We have just come back from an amazing holiday in Florida, 3 weeks in the sun which was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us but especially by our disabled son, William.  

William has quadriplegic cerebral palsy (GMFCS: V) & epilepsy so air travel is by no means easy. 

It takes a lot of careful planning and those 8-10 hours on a plane are awkward, slightly stressful and rather tiring but the reward after that day of travel is worth every single stressful second.

I know many other families are put off air travel with their disabled children and I think that is a real shame, especially as some vitamin D and a few hours of ‘swimming’ has been so beneficial to Williams wellbeing.

So. I thought I’d share my 5 top tips to making long haul (and short haul) flights a little easier,

- Book assistance as soon as you book your flight. 

This might sound obvious but many people don’t realise that airport assistance needs to be pre-booked. 

Yes, you can just rock up at the airport and get help but it won’t be individualized and catered to your specific needs. 

So, speak to your airline as soon as you have booked your flights and get everything you need them to help you with sent over in an email to them.

It could be as simple as someone to push the wheelchair so you can manage the luggage, or ensuring you have specific seats booked together as a group, but you might also need to book the Eagle Hoist, arrange pureed meals onboard or get extra luggage allowance agreed.  

These little things all make life easier and will make your trip less stressful. 

You might also have medical requirements such as a need for oxygen in-flight, these are all things airlines are used to organizing for their passengers.

Your airline will arrange everything for you so you only need to make one call. 

Many airlines have a specific special assistance or medical assistance team, make sure you speak to them and don’t just rely on the call centre staff to book things for you. 

Ensure you take an email address (not a generic one) so you can confirm it all in writing and will you have a written copy to show should there be any issues on the day of travel.

- Get valet parking. 

If you are driving yourself to the airport then I really do recommend valet parking because it will mean you can drive right to the drop off point and unload everyone, get your luggage onto a trolley and go straight to the checkout. 

No worrying about buses to the terminal or having to remember where the car is parked.  You can valet park a wheelchair accessible vehicle so you won’t need to worry about booking specialist transport to the airport. 

Book in advance and you can get some great deals on this kind of airport parking. 

We even do valet parking if we stay in the airport hotel overnight before our flight, it makes life much easier both on our departure and when we return to the UK.

- Carry ALL your medications in your hand luggage. 

Whilst airports have a limit on liquids you can carry in your hand luggage, this does not apply to medications so long as they have a prescription label on them with the same name as the passenger for whom they are required. 

Don’t risk putting your medication in your suitcase as it could be lost during transit and will cause a lot of stress at the start of your holiday while you try to replace it, not to mention the cost.

You can also take medications drawn up into syringes as long as they are in syringes smaller than 100ml so we prepare all medications for the day and carry them in a plastic pot so we don’t have to measure them out inflight.  

If you are carrying liquid feeds or pureed foods then I’d advise you to get a letter from your GP or dietician explaining why you need them, we have always carried a letter like this but have never been asked to show it. 

Liquid feeds can be delivered direct to your hotel in some countries so make sure you ask your provider if they can help you with that so you don’t have to fill your baggage up with them.

We use a cool bag for our medications & food simply because it is easy but you can carry it in anything. 

You will be allowed additional hand luggage for medical supplies but I would advise you to inform your airline that you will be taking an additional bag so it is marked on your booking.

- Get to the gate early.  

If you have requested assistance to board, and even if you haven’t but would benefit from boarding first because of a disability, then make sure you go to the boarding gate as soon as the gate number is on the screens. 

Disabled passengers and anyone requiring assistance will usually be boarded first but if you aren’t there you will have to fight your way through the other passengers when you board which can be difficult. 

If you are using the Eagle Passenger Lifter or require the aisle chair to board then you will need to ensure you are the first to board as neither of these methods can be used when there are other passengers in the aisles, plus you probably wouldn’t want an audience when you are getting everyone settled into their seats. 

If you have several hand luggage bags, ask the cabin crew or passenger assistance to help you with them to make your life easier.

- Open a twitter account. 

This might sound like a strange tip but if you have any problems with getting assistance before your flight or any other issues before, during or after your flight then Twitter is your friend! 

No business likes bad coverage on social media but airlines and holiday companies REALLY dislike it and to try and ensure they don’t get it they employ teams to manage their social media.

In the past I have managed to rectify issues with British Airways not issuing the correct seats, missing luggage and even issues with car hire all via Twitter.  

So, set up a twitter account just in case you do have a problem and if you need to use it be sure to @ tag the airline and anyone else involved when you state your problem, because it is a public forum open to all to see you are far more likely to get a quick resolution than if you deal with the issue by email or phone. 

Feel free to tag me @mumsmissions if you want a retweet with anything like this.

And if you do set up and don’t need to use it then you’ve lost nothing! 

I hope these simple 5 tips will help you a little and maybe persuade you to take the plunge to book a well-deserved holiday with your loved ones this summer!

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