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Flying with a Sensory Sensitive Child

Posted by on June 28, 2016

Tips for Flying With Your Sensory Sensitive Child

Does your child cry or cover their ears at loud noises? Meltdown when too much is going on around them? Shy away from crowds? If you have a sensory sensitive child you may be nervous about flying with him/her, but with careful planning you can have a successful flight! Here are the things I have found to be helpful for flying with a sensory sensitive child:

sensory sensitive child

photography by Sugar Maple Portraits


Start by helping your child know what to expect when flying. Check out books at the library on airports and flying; watch you tube videos of airports and airplanes; play “airplane” by setting up a few chairs and taking a “practice” flight, including going through TSA security checkpoints. Talk about the noise of the agents over the P.A. system, waiting in line, the noise of the airplane engines, the roller coaster feeling of takeoff and landing. Talk about turbulence and how it is like a boat on the waves. Don’t let these ideas overwhelm your child. Talk about them in a matter-of-fact way and back off if they start to get worried—return to talk about it another day.


The way you prepare for your travel day will be the key to a successful trip with your sensory sensitive child. Minor setbacks like a spill on clothing or a scrape on the hand can ruin the day.  You may find that you need to have a little more on hand than parents of more flexible children. I take pride in packing for nearly every situation yet packing concisely. Here is an example of what I pack for my kids to make sure I have everything we need. A few of the items I’m always sure to have: a full change of clothes, Band-Aids, snacks, water bottles, blanket, toddler pillow (if child is very young), bubbles, tweezers. (The tweezers may sound random, but I’ve dealt with both ticks and splinters when traveling. Trust me, you want to have a small pair of tweezers with you always.)

Pack Sensory Activities

Whether your child craves sensory input or shies from it, incorporating a variety on sensory activities will your child remain calm. Here is a post I wrote on ways to incorporate proprioceptive activities throughout the travel day. I couldn’t believe it when a friend told me she packed just two items per child for inflight entertainment for their 8 hour flight!  That is awesome if your child is content with that, but most children need more. I find that a sensitive child does well with lots of different sensory input. I try to pack a variety of sensory activities for travel.

These are the busy bags I packed for my kids when they were 7 and 2:

Busy bag for a 5-8 year old

Busy bag for a Toddler

Provide Area of Retreat

DSC_5734 (2)

There are several things you can do to provide an area of retreat for your sensory sensitive child. A floppy hat, music with over-the-ear-headphones, noise-reducing ear muffs, a blanket tent, or a stroller canopy are just a few of the things you can provide to create an area of retreat for when your child feels overwhelmed. Family Travel Blog Walking on Travels shows a great way to create a Sleeping Tent on the airplane which could also provide a great place for a sensory break. You can find that post here.

These are just a few ideas for ways to help your sensory sensitive child enjoy their travel day. What other things help you and your child when you’re away from home? Do you have any tricks for averting a meltdown in public? I’d love to hear what works for you. Comment below or on our social media pages. Thanks for reading this post!

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