Traveling on an Airplane with an Autistic Toddler…Help!!

So you guys, we have a trip coming up sometime in the near future which requires us to fly on a plane.

And I am terrified.


Seriously. Couldn’t they just build a bridge across the ocean… filled with colorful, amusing, repeating patterns and colors designed for soothing my ausome little boy, where I could stop along the way to let him out and run in grassy fields and swim in the ocean?

Okay, maybe just swim at the occasional water park, or maybe wade in a very shallow pool, or drop rocks in a small puddle or … something!


Do you know what Jojobee does when he is overstimulated and in a new environment? He RUNS. RUNS PEOPLE!!

How on earth am I supposed to manage a little guy for over 6 hours confined to a chair with a seatbelt tightly fastened and tray tables in their upright and locked position? HUH?

Here’s how I envision the trip:

We book seats toward the back of the plane to be closer to the lavatory should any party of the family need to use it.

We get to the airport 2 hours early. We make it through the gate.

We run around the airport trying to burn as much energy as possible…

We get stopped by airport security for trying to run down every ramp in the terminal.

We finally board the plane…and then we sit…for 30 minutes waiting for everyone else to board.

45 minutes now. Starting to rethink this whole “getting on the back of the plane” plan.

We watch 1 episode of Daniel Tiger. 

We try to get up. Can’t get up. Start crying.

Daddy tries to put another movie on. 

We forget to pack the charger for the ipad or the plane has no charging port. 

Crying gets louder. We haven’t left the runway.

Meltdown. Judging stares.

Older sibling starts crying. Mommy gives him entire box of Oreos.

Younger sibling wants Oreos. Both kids have 3 boxes of Oreos a piece.

We take off.

Both siblings throw up from the Oreos and motion sickness.

We can’t clean it up because we have to remain seated with seatbelts securely fastened until the Captain turns off the sign.

We use the baby wipes from the diaper bag to clean it all up. Now we are out of wipes.

Guess what would then happen next? Daddy pretends to be asleep. That’s what.

Because younger sibling pooped his diaper. 

Captain turns off seatbelt sign. 

Awful parents let stinky, smelly, loud, obnoxious little boy out of his seat. 

Little boy smiles and coos at all the strangers now that he got his way.

More “bad parenting” mutterings.

He then proceeds to run 45 miles up and down the aisle way wafting smelly diaper and puke…but not crying.

Daddy has to run to the bathroom. Mommy tells daddy he had better not move an inch.

Daddy goes anyways. Little boy melts down again. Daddy disappeared. The plane ate him. Give Daddy back, plane.

Meltdown lasts for at least half-an-hour.

Now Mommy gives Daddy the “judgemental, bad parenting” stare for not listening to her.

Flight attendant brings food. Little boy won’t eat it. Little boy won’t have it on his tray. Little boy throws it on the cute elderly 105 year old WW2 hero veterans in front of us. Older sibling thinks it’s hilarious and encourages younger sibling to do it again. Younger sibling calms down now that older sibling is laughing. 

Younger sibling does it again. Mommy and Daddy are obviously mortified, but secretly relieved that “at least he’s not crying anymore.” 

Older sibling wants to watch a movie. Ipad died. Older sibling wants to watch on Daddy’s phone. Daddy relents.

Younger sibling tries to steal said phone from older sibling. Daddy threatens to take the phone away. All parties know this is an obvious bluff. 

Sibling fight ensues and GOOD LORD WILL THIS PLANE EVER LAND??

2 more meltdowns and a changed diaper later (using damp napkins instead of wipes) plane finally lands.

Kids fall asleep waiting for plane to unload because we are the last ones on the plane in the back. 

Both kids wake up sleep deprived and melting down because they just fell asleep and now it’s time to get off.

We start our “nice, relaxing, vacation.”

Return trip home… We don’t return home. We’d rather just move there, than make that return flight home. The cats can sort of fend for themselves. I can work remotely. They have hospitals for the wife to work at. Maybe they will build the magic bridge back over the ocean so we can visit relatives in 10 years.

That’s about it right?


Seriously, what do you guys do on plane trips with autistic toddlers? I am really befuddled by this because aside from the screentime (which he will tolerate for a maximum of like half-an-hour), and maybe coloring for another half-an-hour, I got nothin in my arsenal, yall.

My friend showed me an idea (thanks Kristi!) that some parents have done, which is handing out these fliers which basically apologize in advance for the disaster that is about to strike, but is there anything else you can do?


Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (9) and Jonah (4) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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