When faced with a long scheduled layover or an unexpected flight delay ,autistic travelers ,more than any othercategory of travelers can become increasingly agitated and apprehensive ,requiring a plethora of activities to keep them busy and entertained.In order to avoid any stressful moments, it is important to 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
The emergence of airport museums is on the rise, and presents a win -win situation for all involved. Museums can introduce their collections to a wider more diversified audience and even sell some of their licensed merchandise, airports supply their frustrated travelers with a unique way to kill an hour or two and bored globetrotters are presented with a great opportunity to engage in an activity they might have never thought of trying otherwise.
Outstanding domestic airport museums
Many kids museums have satellite locations in airports ,providing a sensory hands on experience for younger autistic globetrotters and some much required respite minutes to their caregivers.Wonderful places to check ,among others are :
San Francisco International Airport : Kids’ Spot (in partnership with the Exploratorium of San Francisco)
Boston Logan International Airport : Kidport (in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Boston)
Chicago O’Hare International Airport : Kids on the Fly (in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Museum) .
Singapore Changi-:features the world’s longest slide that provides a wonderful sensory outlet,a swimming pool, a movie theater and as many arcades as you could possibly play at
Hong Kong International Airport has its own an aviation discover 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 .
Enjoy an airport tour
Another great idea that combines fun and education is a ‘behind the scenes peek ‘ at how the airport is actually run. Many families with autism might find this informative tour fascinating, especially those dislike or even fear crowded airports, and experiencing the tour might give them a more positive perspective of future travel.In the U.S good spots are Cleveland and ,Tampa
A once in a life time view of the airport grounds along with takeoff and landing runways, can be enjoyed ,by the aviation obsessed autistic globetrotters who do get to visit the few observation decks worldwide that remain open .despite the heightened security measures post 9/11..
Bangkok,Thailand prides itself on being the second-biggest air terminal building in the world.
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 take off and landing of the planes.
Children’s Play Areas
Many airports have area playgrounds, mostly inside to let that extra energy. It would be a wonderful idea to put in some swings to further calm special 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
Go 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.
Singapore airport leading the way by offering free Colonial, Cultural, or Lifestyle city tours
During that L.A stopover you can visit Hollywood
Toronto- city tour
Panama- 3-hour- airport-tour
Geocaching is the twenty first century GPS based treasure hunt with a twist. Basically 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 are rewarded with 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 Autistic Globetrotter 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 claim is the best they’ve ever had.
San Francisco features Boudin’s Bakery known for its sourdough bread since 1849.
However, if food does become a point of contention and a reason for a meltdown, head on over to the nearest Mcdonald’s .
This might be that golden opportunity to brush up on the basics of personal hygiene and appearance by giving your kid with autism, a much needed haircut or a mani-pedi combo, or get them to relax before the next flight with a body massage.
Get a room for the day
Saving the best for last, my ultimate favorite is getting a room for the day. This way everyone in the travel party can get what they want and need like showers, beds, TV , swimming pools and business centers with WiFi..For many autistic globetrotters a quiet place away from the airport bustle is a great way to regroup and relax. Many properties are either part of the airport complex, or adjacent but connected with walkways and tunnels, like the Hilton in Chicago O’Hare or Sheraton in Frankfurt. Search the links below for properties but contact the hotel directly and ask for day rates
Have you ever been stranded with your kids in an airport and found a way to occupy them-share with us!