After some challenging flights – and four years without flying anywhere – our family learned to fly again by building our own “sensory survival kit.” You can add or subtract items as appropriate, to meet the needs of your loved one, but here is what we have come to rely on:
Sensory Survival Kit Practical items:
- Portable foods: Bring more than you think – particularly if the item is not available at your destination. Bonus points if your family member with special needs likes something is not sticky, crumbly or smelly! (We have been known to dedicate an entire piece of luggage to Trader Joe’s Corn Chips.)
- A blanket: Another item that we have dedicated an entire bag to hold – a giant, fluffy blanket (from Costco). (And yes, we took one to Hawaii – thanks for asking!) Perhaps your loved one is obsessed with a weighted blanket, or a holdover from childhood? Regardless of the form it takes, a blanket makes both the plane and the destination feel much more familiar almost immediately.
- Carry on luggage for the whole family: (Full disclosure: our family is in driving distance of winter sports, and we are not huge snow people, to begin with.) I do realize that there are certain times of year where certain places require more luggage than you can stuff in a carry-on, BUT for every other trip, you should plan to carry on your luggage. Why? Because when you land, there is one less step. Period. In both directions. You already have to wait for the deplaning process, navigate from your gate to the transportation area, either wait for a ride or pick up a rental car, and drive to your destination. Why add anything else to this list, if you can avoid it? And, if you’re keeping track, you’ll notice that our family of four would have 8 bags – 4 personal items and 4 carry-ons. We have already dedicated one personal item to corn chips and the other to a giant blanket, so let’s just say, the rest of us pack light!
Sensory Survival Kit Technology:
- Music/sound: With the help of some larger, sensory-friendly headphones then your favorite song on repeat won’t drive the rest of the plane crazy
- Movies: Downloading a key show or movie means you won’t be dependent on airport or airplane wifi services, particularly if the favorite is the original Minions movie, which is not likely to be running on the on-board entertainment system
Sensory Survival Kit Sensory items:
These vary widely with personal preference, but here are some of our favorites
- Chewies: You’ll want more than one, because these can easily get lost or misplaced. I usually tuck several into various bags and pockets. This one is the most durable one we’ve found – and Mr. Diggy could be a product tester for durability on most products.
- Water tubes: This is one of the most soothing and quietest sensory items you can buy. And quiet is key on an airplane. (Pro tip: these tubes are unlabeled liquids, which typically are not allowed on planes. However, if you access support from TSA Cares, they can be tested and allowed through security).
- Aku Ring: You may not have heard of this, but I think you will find it to be an instant hit for your sensory-seeking family member. It is chewy, slightly stretchy, tactile and durable. And quiet. What more can you ask for?
What would you put in your family’s airplane travel sensory survival kit? Please share in the comments.
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