First Time Flying W/3yr Old

Updated on March 06, 2007
N.R. asks from South Park, PA
14 answers

I have a 3 PDD-NOS, (autism but not severe autism for thoes who don't know what PDD is) and we are considering a vacation to Disney World this year. We are worried about the plane ride. Our son is a wildcard, some days he is a saint and others not good.
Ever since I saw that news cast about the 4 yr old getting kicked off the plane (Jet Blue, never would fly them) I am a little worried.
We haven't booked the trip, but have an idea how we wannt to have our Disney experience.
Basically want to fly and stay in Kissimee and be able to do SeaWorld too.
I need a rental car cause waiting for a shuttle everyday will be rough.
My question is for you who have flown w/little ones (3-4yr olds) any real advice before I book this trip.


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answers from Allentown on

Hi N.!
We flew with our son out to Albuquerque, NM to see family years ago when he was about 2. We had a lay over in Denver and then hopped back on the plane to our destination.

I would reccommend contacting the airline and letting them know that you are considering flying with your son, who has some special needs, and ask how they would be able to accomodate you. Explain what his needs are and ask if they could seat you somewhere that wouldn't be a problem with the other passengers.
We did this with our son, and the airline was wonderful!! The flight attendants were all made aware that this was our first time flying with a small child, the pilot and crew were also made aware of our situation. They seated us in a quiet area of the plane and the attendants came and checked on us frequently!!

Next- you want to bring things with you that you know will keep your son occupied. Bring lots of drinks and snacks. Books, puzzles, craft items ( child scissors, glue sticks, paper etc. you'll have to check with the airline and see what they will allow you to bring on board)

YOu'll also want to talk to your son alot about the trip. Explain to him what will be happening. If you live near an airport, take him over there one Saturday to look at the planes.

Just try to be as prepared as possible for any situation!!



answers from Philadelphia on

My children do not have PDD, but we have flown with them. When my son was 2 and my daughter was 4 we flew to disney world from PA. I packed them a small travel backpack/roller (mutant turtles for the boy and princess for the girl) that were new. I didn't let them see it until the airport. When we got on the plane and the seat belt signs went off, they were permitted to open it. Inside I had several new little toys and snacks for them. They played with the items and wanted to eat the snacks. When we flew back, they were allowed to pack their own "toys" and "snacks" as long as they fit into the bag.

Make sure he eats and rests well so you are not too out of your routine when you board the plane.

Trust me, the 2 year old had a fit for about an hour. He cried because he didn't want to sit in the seat (this was after we were in the air). It happens to everyone. There were several parents on the plan who were empathetic and said, "We've all been there." The good thing about flying to Orlando is that most people are going there because they have children.

Must haves: gum or lollipop for take off and landing in case of ear pressure. A car seat if you feel your child will look at the plane like the car. They have to sit in the car seat in the car and they feel the same on the plane. A toy or book that may distract your child. Relax. If you don't, you're child won't.

I am 37 years old. I am married to Kevin and have a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old boy.

Good luck. I hope it works out well for you and your son.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you have a portable DVD player for movies to watch on the plane? That is a big help. Depending on where you live from Pittsburgh to FL is less then two and a half hours. So it isn't a super long flight.

If worse comes to worse, give him a little tylenol before the flight. It will make him sleepy and make the flight a little easier on you.

Let him run around the gate area and get off some energy. Bring coloring books, crayons, cars, whatever makes him happy that isn't super heavy!

I have done many flights with my soon to be 6 year old who also has PDD-NOS. So if you have any further questions. Also, if you fly USA3000...they are great and the flights are cheap and direct. But, like I said depends on where you live.

If you need to chat more email me.



answers from Philadelphia on

I'm recommend buying a seat for him and having his carseat so he has his own space. (You'll need it for when you're down there anyway.) Bring a familiar favorite toy for him and perhaps something new, as well as some snacks, etc. If you have a laptop or portable DVD player maybe bring a favorite DVD of his- anything familiar for him. Enjoy your vacation!



answers from York on

I wouldn't worry about it too much. The child that was kicked off the plane was allowed to run around and he parents weren't able/willing to get him/her in his/her seat. I have flown with children, and every time there have been other children on the plane. Some are good, some aren't, thats just the nature of it. If is a bad day, sure, you'll get some looks from non kid people. Other parents will usually just smile at you as they are being thankful that theirs are sitting still this time.

My oldest has Aspergers, so I understand mild autism a little. As long as you are the boss in the relationship with your child, I wouldn't worry about it at all.



answers from Allentown on

We took our daughter to Disney at just 3 and we are going again in a month. She was great on the plane. Her ears bothered her a bit so coming home, I gave her gum for the first time and that helped.

With me on the plane I brought her leapster, coloring books, crayons, etc and that held her interest. If you still are leary on flying, I know that Amtrack has train service to FL, don't know anymore about it than that.

