Stress Free Flight with Autism? It Can Be Done!

This month’s question for the “Ask  Margalit’ is one that many parents have struggled with over the years. It is how to have stress-free flights with special needs kids.Though challenging, it is possible to achieve with careful planning.

Dear Margalit
When I was single  I loved traveling. In fact, before I had children, flying felt like an adventure.
I may be wrong but nowadays getting on a plane seems far more stressful even without children.Add 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. The twins are nine and are “on the spectrum,” This is why I’ve been reluctant to take them on long haul flights.
Unfortunately, the situation has changed this year.My father-in-law who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria has become gravely ill. So, we have to visit him.
Can you suggest ways that can provide children with autism and their frazzled parents with a relatively stress-free flight?




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Dear HoustonAllie,

I hear what you are saying, and it’s true.
Flying in today’s world is challenging. Standing in lines and intrusive security checks are huge stressors that can lead to meltdowns.
For peace of mind, I recommend the three things that can make your life easier: Global Entry, Airport Assistance, and  Airport Lounges.

Global Entry

I can’t mention and support the US Global Entry program enough.
It is invaluable for both international and domestic travelers.The programs can help you bypass the lines and even benefit from the TSA’s pre-check program.
My family members are all enrolled in the program.So, now we don’t have to wait at immigration, and we can still keep our jackets, jewelry, shoes, and belts on. 


Airport Assistance

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. The waiting area is great to help those with anxiety. Furthermore,  airport assistance gives passengers access to the handicap lines when going through security and immigration checks.

But  Airport assistance is also helpful as it shuttles passengers between terminal when needed as well as help with kids and luggage on and off planes.We found the latter incredibly useful on flights that had  air stairs attached to the aircraft instead of the more modern walkway.

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Airport Lounge

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the noise and the crowds can be extremely stressful for children with autism. The best way to avoid that is to get access to airport lounges with complimentary Wi-Fi and snacks.

Gaining access to airport lounges is done in one of the several ways; via credit cards membership, upgrading to business/first class or buying a day pass.
For us, airport lounges have helped us all relax and regroup before boarding flights. They are also great to wait out any flight delays.
Did you know that some lounges have designated rooms for families with kids movies and DVD players?



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Except for 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, bringing as many items as possible to make your child comfortable on board helps.
 a frequent flyer, I bring two tablets and phones with recharge wires with me in case the entertainment system on the aircraft fails or is absent. To help me carry everything on board, I wear a Scottevest with 42 pockets. t

 Flight delays are a major stressor too. To occupy kids, many airports have designated play areas and some like MSP (Minneapolis), and Logan (Boston) have quiet spots complete with rocking chairs.

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The last tip I have may turn out to be the most important. Communicating your family needs to airline personnel is vital! It will make your flying experience a lot easier.
Letting the airline staff any accommodations your kid may need like preferential seating and food will help both sides. You will be calmer knowing that the staff is aware of your family requirements. Furthermore, from the airline standpoint getting this information ahead of time will help ensure your experience is seamless. After all, airlines are there to provide travelers with good service.

Happy flying!


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