Traveling somewhere for the holidays? Spending a lot of time at the airport can be rough for anyone. Traveling with a child who has special needs can present different challenges at an airport, and that’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time.
Here are 5 tips to get you and your child with special needs through the airport like rock stars. Here we go, you got this!
Number 1: Airport Parking
Getting a ride to the airport is one way to skip the parking hassle—but there are plenty of options if you need to park for the duration of your trip. All airport parking lots have spaces reserved for individuals with Disabled Person Parking Tags or License plates, and some airports even provide free or discounted parking for cars with these tags & plates.
A few select airports offer special parking accommodations to any traveler with special needs regardless if they have a special license plate. Check your airport’s website to see if they provide any of these accommodations.
Number 2: Baggage Check
Waiting in bag-check lines can be difficult for children with special needs—not to mention it’s a lot harder to give your child the special attention they need when you’re carrying heavy luggage. Skip the long lines and check your bags curbside! These services will take your bags, print out your boarding pass, lighten your load, and let you focus on your child.
BONUS TIP: Always check in online before heading to the airport. Most airlines give you the opportunity to pick a seat during this early check-in. This way, you’ll be able to select a seat that provides better access for your child (closer to restroom, closer to exit, etc.)
Number 3: Security
Speaking of waiting in lines, going through security can be the most challenging part of the airport experience. Taking off shoes, parting with certain items, and sensory overload can make this portion of your travels very stressful for you and your child. Be ready for anything by:
Number 4: Walking to the Gate
This walk can be longer than expected. Walking to the gate is a good time to make a bathroom pit stop, and it will give your child the chance to rest & refocus before you make the rest of the trek to your gate. Most airports have a family bathroom in the main terminal, but there may not be one at your gate.
Number 5: What to Do With Extra Time Before Your Flight
You made it to the gate…now what? Some airports have small, enclosed play areas with toys and games. To find out if your airport is one of them, check the website to see where it is located in the terminal and if it is worth stopping by! Additionally, airline lounges are more accessible now than they used to be. Lounges often provide comfortable seating areas, televisions, and a quiet atmosphere (perfect to escape the noisy crowds).
Lastly, take a deep breath!
Be sure to take care of yourself during these stressful times as well. You and your child will both be able to enjoy holiday travels better if you’re relaxed and prepared.
These tips have been adapted from Friendship Circle. Check out their other post Packing for the Plane: Your Complete Special Needs Checklist!
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.