments were average- sized; our 20-inch carry-ons fitted well and the leg room was just as comfortable as other domestic airlines we have flown with.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Television
The printed menu onboard offered the free sodas, water bottles (yes, you get your own bottle!) and snacks that were nut-free chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free potato chips.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Meal

The airline also offers some purchasable food choices that include several healthy choices like chicken and steak sandwiches, salads, cheese platters and several mixed snacks packages-basically something for everyone.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Flight Attendant

Overall—with the exception of our incident at the beginning of the flight—our experience with JetBlue was pleasant and comfortable and the staff gave really good service.

Lessons to be Learned

When I contacted the airline after our return to complain about the pre-boarding snafu, I am delighted to report that they apologized, acknowledged their mistake, and credited our account for the inconvenience. Best of all they reassured me that they‘ve changed their protocol so other families with autism won’t face the same situation.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Pin

Must Have Items when flying with Autism

This month’s question comes from a Facebook follower, a parent, who is wondering what items are essential to pack when flying with a kid on the autism spectrum. Of course, each kid has his or hers favorite things so my tips will solely focus on the ‘essential items’ in all categories, that should be packed with all possible necessities.

Dear Margalit,
I’m taking my daughter on her first flight to Europe and want to make sure I don’t forget anything.
What are your “must have” items when flying with autism?

Looking forward to your tips,
Morgan

Hi Morgan,
Thank you for the question. It is a topic close to my heart, and I always ask this of others.
I love learning about new, interesting and useful items to pack to make the journey less stressful.
As you might know by now from reading my posts, I’m a huge under-packer, and I prefer everything in mini size if possible.
Based on previous travel experiences, you will know to bring items you are sure you will need. If this is something new to you or your child, the trick will be to think ahead like a girl scout; envision what can happen, and anticipate all eventualities.

In my family’s case, our staple flight items are based on things like temperature changes, and OCD, for example, and what we pack falls into the following groupings: sensory, behavioral, personal hygiene and small emergency needs.
Underlined are my must-have items for flying.

Temperature Control

My son is somewhat temperature intolerant and likes to cover his head when napping. Airlines don’t necessarily supply bedding items, so I carry a compact, lightweight blanket.
There are times we get stuck sitting in an aircraft on the tarmac waiting to clear for takeoff. With the engines and A/C off, the temperature rises, and the air can be stifling, so I pack a mini fan.

Comfort and Cleanliness

Not so long ago, when our son suffered from acute OCD, we ended up carrying plane seat covers and pillowcases as well as shoe covers to go through security.
Nowadays after getting our gFlying with Autism? Pack these Must -Have Items cosmetics

Noise

Planes tend to be noisy; whether it is the screaming baby in the row behind you, the rowdy drunk traveler next to you or the engine noise in smaller aircraft, most of us want to tune all of that out.
Noise-canceling headphones were a great investment for my family, not just for those with special needs. Something you need to keep in mind when you buy them is to make sure they fold and aren’t too bulky since you want to take that in your bag or carry-on. Also, since different aircraft use different systems make sure you carry several mini adaptors. Look for the ones that adapt a one prong system to a two and vice versa, so you can use the headphones onboard.

Small Emergencies

Small mishaps happen; especially on flights so you might want to be equipped with a mini flashlight to search for things that fall on the plane’s poorly lit floor.
These days, mobile phones can have a flashlight capability. I also recommend a small carabiner to link items like small bags or clothing items together, a small roll of duct tape to stick any broken or torn items and my favorite soda can cover to prevent spills on clothes.

Medical

I used to carry big bulky holders till I realized all I needed were small plastic pouches. They are so convenient; I can write the name of medicines on them, and I also love them for jewelry and any other trinkets that weigh next to nothing.

Besides that, I ‘schlep’ around a collapsible cup for my son to drink out of when he takes his meds since he doesn’t know how to use a water fountain and the crew doesn’t necessarily come as soon as we when page them.Flying with Autism? Pack these Must -Have Items safety

Hygiene

You just cannot ever take enough wipes and tissues when you are traveling with young kids or kids with autism who touch everything and put their hands in their mouths.
For the children are unable to stand while using the restroom or put the paper on the seat. I suggest then that you carry a mini Lysol spray to sterilize the seat and bring a mini toilet paper in case the paper runs out and isn’t replenished. Yes, unfortunately, I have seen that happen!

