When faced with a long-scheduled layover or an unexpected flight delay, travelers with autism, more than any other category of travelers can become increasingly agitated and apprehensive, requiring a plethora of activities to keep them busy and entertained.
Parents wishing to avoid the extra stress and occupy their kids if stranded at an airport should conduct a short Internet research of the options available in and around each airport during the initial travel planning stage.
Have fun in an airport museum
Airport Museum construction is on the rise and presents a win -win situation for all involved.The airport satellite locations help institutions introduce their collections to a wider more diverse audience terminals supply their frustrated travelers with a unique way to kill time and kids get to have fun and learn something new.
Outstanding domestic airport museums
Interactive kid museums and other entertainment in US airports
Many kids museums have satellite locations in airports, providing a sensory, hands-on experience for the younger travelers with autism along with much-required respite minutes to their caregivers.
Excellent U.S. places to check are:
San Francisco International Airport: Kids’ Spot (in partnership with the Exploratorium San Francisco)
Boston Logan International Airport: Kidport (in cooperation with the Children’s Museum of Boston)
Chicago O’Hare International Airport: Kids on the Fly (in collaboration with the Chicago Children’s Museum.)
International airports attractions
Singapore Changi-: features the world’s longest slide that provides a wonderful sensory outlet, swimming pool, a movie theater and as many arcades as you could dream of.
Hong Kong International Airport has its individual aviation discovery center, i-sports complex and PlayStation Gateway Center by Sony.
Auckland, New Zealand: If Singapore is the Mecca for indoor entertainment, Auckland is the ultimate destination in outdoor and back to nature pleasures.- www.butterflycreek.co.nz, just outside the airport, comes so well equipped with a butterfly house, aquarium, insect house, crocodile exhibit and farm yard.
Take an airport tour
Another great idea that combines fun and education is a ‘behind the scenes peek ‘ that teaches kids and parents the logistics behind running a big airport. Many families with autism might find this informative tour fascinating, especially those dislike or even fear crowded airports.
In fact, experiencing the tour might give some a more positive of future travel.
Most airports do require notice and an email confirmation process while some European airports like Frankfurt and Zurich conduct them daily and are easier to attend at the last minute.Noteworthy places in the US are Cleveland and Tampa airports.
Check out the Observation Decks
A once in a lifetime view of the airport grounds along with takeoff and landing runways can be enjoyed, by the aviation obsessed travelers with autism if you get to visit the few observation decks worldwide that remain open .despite the heightened security measures post 9/11.The more memorable ones are Bangkok, Thailand prides itself on being the second-biggest air terminal building in the world, and the US’ Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina: has a beautiful park located near the air traffic control tower, where one can enjoy a ‘mini picnic’ while watching the takeoff and landing of the planes.
Children’s Play Areas
Many airports have area playgrounds, mostly inside to let that extra energy. It would be an excellent idea to put in some swings to further calm individual needs little ones.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Las Vegas McCarran
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport
Nashville International Airport
Portland International Airport
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Salt Lake City
Noteworthy (domestic) airport kids play areas
Philadelphia International Airport – has a Please Touch Aviation Station
Seattle/Tacoma International Airport – large aviation-themed facility
Pittsburgh International Airport – Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood play area
Noteworthy (international) Airports with children’s’ play areas.
Glasgow Airport has Fingabox interactive screens
Halifax Stanfield International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
London Gatwick Airport South
London Heathrow Airport
Sydney Airport – There’s a kid’s cinema too.
Toronto Pearson International Airport
Vancouver International Airport has various sensory based play areas
See the city
Since many cities are relatively close to their airport, a short sampler tour might be a pleasant way to get introduced to a future vacation spot.
Geocaching is the twenty-first century GPS based treasure hunt with a twist. Individuals or groups hide caches all over the world, advertise the hidden location on the Internet and wait for GPS enthusiastic players to find the hidden item. The person/s who discover the item or items can get a variety of rewards, get to publish their ‘discovery’ on the web and are supposed to leave a treasure of their choice for the next Geo enthusiast. Although we have never gone geo-geocaching ourselves, some of my readers who have kids with autism swear their kids had fun looking for those caches and found the activity highly entertaining.
Try the local cuisine
Being stuck in an airport might become a golden opportunity to sample new foods your son or daughter with autism might not have dreamed otherwise of trying. Here are some of our ultimate favorites.
Miami ‘s Kafe Kalik that is famous for its conch fritters and Bahamian foods and La Carreta serving their famous Cubano sandwich, with roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles.
Albuquerque International Sunport: Garduno’s Chile Packing Company and Cantina has mouthwatering green chiles, machaca enchiladas, and honey-drenched sopapillas.
Boston’s Logan: Airport has three Legal options -Legal’s Test Kitchen for people on the go, Legal C Bar full menu plus beer bar, and the traditional restaurant. Personal recommendations and all time favorites are the clam chowder and lobster sandwich.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport- Brookwood Farms BBQ that many travelers claim is the best they’ve ever had.
San Francisco features Boudin’s Bakery known for its sourdough bread since 1849.
However, if the food does become a point of contention and a reason for a meltdown, head on over to the nearest McDonald’s.
Sometimes a flight delay can become that golden opportunity to brush up on the basics of personal hygiene give your kid with autism, a much-needed haircut, a mani-pedi combo, or get them to relax with a massage before the next flight.
Room for the day
Our ultimate favorite is getting a place for the day and resting a few hours at a nearby property. This way everyone in the travel party can shower, sleep, watch TV, or work on the internet. For many kids with autism a quiet place away from the airport bustle is a great way to regroup and relax.There are many hotel properties to choose from in most major airports, either part of the airport complex or adjacent but connected with walkways, like the Hilton in Chicago O’Hare or Sheraton in Frankfurt, so make sure you call them up directly and ask for their day rates.
Have you ever been stranded with your kids in an airport and found a way to occupy them? Share it with us!