Arrive at the airport early – Ask the airline agent at check-in about getting your wheelchair assistance. Use this service whether you have your own chair or not. Explain your procedures to the person pushing the wheelchair so that they know ahead of going through security what will be the most help to your group. We usually tip the wheelchair pusher $5.
Pre-TSA packing – We pack our hand luggage ahead of security to make that experience easier. After going through the check point, we repack our hand luggage for the flight. We place all medications in one location in our hand luggage. We also put all electronics in just one location. Be prepared to remove both the medications and the electronics from your hand luggage to place them in the bins for the security screening. Pack separately the things you don’t need to remove for security.
Security Checks – know ahead of time what you need to remove from your hand luggage. Ask the agents for clarification. Be prepared to explain to them your child’s special needs. Ask the wheelchair pusher to retrieve your bags while you assist the TSA agent with the individual screening of your child. This is comforting to our son. When we are traveling together, my husband manages our bags and I manage Nick when we are going through the security screenings.
After –TSA repack before the flight – I recommend that you repack your hand luggage after the screening so that you have what you need during the flight under your seat. Extra medicines and clothing that you don’t typically need can be in the luggage in the overhead bins.
Pre-Boarding – Toileting – Plan your toileting schedule based on the flight time. We ask the gate agents when they expect to start the Pre-Boarding process. Plan to go to the restroom just ahead of when the pre-board time is.
Assistance – The flight crew is willing to help. Just ask them. Check in with the gate agent ahead of boarding, alerting them that you are traveling with a disabled person. They can even carry your bags to your seat for you. If you need it, there is an aisle wheelchair available.
Wheelchair – We have a manual transfer chair that we use for traveling. It folds up and weighs less than 24 pounds without the detachable foot rests. Often it can fit in the onboard closet of the aircraft so we know that it is with us on the flight. We will ask the desk agent to ask the flight attendants if we can have our wheelchair in the closet. We remove all detachable parts from the chair before handing the chair over to the flight crew and take these parts to our overhead bin. The on board closet is available on a first come, first served basis.
Flight – Comfort – Knowing the specific needs of your child be sure to plan for the flight time. We bring toys, noise cancelling headphones, I-Pad, and snacks on board.
Toileting – Check with the cabin crew. They can hold a restroom for you so you don’t have to stand in line. Be sure to alert the cabin crew if you need them to hold the door to the toilets for you. I wear a large scarf that can be used as a privacy screening for my husband and Nick because often we can’t close the door completely while assisting someone in the restroom. Some aircraft have curtains nearby that can work also. Some aircraft also have an on board aisle chair.
Exiting the aircraft – Remind the cabin crew before landing that you will need a wheelchair pusher at the door of the aircraft. They can confirm this. We suggest that you wait until everyone else has deplaned, then the flight crew can often assist you getting off the plane.
What if There is a Medical Problem? – Know the airline’s policies and procedures – The pilots have a direct connection to emergency room physicians on the ground. In addition, often there are medical professionals on board that offer assistance as well.
Follow the flight crew instructions, be calm and educate them. Their flight training covers basic medical emergencies. We have found that it typically doesn’t involve seizures. The flight crew will often listen to what you are saying, but you need to understand that the captain has the responsibility for the safety of everyone on board.
Comfort While Traveling – For the hotel – We take our child’s own bedding, sheets, pillow case and a blanket. It smells and feels more like home. This assists Nick is feeling comfortable sleeping in an unfamiliar location. We also have 6 mil thick plastic cut to a single bed size to protect the hotel bed from possible incontinence.
We are road warriors of international air travel. Please contact me if you have other questions: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.evagremmert.com