Positive Attitude

When traveling with children, especially those with special needs, it’s important to communicate and prepare in a positive way; explaining the process to your child, so it is enjoyable and pleasant for them and fellow travelers. In the words of the famous Annie, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!” so make sure you wear your smile and have a great attitude at all times.

 

 

 

Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes

I remember a decade ago when we first started traveling extensively how squeamish I was about flying to Savannah airport in a CRJ 700 plane. In my defense, I had flown earlier that year in a 25- seater plane from Vancouver to Seattle during a storm, which had traumatized me.

To my surprise, the flight ended up as one of the calmest and most uneventful one we had.
The service was impeccable ( SkyWest usually is), and the seats were more comfortable than most of the larger planes we’ve flown in.
Furthermore, we ended up chatting pleasantly with one another, which almost never happens with my teen sons.

 

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes plane

Since then we’ve flown several times on these planes (widely used to fly between smaller airports), and I can say we’ve pretty much gotten used to them.
With that said, we did encounter minor challenges that other families with autism should be aware of before booking their next flight this particular aircraft.

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes inside
The size

The CRJ 700  aircraft is small (17 rows) and divided into rows of two so a family of four can either sit in the same row across from each other or book two seats in one row with the other two in the row behind it.
Either way, since the aircraft is so small, you won’t be that far from the rest of your family members.

Tip: If your kid with autism tends to kick the seat in front of them book them a seat in the bulk row or behind you, so they don’t inconvenience fellow travelers.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes seat
Tiny overhead bins

As mentioned before, since this plane is small the overhead bins can’t usually accommodate the 20-inch carry-on suitcases.In the event, your carry-on doesn’t fit you can still give it to handlers at the departure gate (don’t check it in ahead of time) so you can get it back as you exit the aircraft at your destination.

Tip: Consider substituting a backpack (that fits better in the overhead bins) for your carry-on suitcase to pack crucial items like meds and electronics for your special needs kid that you need on a flight.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes overhead bin

Noise!

If your child is noise sensitive book a seat in the front since the CRJ 700 planes are quite noisy in the back.

Tip: stuck with seats in the back? Buy a pair of noise canceling headphones for your child to help tune out the noise.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes window
Temperature Control

Based on our flights I can say there is enough the temperature variance between the front and the back of the aircraft –while the front is cold, sometimes too cold, the back gets stuffy and hot!.

Tip: If your child with autism is temperature sensitive it is easier to book seats in the front and bring a blanket or jacket rather than struggle to stay cool in the back.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes aisle

No entertainment

Surprisingly enough, these planes come without personal screens, so you need to bring at least one preferably two electronic devices to occupy your kid.

Tip: Packing an extra battery in your handbag or carry-on is a good idea since the aircraft doesn’t have any outlets to recharge.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes restroom
Bathroom

Most of the planes we’ve flown on so far featured one single tiny bathroom for all passengers so there might be a queue to use it after takeoff and meals.

Tip: Teach your kid to think ahead and use the airport restroom before boarding to avoid the lines.

Have you flown on a CRJ 700 aircraft with your special needs child what was your experience?

What was your experience?

 

Airport Security Tips For Families With Autism

Due to the ever-changing airport regulations, many travelers find it difficult to know what to expect from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airport security checkpoints on any given day. Even more confusing is the fact that the checks vary from airport to airport, some done with body scanners while others still use the older metal detectors so parents should check the airport’s website for the most accurate information.
With that said, here are some basic general tips that never change and can help traveling families navigate most US airports and have a stress free experience.

Airport security tips for families and children with autism lines

Plan Ahead

Stage a mock airport security checkpoint at home in one of your rooms, including how you stand quietly in line, putting your hands up 180 degrees and emptying your pockets in plastic containers.

Print a social story with appropriate airport pictures from the internet or write your own and read it several times with your kid.

Check the guidelines

  • Read the posted instructions or look at the TSA or airport’s website before you travel.
    This is the most important thing you can do, and the signs are easy to find. When going overseas, if you don’t see any regulations posted about liquids and what can and cannot be taken on the flight, ask an agent.
  • Call or check online to find out if your airport offers individual lines for families or travelers with disabilities.
  • Call your airline and see the airline can provide assistance if you are traveling alone with children or with children having special needs.
  • Give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to get through any security check on a regular day and 60 minutes during the holiday season.

