We’re not going away this March break, however I realized that the next family trip we do take will probably involve taking a lot more stuff — the loads of stuff that comes with having a toddler plus all the extra items needed because of her cerebral palsy (a wheelchair stroller, and perhaps a walker).
So, what can you do to make your airport experience easy and enjoyable? I connected with Scott Armstrong, spokesperson for Toronto Pearson, Canada’s largest and busiest airport, and Mathieu Larocque, spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and compiled their top tips for travelling with children — including those with special needs.
Connect with your airline
No matter how you purchased your ticket be sure to connect with your airline before you travel to find out about any rules and inform them about any accommodations you might need if you are travelling with a child that has special needs. Bonus tip: Some airlines offer a free companion seat or discounts for those travelling with special needs. Check before you book your tickets.
Leave plenty of time
All flights require that you check in at a certain time before departure. When you’re travelling with kids be sure to leave yourself lots of extra time. Travelling with a child with special needs can take even more time, so plan accordingly. Time-saver tip: Check in online, before you leave home.
Organize for security
Be sure to review the list of restricted items and info on liquids, aerolsols and gels. Need to take medication and special equipment for your child? This is a list of what’s allowed. Time-saver tip: Ensure items that need to be in a clear Ziploc bag are organized and medication is carried in original containers with labels. Remember that you can always ask security personnel if you or your child requires assistance — whether they have a disability or not, or whether that disability is visible or not. Bring documentation that verifies any special needs or accommodations.
For kids that have sensory issues or like to follow a routine, the airport can be an overwhelming experience. Be sure to talk with them in detail about what they will experience (bright lights, lots of people, loud sounds, check-in, lineups, security, waiting, etc.).
Pack toys, entertainment and snacks. This applies for all kids. Bring their favourite things and even a new item or two to keep them entertained. And we all know, a hungry kid equals a grumpy kid, so be prepared. And though this might seem obvious, don’t bring toys that look like firearm or explosives.
Plan for fun and ask for help
If you have a family member with mobility issues or special needs, most airports have a guest services department that can help. Toronto Pearson has an online trip planner that can make your airport experience easy and fun (they have giant colouring walls, roaming arts and crafts activities and a lot more). Take a look online to see if the airports in your area offer a similar tool!
This is just the beginning of the wonderful memories you will make on this family vacation. Wishing you happy and safe travels.