23 Answers

I am travelling to Melbourne in 2 weeks and it will be my kids first flight. My eldest daughter has autism and I’m really worried about how she will go, especially with the noise. Does anyone have any tips for travelling with an autistic child or just young kids in general?

Posted by Mandi2406, 30th October 2014

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  • An activity pack, colouring in book and pencils or a child’s book or magazine.

  • Have an arsenal of snacks and treats and don’t be afraid to use them. Make sure they have something to eat or drink during take off and landing, and try to book flights for “sleepy” times. Embrace technology, but save it for last. Once the tech is out it’s hard to top.

  • You could try earmuffs, and bring her fav things to do or play with, to distract her

  • If you’re worried about noise, can you try noise cancelling headphones?

  • Ipad and chewing gum. Chewing gum helps with the ears. What ever your child loves doing the best and is the carmest with and it is portable take that with you. Staff on planes these days will help too.

  • Maybe an iPod or iPad with headphones would be a great distraction from the noise?
    I always take an ‘activity pack’ for my toddler on the plane. Make some things at home – as simple as getting some little dot stickers and getting them to place them on an outline of a picture! Oh a SNACKS! Nothing distracts a child like food does! Airlines seem pretty relaxed about taking snacks on board if you have toddlers :)

  • Thank you all so much! This has been a huge help. I have been trying to talk to my autistic daughter about the plane as much as possible and I will be calling the airline to see if we can get some assistance. I am so happy I found this site, everyone is so lovely and helpful!

  • iPad with headphones, plenty of food for them to nibble on, colouring book & pencils, sugar free lollipops for take off & landing. I always find my 2 (3.5 & 1.5 years) are fine as long as they are not tired & have activities & food. I can’t give comment about travelling with autistic children, Kirsty Hooks idea looks brilliant though. Good luck I’m sure you will be fine, be calm as your kids will pick up on your nervousness.

  • Hi our son is now 8yrs old and has autism (non-verbal). We have travelled extensively on short and long haul flights with him. I am not sure which airline you are flying? but firstly contact the airline if you are frequent flyers and they will place this information on the child’s account. Secondly if you can check on line – do that! if not when you get to the airport go straight to the business/premium check in line (if the normal line has more than 8 people waiting). They won’t question you – but if they do you just inform them you have a child with autism….. and were advised by their Sales representative to do this (We always do this and have never been questioned). Also ensure you get priority boarding – once you are at the gate – sit near the counter and when the staff arrive approach them and advise them of your situation and if you could have priority boarding. This means you get on the plane first (usually with the families with babies/elderly) this can give you a good 5-8 minutes time to get everyone settled before the crowd’s arrive.

    If you have any form of a tablet or Ipad take it!! – Take headphones for it. We have flown on both Air New Zealand and Qantas which have individual screens in the seat and so this is ‘gate to gate’ screen time – so the child can get straight on and start watching shows. I found this really handy when we were on a 6 hr flight as he had both the ipad and the individual screen so once the ipad went flat he had a back up.

    Ensure your child is eating/drinking/or sucking on something during take off and landing – the ear blocking could upset them. In the early days when we first started traveling with our son we use to give him his bottle – now we try to give him his drink – but since he has flown a lot (and by the way he loves it!) he seems to understand what is happening with his ear thing – and he seems to not let it get to him and must realise it will pass.

    Lastly try not to stress (I know easier said than done!) – your child will sense this and probably be more unsettled – just take your time, allow plenty of time. going through security – do it at your pace, Not sure if you have another adult traveling with you? if not ask the airline at check in to have someone escort you through. 99% of the time it is both my husband and I so one of us goes through first and wait’s on the other side for our son to walk through. Once since it was just my son and I – a staff member from the airline helped us through – I actually found this so much easier – she knew the security staff and their whole attitude and the way they treated us was so different to any other time – so even when I have my husband with me I still try and get assistance!!!

    Lastly if your flight is not very full (unsure how many of you are traveling) try and book the aisle and window seat – that way the middle seat stays free (only if the plane is full will someone try and book that seat) and worst case if this happens just ask to swap the person in the middle is not going to say No lol!! all the best.

  • Just a thought….with the child that you have concerns over the noise of the plane….would it help to look into purchasing a set of noise cancelling headphones? Im not sure how expensive they are…I know they are not exactly cheap but if they would work for her then perhaps it might be worth the investment.

  • I have twin 4yr boys one is autistic. We have favourite food for take off and head phones on with radio kid channel and DVDs/ iPad ready once they can be put on. He still gets upset a little but I find if I’m calm and have food ready to give him once the plane starts to move it works. Before our flight we went to airport a few time to look at planes and hear how loud they are. Also tell the steward/ stewardess and those around you that they maybe upset but as it her first flight.
    Try to be came and don’t worry what’s the worst that can happen.
    As for noise, if she is really sensitive to noise go to the hardware store and get some of though earmuffs they have for workmen let her play with them at home before you leave.
    Good luck it will not be as bad as you imagine so relax.

  • I think if you can tell your daughter what is going to happen on the flight in as much detail as possible beforehand to get her a little familiar with the process that might help. Also if you’re able to remain calm (as much as possible) you may find it helps. It is scary but I have travelled with my 2 when my youngest was 3mths & eldest 2.5yrs and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Make it a bit of an adventure for them. also i find there are some people who are very willing to help parents on flights by playing peekaboo etc. Hope this helps & good luck!

  • Ear Candles, available from most pharmacies, health food shops, some supermarkets. Candle your kids’ ears, and your own too, if you like, the night before the flight. This takes 15-20 mins per ear, but will greatly reduce the chance of earache during the flight, which is particularly common for children (there are few things worse than the pain caused be changing cabin pressure). Depending how your oldest deals with having things in her ears, maybe use some the airline head phones (if they have any), or take your own ipod and earbud speakers (you won’t be able to use it during take-off and landing, though, but you might just have to grin and bear it for a few minutes then, doesn’t take long). Have a discrete word to the cabin staff and make them aware of anything that may cause your daughter any difficulties, they may be more willing and able to help than you might expect – after all, it’s their job to make the flight experience as pleasant as possible for all their passengers. Good luck, enjoy your trip!

  • Carry on a pencil case with coloring book, pencils, favorite small toy/puzzles or a book to read. In other words distractions you use when going for a 1 1/2 hr road trip. Also the change in air pressure on take/landing causes severe ear aches so give them something to suck on as swallowing adjusts the ear to decrease the pain. Remember to the kids get on the plane and spend the whole flight in the plane when they walk out that they will be very surprised that they are not in the airport you boarded, so remind them how much magic is in the plane that it changes the world at the door to Melbourne.

  • I think as others have said iPads or iPods will help you out and give them things to play with or listen to

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