Don’t wear

  • Have your family members wear comfortable clothes and abstain from wearing lots of layers, baggy clothes, hats/caps, bandanas, jewelry or hairpieces.
    These will make it more challenging and time-consuming to get through security because they will have to take it all off, or potentially get pulled aside for additional screening.

 

Do wear

  • Comfortable, slip-on shoes are easier to remove and put back on, but if your child does wear laces, try to find ones that are easier to lace, or get special shoe laces.
  • If your child has sensory issues and won’t walk in bare feet, have them wear socks or carry shoe covers. Current regulations do not require children 12 years old and under to remove their shoes (http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children).

Packing

  • Remember the 3-1-1 rule: 3.4 oz. of liquids in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag, 1 per passenger.
    Put your liquids and medicines at the top of your carry-on so you can easily take them in and out. Bring a couple of extra Ziploc bags just in case your luggage tear or don’t close well!
  • Pack a roll of duct tape in case your suitcase breaks or any of your containers spill, and it will need to be taped shut.
  • Put all of your electronic devices in one bag and designate a responsible family member to be in charge of it.
  • Pack clothes, and small items like belts in 2.5 gallons see-through bags to keep everything clean easy to find.
  • Get an ID/pass holder to wear around your neck for easy access to ID cards, passports, boarding passes, and any doctor notes explaining your child’s diagnosis. This will also keep your important documents safe and close to you.
    You might also want to get a wallet with a zipper to keep your money in and mini-locks for these wallets for extra safety.
  • Label your luggage and your electronics with your name and contact number or email  (never your address!) in case you forget them or they get lost.

Before the airport security checkpoint

  • Take jackets and belts off the minute you leave the airline ticket counter before you even get to the ID/passport control officer.
  • If you wore jewelry, take it off after you leave the airline ticket counter and put it in your locked wallet or bag.
  • You may want to photograph the bins that contain your electronics and jewelry, so you can remember what you need to watch for on the other side, or for proof if it gets lost/stolen.

At the airport security checkpoint

  • Tell the agent politely of your child’s diagnosis immediately, and show the agent your TSA blue card (downloadable from the TSA website.).
  • Ask to accompany your child if a pat-down is required.
  • No matter what happens, stay calm and polite since your child will mirror your stress.

Once you make it through the security process, designate one parent to watch over kids while the other keep track of belongings, so that no one and nothing can get lost

What tips have you found helpful to get through airport security with autistic travelers?

 

 

Why Fly with TAM Airlines

When I made plans to fly from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, I decided to book my flight with TAM Airlines because it is part of the well-trusted Star Alliance .*
We had never flown with them before, so I did not know what to expect when I booked my flight.Much to my surprise, I found the entire process to be smooth and efficient.

I was (pleasantly) surprised time and again by the friendliness and the employee’s knowledge of autism and willingness to accommodate our needs.

 

The booking process

I found the TAM Airlines website to be surprisingly user-friendly, and I had no issue with the booking process. When my plans needed to be changed, I called their customer service to help me change my reservation and fly out of Montevideo instead.

I was very happy with how quickly my call was answered, and my flight changes were dealt with. I also notified the booking agent of my son’s disability and asked for aisle seating and pre-boarding.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines gate

At the airport

Upon our arrival at Montevideo airport, we realized that TAM Airlines provides a special, shorter line for passengers with a disability, depending on the day’s flight schedule.

The airline representative at the TAM check-in was very friendly, and once she heard about my son’s disability, she even volunteered to put a note on our reservation that we would need help at our destination! After traveling for over a decade with an autistic son, I was genuinely impressed by the representative’s autism awareness and knowledge about how to accommodate the needs of the autistic traveler.
This attitude of friendliness and helpfulness continued at the gate with our pre-boarding, which we found to be very helpful and made the whole process very stress-free.

A much appreciated “special touch” was allowing us to use the airport lounge free of charge, where you could sit or even lie down and rest while waiting for your flight.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines lounge

On the flight

The flight boarded smoothly, and the plane left on time, which is always a plus. The Airbus 320’s economy section was divided into two rows of three seats each; with sufficient space in the middle to pass by even if you are carrying luggage.
The luggage bins were medium to large sized, so we were able to store our 20-inch carry-on bags and personal bags with no problems.

