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BY Margalit

Special Needs Travel: 6 Essentials for Long-Haul Flights

Long-haul flights can be challenging. Add in a child with special needs and it can really get interesting.

For long flights, being prepared is the key to manageable flight. By packing the right items in your carry-on luggage you can ensure an uneventful and less stressful time.

Here are some things I have packed when travelling on long haul flights with my son. I hope you find them usefull.


Sanitizing wipes should be priority since airplanes are notoriously not very clean. Wipes can be used not only for hands and faces but also food trays, arm rests and even seats.

I recommend taking a mini Lysol to spray the toilet seat and a mini roll of toilet paper (in case the toilet paper runs out-and I’ve seen that happen too) is also a good idea to have around.


Depending on the length of the flight and time of day, an inflatable pillow can come in handy. A transportable blanket can also serve as a makeshift jacket if it becomes cold in the cabin.

If your child likes to walk around the cabin with their shoes off you should definitely pack a pair of thick, anti-slip socks to protect their feet from shards of plastic cups or any other sharp objects that are in the plane’s carpeting.

Nowadays, delays are common and the plane might end up taxiing or sitting on the tarmac for hours. When this happens the cabin can get warm pretty fast so it might be wise to bring a mini fan along if your child is temperature sensitive.


I recommend keeping some health snacks or chocolates handy, especially if your child suffers from food allergies or is on a special diet.  It is good to keep blood glucose levels constant.


It is advisable to have an extra set of clothes and underwear handy for unexpected spills and other mishaps.  A light, wind and rain resistant travel jacket comes in handy for unexpected weather outside the airport.


If your child takes medication on a daily basis don’t forget to have these handy. Pack an extra dose in case of delays or lost baggage.

Although they do have a first aid kit on the aircraft, it is convenient to carry your own small one with Band Aids, diuretics, allergy and anti-pain medicines for example.  Speak to the cabin crew about any medications that need to be refrgerated and see if they can help you store them.


Never count solely on the airlines’ entertainment options since they can and do malfunction.  It happened to us twice this year alone.  In rare instances some older planes might not even have onboard entertainment.

I recommend bringing an iPad, iPod or laptop with loaded TV programs, movies and games along with personal headphones (especially if your child has favorite ones) and adapters.

Remember to also bring plugs to recharge the devices since some planes are now equipped with outlets and external power banks (AKA batteries) for once they run out of ‘juice’.

Have you taken a long haul flight with your special needs kid? Share your thoughts and tell us about your experience.

Want more special needs travel info? Check out The Special Needs Travel Guide

The Special Needs Travel Guide

The Special Needs Travel GuideWhen a family member has a disability, recreational travel can seem like an impossible dream.  The barriers aren’t just physical.  There are never-ending questions about packing medication, getting through airport security, setting up realistic expectations, disrupting routines and finding a destination with something for everyone.

Whether you choose a road trip, cruise or airplane travel, this ebook has already done the legwork to identify the best options for travelers with special needs.  If you’re looking for an African safari with a sign language interpreter or a pre-flight checklist or a Hawaiian beach that loans out beach wheelchairs, you’ll find it in the pages of this e-book.

Traveling with disabilities is not only possible, it can also be a wonderful, life-changing experience.  By trying on a different environment and way of living, family bonds can be strengthened and new skills can be developed.  Learning about the world together is what makes all that effort worthwhile. Bon voyage!

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Written on August 27, 2014 by:

Margalit Sturm Francus has lived in five different countries on three continents. In 2009, she established a nonprofit website, Autistic Globetrotting, to inspire and encourage autistic families to explore the world. Her articles have appeared in many media publications, including , SATH and Autisable By communicating with both the autistic and travel communities, she aims to raise autism awareness and facilitate the implementation of much needed accommodations for special needs travelers.

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