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,

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


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.


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


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.




Creating the Perfect Social Travel Story for Autism

One of the questions many parents contact me, about is how to create a good social travel story to prepare their children with autism for their upcoming vacation.
Unfortunately, most travel venues like airports, airlines, hotels and cruise lines don’t provide one, so it is pretty much up to the parents to create one for their kids.
Since the summer vacation is approaching fast here are some essential points to keep in mind while creating your social travel story for your child with autism.

Creating the-Perfect Social Travel Story for Autism books


Keep it Simple

Don’t overwhelm your child with unnecessary details.
The story should provide a rough outline, and you can always provide more information as you go along.

Make it Visual

Most kids like visuals better than text so make sure you download and print pictures of the intended destination from the internet.

Use Different Media Sources

A social story doesn’t have to be solely printed on paper. In today’s day and age you can put together a video playlist on Youtube or Vimeo, bookmark a few blog posts or store some google pictures on your tablet.

Describe it Step by Step

The booklet should have a beginning and an end to the story.Start it with the preparations you and your family will make before your arrival at the destination and continue to describe the steps (in order) till you return home and unpack.

Make Extra Copies

After you put time and effort in creating your story make sure you print, download or store several copies in case the first one gets lost. Some parents like to provide their kids with a laminated copy of the story or even lanyard with cards, so the child can refer to the story during travel.

Build Excitement

Depending on your child’s interests you can choose to highlight certain parts of the story and add additional content; like meeting characters in theme parks, souvenir shopping or even visiting the local zoo.

Make it Engaging

If you choose to make a paper copy, you can add additional empty pages at the end for your kid to fill with his or her memories and photos after your vacation.This way the social story can become a cherished album filled with memories for your child to refer to in the years to come.

 Here are the different topics to cover depending on the type of travel 

Flying and airports

  • Packing luggage and a personal bag
  • Getting to the airport
  • Parking the car
  • Checking your luggage
  • The TSA check
  • Places in the airport including lounges, bathrooms, play areas, stores, and eateries.Reiterate safety rules of sticking with your family members
  • The departing gate and  getting to it (by foot, train)
  • Who to ask for help when getting lost
  • The airplane – seats( including mentioning sitting in your seat and being buckled), overhead bins, entertainment /food options.Lavatory
  • Deplaning and retrieving the luggage from the carousel

Cruising/All inclusive resorts/Hotels

  • Getting to the ship or resort
  • Check in process including passport control ,security, getting a room key, safety bracelet fro the younger kids
  • Cabin/room description.Appropriate use of the room phone
  • Public places like lobby, customer service, elevators and even corridors near your room or cabin
  • The muster drill
  • Activities you can do in the room/cabin along with what you can’t do like make noise or play ball for example
  • Ship or resort activities indoors and outdoors.Make sure you include pools and reiterate safety as many
    places don’t provide lifeguards
  • Dining options for breakfast,lunch,dinner,snacks,desserts
  • Attractions-show venues, clubs, parades, character appearances if you can get pictures or videos
    Kids’ clubs
  • Getting off the ship or leaving

Ports of call/day trip/theme parks

  • Packing clothing /snacks
  • Security checks
  • Getting there -transportation and entertainment
  • What attractions or activities you will be  visiting or doing
  • Food venues, bathrooms
  • Where and what to buy there (if your kid likes souvenirs)
  • Who to ask for help (badges or uniforms in a theme park)




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