The red and tan fabric seats in economy, though lightly padded, were pretty comfortable to sit on. The temperature control was adequate, so we did not have to use any blankets.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines seats

Onboard service

On what is a rather short flight of two and a half hours to Rio de Janeiro, TAM Airlines served a delicious ham and cheese sandwich on wheat bread, with grilled pepper and tomatoes.
The beverage choices are all free and included fruit juices (my son LOVED the mango juice) and, to our surprise, wines, beers and hard liquor.

While waiting for the restroom, I saw the flight attendants running back and forth replenishing people’s (including my son with special needs) drinks continuously!

The crew also answered all of our son’s questions in a polite AND extremely friendly manner, and frequently checked in to make sure our son was comfortable. I’d like to extend a special thank you to Monica and Xavier!

Why Fly with TAM Airlines food

Autism travel tips

After notifying the airline in advance of our son’s diagnosis of autism, the representatives at Montevideo airport showed great autism awareness and suggested additional tips to help us with our flight.
Furthermore, one of the people I spoke with knew quite a bit about autism and how to help passengers with disabilities, including knowledge about the gluten free special diets.

You should bring electronic devices and or toys to entertain your child since there are no personal entertainment systems, only overhead TV screens every few rows that broadcast a foreign movie in Portuguese.

 

Why Fly with TAM Airlines drinks

Have you ever flown with TAM Airlines? What was your experience?

 

*It has been announced in March 2013 that TAM will leave the Star Alliance in the second quarter of 2014 and join  Oneworld upon departure.

 

 

Five Lessons Learned from Bad Flight Experiences

Like in life, there are both good and bad experiences in travel.
The savvy traveler needs not only to enjoy the good times but to learn valuable lessons from the bad ones.
In our case, traveling with an autistic son can make one stressful incident cast a gloomy tone on the rest of the day—sometimes even longer. So, we try our best to learn from them and apply our lessons as fast as possible to prevent future recurrence.
Here are some of our worst experiences and what we learned for our future travels.

 

Five Lessons Learned from Bad Flight Experiences plane

 

 

Missed Connection:

Back in 2006, we flew with United Airlines from Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a stop in Chicago. Since the airline arranged the flight with the connection included, I assumed that everything would work out perfectly. I was wrong. Like many other air travel companies, United provides minimal time between flight connections, so even a small delay can wreck the entire schedule.

Our flight from Los Angeles International Airport was delayed for thirty minutes due to technical reasons; this catalyst was pivotal to our future boarding woes. When we deplaned in Chicago, we immediately talked to a company representative, who assured us the next flight (a terminal over) would wait for us. However, after running insanely through the Chicago O’Hare escalators to reach the next terminal, we were told that even though the plane had not left, we could not board since “the doors had been already shut.” My special needs child had a major meltdown! The incident took us another twelve hours and a second stop in London until we finally reached our destination.

Lesson learned: always check your connections carefully, and do not accept connecting flights with less than two hours between them—especially when flying on international flights.

Sprayed on:

As we were flying back in 2006 from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport to Los Angeles, the flight crew began to spray aerosols in the airplane cabin (close to passengers). When I inquired as to why—many of us had just woken up from a night’s sleep—we were informed that the spraying was to comply with US regulations against mosquito-borne illnesses (the plane had previously landed in the Indian Ocean area). I was not happy; my son is asthmatic and suffers from multiple allergies. Unfortunately, it was too late to do anything about it.

Lesson learned: we always carry face masks in our hand luggage in case it ever reoccurs.

 

Lost ID:

Two summers ago, we were traveling from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia via Chicago, and I did not notice my wallet (with all our IDs) had dropped to the airplane dark floor during our first leg of the journey. I only realized the drivers’ licenses, and IDs were missing when we were trying to rent a car at the Savannah airport. By then, however, all we could do was notify the airline—in this case, United—and hope for the best.

Needless to mention, we had to alter our visiting plans drastically; instead of hopping in a car and touring Hilton Head for the week, we had to use expensive cabs to go from place to place. To add to our problems, without our IDs flying home was quite difficult! United, eventually, did come through for us, finding the wallets and promptly returning them (we had already come back by then).