Enjoy your first trip with him. It is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!



answers from Philadelphia on

We just went to Florida with our 9 month old and took the auto train (amtrack). We had our own room we didn't feel bad if the baby was loud. There are also lots of other kids/families on the train so they are all understanding. It lets you off about 20 minutes from Kissimee.



answers from Philadelphia on

I flew to Seattle last year with my son ( he was 2 1/2 at the time) I was nervous of how he would act as well. I brought our portable dvd player and a small backpack of toys with a coloring book too. He surprised me by not really needing much to do. He was so excited about being on the plane and looking out the window. The hardest part of the trip was going potty LOL. He even took a little nap. The only time he cried is after he woke up and we were landing too and his ears were hurting, but we got him to drink something and he calmed down and the drinking popped his ears. All I can say is have things to keep him busy and some snacks too. My son surprised the heck out of me and hopefully yours will do the same :)



answers from Philadelphia on

airtran was the one who kicked off the 2yr old and her family for not sitting in her seat, those are the ones you need to be weary of. there are some natural remedies that ease anxiety or can act as a sleep aid. when we flew with our then 20mo old we gave him the homeopathic HYLANDS CALM FORTE JR. we have also used bachs rescue remedy for relieving anxiety. both are wonderful natural solutions. i have heard of giving your child benedryl but it can have the opposite effect your hoping for.



answers from Scranton on

Hi N.. My son is 3, we flew to Orlando when he was 2. We flew on Southwest Airlines and they were really nice. Just remember though with going to Disney, he is only 3 and might not enjoy it as much as you hope. Try not to go in the summer when it is sooo hot, it will just make him crankier. We are going to wait until our son is 5 to do the Disney thing. When we went to Orlando, we rented a car and rented a house for the week. We went to Gator Land and the Zoo. Our son had sooo much fun. And the house had a pool of its own so it was nice coming back to your own house. Oh, remember when you rent the car to ask for a car seat, or check yours on the plane. Hope you have a good time! Oh, and I recommend getting a straight flight to Orlando so once you are on the plane, you are on it until you get there. (On Southwest there is no assigned seating so they take infants and people with children you can pick your seats first).




answers from Philadelphia on

Have you considered driving to Florida? My husband and I plan to take our daughter to visit his mother in West Palm next year (she will be 1 1/2 then) and we are highly weighing driving. My ears are terrible on planes that aren't pressurized properly, and I worry that it will happen to my little one. We have always flown anywhere we go, but not knowing what might occur, we don't want to start a vacation with a baby in a stressful way. The ear pain has ruined more than one trip for me in the past, and if the both of us get it, it could make for a lousy vacation. Driving seems like a great idea for your situation since you would have your own vehicle. You would have little more control over how things go and can depart for and leave from activities at your own pace. Your son may also be more comfortable since the car will be familiar to him. The driving trip usually requires an overnight stay somewhere along the way, but you could plan to make it an interesting location and work it into your vacation. You could probably rent a nice SUV for less than the price of the airfare if your car is not suitable for a long trip. Let us know what you decide!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Hello N.,
My name is M.. I am 33 years old and my only son Nolan 2 1/2. I have flown with him 3 times already, to florida, and have taken him to disney in two of the trips as well. My entire family spent a week in disney in December, we stayed on disney propert and used their bus system and it worked well.
I have flown us air and united out of pittsburgh airport. First, I recommend a direct flight. I planned my flight so that we could wake up at our normal time, give him time to play before we drove to the airport & have breakfast,then let him check out the airport and walk around/get tired out, before we boarded the plane. The airline lets families w/ small children and those needing assistance board first, but I never do, I figure we will be on the plane long enough, so we check out the planes and ride the moving walkway, and he loves the tram, it's a train ride for him. Check everthing but a small bag of toys, food, drinks and necessities. You'll have your hands full with a kid and boarding passes, going through security, getting from check in to the gate which is always so far away. If you can, check in online, print your boarding passes and pick your seats before you even drive to the airport. then use curb side check in- it is much easier than lugging suitcases through the check in line. I've never had any major problems flying with a child, especially to orlando airport, the plane is full of families. I fly mid week, in the afternoon. We are usually ready for lunch/snacks by this time, so after everone is loaded & seated w/ seatbelt on, I give him crackers, cookies, fruit, any kind of finger food, that is time consuming and easy. It keeps him still and quiet, and then he won't be starving later. It distracts him and the swallowing is good during take of and landing to help with the pressure in his ears- kids don't know how to pop their ears and it can be very uncomfortable if they don't. Kids cope better than we give them credit for, your son will probably enjoy it, take some toys to play with during the flight, and if you time it right, he will be ready for a nap and the ride, like a car ride, will put him to sleep. and you can always enjoy the safety movie on the little tvs. read a book. Then let everyone else off the plane first, pick up the sleeping kid, and you are in sunny florida. Have fun. take your time getting to baggage claim. Use the restrooms before takeoff and after landing, the ones in the plane are tiny. You and your son can check out this airport while your husband gets the rental car. use the luggage carts, or the airport employees with the carts - the couple bucks you tip them or the curb side check in guys is worth it. Less stress, more fun.
If you'd like to talk more, have any questions, let me know, I'm willing to help. I think I covered everything you may be worrying about. But don't worry, Go.



answers from Harrisburg on

They legally can't kick you off a plane if your child has special needs. My son has 1p36 deletion syndrom. We are currently in FL for an intensive program. I let them know ahead of time he has special needs. If you don't mind medicating Benedryl works nice for a little nap. Give it to him shortly before you get on. That might give you an hour of peace.



answers from Allentown on

My son (5) also has PDD. He flew for the first time to California when he was just over a year old. I agree with the advice of the 2 prior posters: new toys that are engaging, have no small pieces to lose, and are not noisy would work perfectly. With my son, we bring a handheld Solitaire game and it keeps him busy for an hour or so. Also good are MagnaDoodle drawing toys, magnetic game boards, that sort of thing. And make sure that the flight crew knows what the situation is, just in case. Explain flying to your son over and over before leaving - every detail of the whole thing - having to sit still and play quietly in the seat for a long time, no shouting, etc.

Starting kids with PDD off early on flying is a very good idea - the earlier they get acclimated to the experience the better. Our son has flown to California 5 times and Florida once, and we'll be returning to both this spring. He's a seasoned pro at flying now, and knows what to expect.

Don't worry - every kid acts up on a plane once in a while. I've heard kids much louder than my son on just about every flight I've been on. And on a flight to Disney, there will be PLENTY of kids!

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