Autism Stories: Travelling Long Haul

When we sold our house back in May, we promised the children that we would take them to DisneyWorld, Florida. We booked our trip for Easter break next year, but I was eager to get a short trip somewhere before then.

Over the summer, I came across a website called Jack’s Flight Club where you can subscribe for free and they send you the latest flight deals, but they will only last a short time.

I was sent an email and it had an amazing deal for Los Angeles. I checked the dates and amazingly, we could go in October half term and the flights would be just over £200 each return. It was certainly a deal we couldn’t say no to!

The one thing I did worry about though was such a long flight with four children, 2 of whom are autistic. The older two have flown before, but that was back in 2008 when they were just 2 and 15 months old at the time. With the younger two having never set foot on an aircraft before, I did wonder if perhaps we had taken on more than we can manage.

When we last flew, Jake didn’t have his ASD diagnosis, so I wasn’t quite sure how to manage things. I struggled to find any information on the website of the airline we were flying with, so I looked up Heathrow Airport and their hidden disability policy.

I discovered that we could get a little extra help if we asked for their Sunflower Lanyards from their Special Assistance desks. Heathrow does advise that their lanyards do not give you a ‘Fast Track’ pass, but staff will be able to assist by pointing you to the shortest queue. However, we did find after landing at LAX and speaking to a member of staff, we were invited to use to special assistance queue.

The children were really good at the airport. We made sure we didn’t get there too early but had just enough time. By the time we had checked in and had something to eat, our flight was boarding.

We flew to LAX with Air New Zealand. We have never travelled with this airline before, so was intrigued as to how it would fare in comparison to other international airlines. I really could not fault it! The staff were amazing and so friendly. The latest films on the in-flight entertainment, as well as an ‘in seat messenger’ so Paul and I could ‘chat’ despite sitting in opposite rows. There was also an option to purchase in-flight wifi, but to be honest, unless you need to work as you fly, it’s not needed.

As well as all the entertainment, I packed a flight bag for the younger two consisting of colouring books, pens and Zachary had a few of his favourite dinosaurs and Pokemon with him. I also packed plenty of snacks for all four children.

I was rather impressed with how the children coped with the flight. Especially the boys.

We did have a few hiccups with Zachary along the way, but more so as we were coming into land. Taking off didn’t seem to affect him much, but descending seemed to unsettle him and he started to get slightly agitated and kept wanting to take his seatbelt off. We managed to calm him down and then Abigail decided to have a bit of air sickness! Sorry about that Air NZ…. although we did clean most of it up before we left the aircraft.

Overall, it was actually a really nice flight. I was so worried about how Zachary was going to cope with the trip, but we spoke about it lots beforehand and prepared him, that when the day actually came, he knew exactly what was going to happen and was so excited about going on a plane.

I won’t be so nervous now when it comes to our next flight. I mean, if they can do an 11-hour flight to Los Angeles, then they can pretty much do most flights, right?