A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Holidays are the busiest time of the year to travel by plane. Preparing a child, teenager or adult with autism spectrum disorder for plane travel, including all those new security techniques used at airport security checkpoints, can make a huge difference in making holiday travel a more enjoyable experience for all involved.

Use these tips to help your family plan for a successful air travel experience. It is important to remember that children diagnosed with ASD vary in terms of abilities and preferences, and not all recommendations may suit every child.


  • Create a social story:
In the weeks leading up to your trip, create a social story with your child that overviews the air-travel process. Include pictures and descriptions of security, the terminal, the airplane, the baggage claim, and so on. Include sensory experiences the child might encounter such as “ear-popping” at takeoff and landing. Review this “travel book” as often as possible prior to departure. This will help to increase predictability for your child.
  • Plan:

Check flight schedules for the best times of day for your child to travel. If she can sleep on a plane, naptime may be a good time to fly. Plan ahead for your seats. Consider requesting bulkhead or aisle seats, particularly if your child likes to kick his or her legs or move around. If possible, visit the airport ahead of time to help your child get used to the crowds, sights and sounds.
  • Provide the airline with advanced information:
 Offer to email information to let them know you will be traveling with an kid with autism and the challenges he/she may face on travel day. A good place to start is to prepare a one page document with information stating the diagnosis, any allergies or medications, and other special information.


    Packing the right items to support your child’s needs can make a world of difference when traveling.

    • Don’t forget to pack necessary coping or treatment items in your carry-on bag, like a change of clothes and medicines.
    • Bring items to keep your child entertained. Be sure to pack your child’s favorite toys, books, snacks, headphones and plane-safe electronics. Keep in mind that there will be times when electronics may not be used on the plane.
    • Have contingency plans for possible flight delays.
    *Check our Vibes Earplugs: hey reduce the volume of noisy areas, allowing them to hear everything that’s going on, but at a safer and more manageable level without blocking or merely muffling anything. 


      • Accommodations: To accommodate travelers with disabilities, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established a protocols that allows for special accommodations.

      Many airports and airlines have supportive resources and staff. Don’t hesitate to ask for the help you need.

      • Learn where you can find resources at the airport, such as customer assistance desks, quiet rooms, family-friendly bathrooms and sensory-friendly rooms.
      • There are many support staff within the airport to assist your family. Ask for support or accommodations if and when you need them.


      • Boarding: 
      Notify the gate attendant that you are traveling with a child with ASD and you will be allowed to board early or board last depending on your preference. Advantages of boarding early include not needing to wait in line at the gate or on the airplane while other passengers take their seats. Advantages of boarding last include not needing to wait in line at the gate, not needing to wait in your seat while other passengers board the plane, and being on the airplane for a shorter period of time.
      • Ear-popping. 
      To prevent discomfort in the ears during takeoff and landing, preemptively encourage your child to suck on a piece of candy or chew a piece of gum. If your child is unable to safely suck on candy or chew gum, a chewing toy can also be effective towards reducing ear-popping.
      • Watching the time. 
      Placing a digital clock or a count-down timer in front of your child may help your child to know how much longer he or she can expect to be in-flight for.
      • In-flight entertainment. 

      Allow your child access to items in their travel bag. Allow your child to have access to DVDs, iPods, books, coloring books, toys, etc. If your child enjoys tactile stimulation, they may benefit from playing with play dough or putty while on the airplane.

        Traveling with a child who has autism might pose some challenges, but those challenges can be overcome. With a little preparation and planning, you and your child can take a trip that is not only safe, but enjoyable too.



        1 comment

        • thank you, this would help me . my son will travel 18hrs , and his first time to travel that long travel.


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