In parts one and two of this series I covered information about special assistance, taking medications in your hand luggage and keeping your wheelchair safe on an aircraft as well as lots of other useful information.
Here are some more tips to make flying easier so you can take a holiday abroad with your disabled child.
At the airport
Airports are usually very frantic and noisy places and this alone can put a lot of people off flying if their children have sensory issues. But there is a solution to this, airport lounges! They are very quiet calm places and drinks and snacks as part of their entrance fee. I’d highly recommend this as an alternative to the main departure lounge, especially if you plan to eat at the airport anyway as you’d probably end up spending the same amount in food and drinks in the terminal.
In 2017 we used the No1 Lounge, Heathrow T3 and booked a bedroom so we would have somewhere clean for William to be able to use the toilet and be cleaned up before our flight as there was no changing places toilet in that terminal at the time. There is now one available but we are flying from T3 again in March and are again using the lounge as we found the calm environment really reduced our stress levels.
How you pack your hand luggage can make a big difference to your flight. If you are like me and carry far too much stuff in your hand luggage then making sure you know what is in each bag will make it easier when you are trying to find something during the flight. Myself and my husband both have our own hand luggage bags with everything we want but I also have 3 bags for William. I know 3 might seem excessive but there is method to my madness!
Bag one : contains everything related to changing / toileting. Spare clothes, nappies, wipes etc. All Williams medicine bottles also go in this bag as they won’t be needed while in flight but they need to be in our hand luggage for safety reasons (replacing lost / damaged medicines abroad is expensive and difficult)
Bag two: Small cool bag containing all Williams meals for the flight. If he has to have any medication during the flight, this is where I will keep his drawn up syringes.
Bag three: This bag contains any items to keep William entertained during the flight. Toys, books, ipad etc.
To make life easier when carrying all of this I will usually try and put bag two inside bag three but once we are on board I will separate them so I can easily grab the right one when I need something (or direct my husband to the right bag if he is being helpful!)
Doing this makes life easier when going through security as well as I know exactly where all the liquids and electronics are which speeds up the whole process.
Of course you are generally only allowed one piece of hand luggage per person but if you require additional bags for disability or medical reasons you can usually request it in advance.
Choosing the right seats on the flight can make all the difference to your whole experience. This will of course depend on who you are flying with and your specific requirements. William has very strong dystonic movements and will kick his legs out in front of him, this means he might upset someone in the seat in front of him (we’ve all been there with an annoying kid kicking our chair haven’t we? Unfortunately William can’t help it!).
We also need to be able to re-position him and feed him during the flight. Because he has these requirements, we are able to request bulkhead seats via special assistance. These seats have no passengers in front and a little bit of extra room so we can manage all his needs.
Of course your needs may be different, you may wish to be close to the toilet or might specifically require aisle seats etc. And if you are using a support seat which needs to be strapped around the seat you will need to make sure you are in the last row so there is no one sitting behind you. You also will not be allowed to sit in an exit row with a disabled person.
So, do think about what would make your child more comfortable, safe and might make the flight easier for you all before discussing it with the special assistance department within your chosen airline (not all airlines have one)
I hope these tips will help make your next flight a little easier!
Please share your top tips for travelling in a comment below so that other people can benefit from your experience.