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Air Travel with Special Needs Children - PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

Air Travel is a stressful for everyone, before you leave home plan ahead.

First, partner with your Doctor and healthcare team

  • Review your travel plans with your Doctor.
  • If your child has a medical device (internal or external) check with your doctor prior to make sure it is safe to go through the metal detector or be hand-wanded. You can ask for a pat-down if needed.
  • Determine what equipment will be needed for the trip and how to ship it.
  • While not required, bring a copy of medical documentation regarding the medical condition.
  • Learn where local Medical care is located.

  • Make a list of all equipment and medication needed and all the parts, like batteries and chargers. Do not forget toys and comfort items.
  • If new equipment, like an adaptive stroller, is needed, order early.
  • Pack Light: Every pound counts!
  • Bring toys and comfort items for the plane ride.
  • Pack medications in a separate pouch/bag to facilitate the inspection process. Ensure all medication is clearly identified.
  • Do not pack any medications in your checked baggage. It will be x-rayed, cold and frankly easily “misplaced”.
  • Mail larger quantities of medications and supplies directly to your destination, verify the package has arrived before you leave.
  • The limit of one carry-on and one personal item usually does not apply to medical supplies, equipment, mobility aids, and assistive devices for a person with a disability. Check with your airlines.
  • If oxygen is needed, review airline and TSA restrictions carefully.
  • Contact your airline regarding their requirements for traveling with equipment like wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen, etc.
  • Place identification tags on all carry on items, including medical devices. Also, bring tools, in case you have to remove/open devices.
  • Organize all travel documents. A document holder is very helpful, especially ones that hang around your neck leaving your hands FREE!
  • Plan travel day clothing for everyone to make removal of shoes, coats and restroom breaks easy. Bring an extra set of clothes, just in case.

    At the Airport
  • Arrive early, rushing adds stress and increases the risk of forgetting something.
  • Notify your airline if you require assistance at the airport. They will help within the airport including getting you through the screening process.
  • If you require a companion to help you reach the gate, ask your airline for a gate pass, usually available at the ticketing desk.

    TSA Screening
  • TSA Cares is a help line to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Call 1-855-787-2227. TSA recommends you call 72 hours ahead of travel for information about what to expect during screening.
  • Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline at 1-855-787-2227.
  • Take a few minutes to review the TSA regulations; please note the regulations change regularly so a quick refresher can save time and confusion. If you are unsure contact the TSA, they are happy to help.
  • TSA Website page for traveling with Special Needs
  • Talk to your family to help them understand the process
  • Assign tasks family members to help keep track of everyone and your carry-ons.
  • Be calm; set the example for your family. Be ready for surprises. Do not argue with TSA officers
  • Plan to remove all shoes and coats.
  • Count all items you are traveling with; recount before leaving the security area. If traveling with older children, ask them to be responsible for a specific bag but still do a re-count!
  • DO not worry about other rushed travelers, focus on the needs of your family.
  • Medication and related supplies carried through a checkpoint are normally X-rayed. However, TSA now allows you to request a visual inspection of your medication and associated supplies.
  • In order to prevent contamination or damage to medication and associated supplies and/or fragile medical materials, you will be asked at the security checkpoint to display, handle, and repack your own medication and associated supplies during the visual inspection.
  • Any medication and/or associated supplies that cannot be cleared visually must be submitted for X-ray screening. If you refuse, you will not be permitted to carry your medications and related supplies into the gate area.
  • Inform the Security Officer that your child has special needs or medical devices and let them know if you have suggestions to make the process easier for your child.
  • If a private screening is required, you should escort and remain with your child during the private screening process.
  • Tell the Security Officer what are your child's abilities are. For example: can the child stand slightly away from equipment to be hand-wanded, walk through the metal detector, or needs to be carried through the metal detector by the parent/guardian.
  • You are responsible for removing your child from his/her equipment at your discretion to accomplish screening.
  • If your child is unable to walk or stand, the Security Officer will conduct a pat-down search of your child while he/she remains in their mobility aid, as well as a visual and physical inspection of their equipment.
  • After screening, use the benches supplied to put shoes on and to re-group. No need to rush. Re-organize your family before you move on to the gates.

  • When boarding, take advantage of early boarding options. It is helpful to notify the gate personnel of any special requirements you have.
  • Plan for travel delays, make sure you have medications, food, toys and supplies in case of delays.

    Planning and taking your time will make the airport experience positive.