Getting Through The Airport With a Special Needs Child

Getting Through The Airport With a Special Needs Child

I’m back by popular demand! I’ve had a request to talk about a specific topic related to air travel. This is an excellent topic and I wish I’d come up with it myself! But this topic request comes to you from one of our Mansfield parents.

When you travel by air, it’s a challenge just getting through the airport. Maneuvering through an airport without a special needs or sensory-different child is a challenge by itself! When you have a child who struggles to transition and follow protocols well it’s even more of a challenge. 

One of the best things you can do to get your child ready for air travel is to take advantage of the special training events some airlines offer. These allow your kids to go to the airports and go on a plane. Delta is one airline that does this. You can reach out through their social media to ask when they’re going to hold the next event like that. This is a phenomenal preparatory idea, and we’ve heard tremendous feedback from our families about this.

If you’re getting ready to get on a plane in the near future and you won’t have time to get to one of these trainings, there are still things you can do to make the process easier. Depending on the severity of your child’s issues you can contact the airline to let them know about your situation, and ask for their suggestions.


Here are some of our best tips:


1. Give yourself plenty of time.


Get to the airport in plenty of time, because anxiety always produces more problems and more struggles with our kids. Better to be sitting at the airport with an iPad or some other entertainment than rushing, because if you’re rushing your child will sense that and it will increase their anxiety. If you’re supposed to get to the airport two hours before your flight you might want to aim for three, so you have plenty of time. 


2. Leave the car at home.


Try to not have to deal with a vehicle. Leave your vehicle at home. Uber to the airport, or hire a car service, something so that you don’t have to worry about the parking issue. That will just be one less thing to worry about.


3. Check as much luggage as you can.



When you get to the airport and go to check in, check in at the front. Check your bags. The least amount of things you have to carry, the better. Even if you have to pay extra fees to check things, it’s better to do that and only carry on what you absolutely need to. 


4. Check TSA requirements.


Make sure you check the TSA requirements before you pack things because they are very specific about quantities and sizes of liquids. This is all posted on the TSA’s website, and you can find out through your airline carrier as well. If you have snacks for your child that are liquid and you can’t pack them, it’s better to just buy those on the other side, after you’ve gone through security. 


5. Consider TSA PreCheck.


If you have to walk through security,  let them know that you’re traveling with someone with special needs. I often use Global Pass or Global Entry, because that way I get TSA PreCheck. Usually, TSA PreCheck is a lot easier to get through, and a much smaller line to deal with. And you don’t have to take your shoes off! So look into getting a Global Pass—they’re good for 5 years. There are also situations where the airlines escort people through TSA. Please look into that if that’s an option that would be helpful to you. 

However you get through security, please be very patient with the security agents. They don’t understand your challenges. So prepare your child. Watch videos. Go down to the airport and watch the TSA agents in action. Tell your child all the steps that will happen as you go through security. If you have to bring a dry erase board so that you can cross off the steps as you go through them, do that. Do all the planning that you can so that they are very familiar with all the steps that they’ll encounter in that process.

I also do not recommend booking a flight at a heavy travel time. Heavy travel times are early in the morning, or in the evening. Go during the middle of the day, if possible. It’s less crowded at the airport, and that will make the experience much more peaceful. 

We’ve talked before about how you can prepare for flights, and what items you should bring on a flight. Be sure to read our blogs and emails, and watch our videos about traveling with your special kiddos! We want you to have a successful, smooth, fun trip!


Kate Lundgren

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