Allison had been in our arms for less than 72 hours when we found ourselves boarding a flight home.
The ink on the paperwork was still wet as I juggled the tiny bundle in my arms breathlessly making my way down the aisle of the overcrowded plane.
Six weeks old, terribly underweight and almost impossible to feed with a cleft palate – she was hungry and starting to scream.
The fright on the faces of fellow passengers is funny now, but at the time I was mortified.
It's been more than 14 years since that trip.
Since that day we've learned so much about traveling with a child who has multiple special needs. (Some of this will apply to infants through preschool age as well.)
It all starts with the planning. Walk yourself through the trip and start with how many days you'll be gone.
Getting to the airport 15 minutes before flight departure doesn’t happen in our post 9/11 era.
Because our daughter has medical needs, we are allowed a “medical supply box” to be checked. We have never had an airline charge us for this service, but call ahead and let them know you are bringing one.
We include this with our call notifying them that we will have a wheelchair to check at the gate. We also ask for an aisle chair for pre-boarding.
We pack cans of formula for every day plus one in order to be safe.
We do the same with diapers, wipes, chux pads, g-tube supplies and medicine.
This gets packed in a box with printed signs that say “Medical Supplies” with our last name and her first initial.
TSA goes through it every time.
Beware that they will open it up, but they'll close with tape before it gets put on the plane.
On the way home we pack what ever is left with our dirty clothes and tape the box back up.
When it comes to packing carry-on luggage, we bring at least a day's worth of supplies with us. I've only been questioned by one TSA agent about needing “that much” formula.
Plan on checking in a little earlier than you normally would.
The screening can take a little longer because of the wheelchair; Allison always gets a pat down.
Here is where you need to bring your best attitude along. There is nothing to gain with being cranky with the agents.
They are doing their job to keep us safe and unless they are really out of line, getting all fussed up about the process doesn't help anyone.
I find that being friendly, asking them about their day and being cooperative helps things go smoothly.
Answering questions with the least bit of irritation possible will help get you through quicker.
Pack as light as possible.
Life is already complicated enough with small children or kiddos with special needs. Having to keep track of extra toys and changes of clothing only complicates matters.
Budget for those things you may have to buy when you get to your destination or even for airport food. My oldest daughter found out on the last trip that her bare bones, tasteless sandwich at the airport cost more than a whole meal at Disneyland.
We were stuck with a delayed flight, so our plans to eat when we landed fell through.
It always helps me to book our hotel near a shopping center. That information should be easy enough to find online or by calling your hotel directly.
The most important thing is knowing the rules ahead of time.
All airlines are different, but the security rules are all the same.
Make sure to call your air carrier with questions before you go and communicate all special needs in advance.
They will gladly inform you of any policies you need to be aware of as well as make a notation in the computer so the local crew can help out.
We love our vacations! They are never incident free, but with planning and forethought, you really can have the time away you need.