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Top Tips: The Airport and Flying with your Special Needs Child

Braving that first holiday or international trip can fill a parent with all sorts of apprehension and anxiety, especially if your little one has special needs. I can’t promise to have all the answers to making your travel seamless and stress free, I have had my fair share of airport meltdowns, late calls over the tannoy and “not tired” tears but over the years and with plenty of enjoyable journeys under my belt I can offer a few top tips to make it all as straightforward as possible – because after all, travelling with your child is so worth it!

  1. When booking your flight tick the ‘special assistance’ box which will ensure that the airline know that you may need some extra support. It also means that you can get help to and from the gate (your child will love a ride on the fun little beeping buggy… coming through!!) as well as support getting on and off the plane.

  2. If in doubt about special assistance call the airline as well in advance as possible and let them know the you’re bringing a special guest along on your trip.

  3. For a fee you can book access to the airport lounge in many airports. This just makes the experience a little less stressful as it tends to be calmer but also because food and drink (including alcohol… which may well be needed) is included in the price.

  4. Security is tighter than ever and its worth remembering that you’re not allowed to take liquids through to departures. In my experience milk for babies is acceptable but you may have to taste it to prove its nothing dodgy.

  5. Always bring prescriptions for medications in case they ask for it.

  6. Buggys, special needs mobility aids and wheelchairs can be taken right up to the plane and then will be stored for you until you land at your destination.

  7. If you’ve booked a seat for a baby/toddler its good to take a car seat for them to sleep in, they’ll be most comfortable this way and you’ll have it if needed on your holiday.

  8. If you haven’t booked a seat for your little one it really is worth asking the cabin crew to let you know if there are any spare seats. They understand how inconvenient it can be flying with a wriggling toddler on your lap and will help you if they can.

  9. Medical Alert or Disability bracelets are good for making sure people around you are aware that you might need support in case of an emergency. Also if you’re child is a ‘runner’ a band with your contact phone number and their details is a good idea.

  10. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you are travelling alone with your child/children. Humans love to be needed and no one is going to think badly of you for admitting an extra hand would be good!

I hope you found these tips helpful, if you have any suggestions to add please do comment below. Happy Travelling!

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Some of my lovely fellow bloggers offer their special needs travel tips:

Emma from methemanandthebaby: Prepare in advance. Look at the airline and airports disability sections on the their websites and research the options available to you. With BA having them informed well in advance that we have a disabled passenger travelling with us gets us prebooked seats. Dylan loves having the window seat so we’re always guaranteed this

Laura from thebreastestnews: Use the airports additional needs team if they have one. We always fly from Edinburgh Airport when we go abroad as they have a dedicated additional needs team who support you through every step of the way as soon as you arrive. They fast track you through check in with your luggage, through security and you get first into the plane. It’s brilliant, used them 6/7 times now.

Becka from mummyest2014: Having a Trunkie was so helpful for us. J could sit on it and have a ride around when bored at the airport and it’s allowed as hand luggage. We filled it with snacks and distraction toys, as well as comforters. It was so useful x

And this inspirational mumonamission shared this great blog post about her campaign to get EVERY airport to have an Eagle passenger lifter as well as a Changing Places toilet

8 thoughts on “Top Tips: The Airport and Flying with your Special Needs Child

  1. This is a great in depth article that I’m sure will be of great help to those travelling with special needs children. It was interesting to read because it is a situation I have never been in myself.

  2. You’re article is really good and specific and it can help many parents that think that it’s too difficult to travel with special need child . Thanks for sharing!

  3. Super practical tips. Have you found that airlines are effective at providing additional assistance? Or does it tend to vary across airlines and airports?

  4. We have a 16 year old on the Autism spectrum and travelling with him has never been too challenging but you do have to have a good plan just in case. Meltdowns can be tough when people don’t know he has special needs.

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