Lesson learned (or two): Always get yourself a second form of government-issued identification (and pack both in two separate places in case one is lost), and get colorful containers and wallets to notice quickly on the airplane floor if dropped.

 

Place ID tags on carry-ons:

While most of us properly place ID labels on our checked baggage, not many put tags on their carry-ons—a huge mistake. On the rare occasions when I was forced to check my carry-on luggage (due to excessive weight or lack of overhead bin space) while it usually turns up on the carousel, I recall times—like a BMI flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam—where it did not and was lost for good.

Lesson learned: tag your carry-on with your name and email address (or cell phone number), and photograph its contents while packing at home. Whatever you do, never agree to send your carry-on bag containing your child’s medication.

 

Pack a small travel scale:

In today’s world of low budget, low-profit airline companies, packing a bit lighter than the fifty-pound limit (in the US) can help save you on the excess baggage charges. While we are frequent and loyal customers to United (even having Premier status) and most airport agents are willing to let some small excess weight slide, we encountered two years ago a hardliner in Florida who was adamant about the fifty-pound limit.

Even though only one suitcase was 52 pounds and the rest were 46-48, he forced us to either reshuffle the bags (which we begrudgingly did) or pay the extra fee. The moral of the story is always to check the allocated weight published and make sure your luggage is not over the limit. Or you’ll spend your airport time either paying up or rearranging your bags on the floor.

Lesson learned: carry a small travel scale and distribute your luggage evenly so you don’t have some suitcases over and some under the limit. Additionally, pack everything in Ziploc plastic bags, so even if you have to reshuffle, everything can stay clean.

 

Ever had a bad experience with an airline?
How has that change the way you travel?

 

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin

We decided to give Air Berlin a try for two reasons: cheap pricing, and the fact they had the only direct flights from Tegel Airport to Berlin, Germany to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. The direct  flight route was of particular importance to me, as this was the first time when I was traveling with both my sons—without my husband—over the busy travel time of winter break.

Air Berlin does offer the possibility of booking pre-assigned seats, a feature that I took advantage of to ensure that we all had aisle seats for extra legroom.
I wasn’t too concerned about luggage weight issues since we only travel with ultra-light hand luggage. Additionally, I had prepared my autistic son, beforehand for the possibility that he might have to use his iPad for entertainment, as it was apparent the planes wouldn’t have personal screens.
Lastly, before departing from theStates, I did notify the airline a second time that I was traveling with a special needs child and would require pre-boarding.

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin aircraft

Air Berlin’s Check-In

Check in at Tegel airport in Berlin was exceptionally fast and efficient.Unfortunately, the concept of pre-boarding in Tegel is different than in the States as we soon found out—all passengers board a bus that takes everyone to the plane’s staircase.

So, our true accommodation was reduced to be simply getting on the bus that took passengers to the aircraft first, rather than boarding the actual aircraft. We got to rush from the bus door to the plane entrance as soon as possible in the freezing wind like everyone else.

 

 Air Berlin’s Onboard Experience

The actual flight was uneventful, excluding the fact that I injured my knee while loading suitcases in the overhead bin. And of course, the fact that crew was less than fast in bringing me much-needed ice or even asking how I was feeling.

I wondered how and if they would be able to handle an autistic meltdown if they reacted so nonchalantly to a common injury liked mine. To their credit, however, I will mention that they finally arranged an airport transportation vehicle to take us from the plane to the border control and luggage carousel at Ben Gurion (after seeing my swollen knee).

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin food

The flight on Air Berlin is very much a ‘vintage’ experience, complete with the old-fashioned two rolling boarding stairs sets. The seats were moderately comfortable configured three and three with minimal walking space and very low ceilings. We did see some people bump their heads while getting in and out of their spots.

The free sandwiches they gave us were pretty much non-edible, leaving passengers with one of two options: either buy something at the airport and bring it onboard or buy their food (which is quite pricey).

Entertainment was non-existent; so, choices to engage kids should include bringing personal electronics, books or board games. I ended up having had a lovely conversation with a German engineer who was taking his mom to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Christmas, while both my sons slept through most of the four and a half hour early morning flight.

All in all, we wouldn’t recommend Air Berlin for autistic travel unless of course you had no other viable choice to make as the airline in its current format cannot accommodate travelers with autism well.

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