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!

Autism Accommodation Suggestions for the Travel Industry

Anyone who knows me and has spent any time on my website would agree that I advocate traveling with special needs family members. In fact, I wholeheartedly promote it as a great idea.
Through trial and error, I have navigated the travel industry and learned many valuable things over the years that have made going with a child with autism a  pleasant experience for both the child and parents.

The success of the family vacation with an autistic child requires lots of planning. In fact, it is imperative.
Not only do you need to have a “Plan A”, but you also need a “Plan B” and even “C” at times.
Even regular getaways involve systematic, minute-by-minute detailed planning; nothing can be left to chance.
When you have individual needs added to the mix, you always need to take the “what if?” factor into consideration and build your itinerary around the worse case scenarios happening.

Lack of planning has led to many families experiencing unpleasant vacations and sadly, they end up avoiding travelling altogether.There are those who get stressed at the mere thought of successfully tackling so many factors. There are some who in the past inadequately planned and became despondent, and then there are those who travelled unaware of the needed planning so threw in the towel.

Realistically speaking, planning the itinerary for a family dealing with autism can take double or triple the amount of time and effort to organize in comparison to one for a typical family.

With that said, It is my firm belief that families with special -needs should not be excluded from travelling.
I believe that the key to solving many dilemmas lies mainly within the Travel Industry’s ability to aid and encourage families with autism to travel.
In fact, these proposed low-cost accommodation suggestions could prove if implemented, quite lucrative for the Travel Industry and beneficial for the growing segment of the population with autism and other special needs, in the long run.

Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Autistic Travelers Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families city center

Suggestions for States and Cities  CVB

Since most states and towns have websites to inform tourists of the area’s history, attractions, activities, and lodging opportunities; adding a page for tips to help autistic families plan their vacation better should not be a problem.
This page should include necessary information that the visitor bureau staff can quickly assemble and can contain the following details:

  • Restaurants that cater to special -needs and offer gluten-free or casein-free items on their menu.
  • Attractions that incorporate hands-on, interactive and visual displays like museums, zoos, and aquariums, especially those that provide discounted rates for disabilities.
  • Hotels that offer autism-friendly rooms and babysitting services so parents/caregivers can get much-needed respite.
  • Local pharmacies for quick medication refills.
  • Local grocery stores or supermarkets with their operating hours—especially if they are open 24/7 for families to purchase any needed supplies.
  • Local pediatricians and dentists that have been trained to deal with special-needs children in case of emergency.
  • Local vets for service dogs.
  • Telephone numbers of local police staff trained to aid with autistic children wandering off.


Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Autistic Travelers Luxury Stay at the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise bedroom

Suggestions for Hotels and Cruise Ships

  • Lodging facility websites for hotels and cruise ships should include an added section with accommodation suggestions for travelers with autism describing the property’s quiet rooms away from streets, elevators, vending machines, and lounges as well as rooms far from any cooking venues for the smell-sensitive guests.
    Moreover, the hotel or cruise line should advertise their ability to accommodate
  • Patrons suffering from different allergies.
  • Those who need hand-held shower attachments or anti-slip mats in the bathrooms.
  •  Families who need extra locks on room windows and doors to prevent accidental wandering
  • Guests following GFCF diet guidelines.
  • Kids with autism in Kid Clubs and or pools.

Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Travelers with Autism ship
Suggestions for Transportation Companies

Proper transportation arrangements are of particular importance as they constitute the first step in most travel and can often foreshadow future mishaps.Airports, Airlines, bus companies, and train companies need to provide an informative web page on all possible accommodations available for the different sensory issues of the autistic travellers.

Accommodations may include

  • Seats away from the excessive noise areas like wings, galleys and lavatories areas (strong smells) as well as the exit doors due to limited personal space and potential overcrowding.
  • The options of pre-boarding and extra leg room seating for those autistic travelers with involuntary or repetitive body movements should be offered as an option by all transportation authorities.
  • Families and Caregivers should always be seated next to the person with special needs!

10 Favorite NYC Spots to Visit with Kids central park theater figures

Suggestions for Day Trips and Shore Excursion Operators

Companies should post detailed descriptions of the suggested itineraries on their page along with the main symbols to alert autistic travellers to the possibility of potential sensory problems like

  • excessive noise
  • strong smells
  • dark areas
  • strobe lights
  • slippery terrain or stairs
  • extended stays in extreme temperature conditions
  • bathroom breaks
  • food options
  • the availability of places to regroup if necessary
  • the seating arrangement of transportation like buses and ferries where parents should sit with their kids, preferably in front.
  • walking or any other activity that exceeds 15 minutes at a time or requires closed toe shoes.
  • Activities that necessitate wearing specialized equipment like masks or goggles.

By following these simple suggestions, companies would not only help families choose more activities but encourage new travelers to sample more day trips.

Top suggestions how the Travel Industry can Accommodate Autistic Travelers Favorite NYC Spots to Visit with Kids grand central

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