Traveling with your child living with Fragile X syndrome on an airplane can be very stressful for the both of you. These tips are provided by parents based on their experiences with their own children. You will see that what works for one child may not work for another. That’s okay. Find what works for you, your child and your family.
Before You Go
- Read books about traveling on an airplane.
- Create your own book with as much detail as you can or need to for your child. Show pictures of your house, packing for the trip, the ride to the airport, getting your tickets, going through security, the gate, getting on the airplane, putting on the seat-belt, taking off, getting something to drink, playing with a toy, landing, getting your luggage, meeting people you are going to see, going to their house, and doing whatever activities you are going to do on the trip. You can use icons, drawings, photos or pictures off the internet. (Example: DisBoards)
- Flying in and out of small airports is helpful.
- Drive by the airport.
- Visit the airport if you can. Ask if you can go through security – at least show it to your child. Be sure to mention your child has Fragile X syndrome.
- Bring FXS info cards available at the NFXF to give to people just in case. Give one to everyone you talk to.
- Ask the airline if there is any way you can take your child on an airplane. Are there any museums in your town that might have “sample” airplanes you can take your child to visit.
- Give your child his/her own little rolling suitcase – they can pack what they want and it gives them a “job.”
- One family suggested you ask for bulkhead seating – the very first row. Or get as close to the front as you can. Then you are first off the plane too. Another family suggested sitting in the very back of the plane. Your child may like the window seat; he might not.
- Explain the rules of flying ahead of time – wear a seat-belt, electronics off/on, no kicking the seat in front of you. Make social stories – review ahead of time and bring with you on the plane.
- Read up on TSA’s website for Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
- Call up TSA Cares for more tips and advice.
Day of the Flight
- Wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on while going through security.
- Let people know about your child and Fragile X syndrome. Share the FXS info cards or bring a letter from your doctor if possible.
- If waiting is difficult, ask for an escort to get through security and ask to be the first ones on the plane, also called pre-boarding.
- Be-friend the flight attendant.
- Bring a comfort item from home – blanket, pillow, stuffed animal.
- Bring favorite snacks, especially something chewy like gummies for take-off and landing.
- Bring a mini DVD player with favorite movies – use noise-canceling headphones to block engine noise.
- Consider buying a new toy you think your child will love.
- Figure out a way to help your child gauge how long the trip is – 1 movie, or whatever your child will understand.
- One comment on layovers – if you have the option, a longer layover may be better than a shorter one. Then you can get off the plane and walk around for awhile versus having to stay on the airplane.
- Consider bringing a few $5 Starbucks gift cards for those strangers who rally around you in the case of a difficult flight.
- Please talk to your child’s doctor if you think your child’s anxiety will be too high.