There are many posts and articles on traveling and special needs. I'm going to give you my take.
Traveling in general can be difficult. Traveling with a child with a disability, for me, sometimes feels like double, almost triple the work. Mostly because it can be unpredictable and I have to be prepared both mentally and physically for any scenario that can occur.
Tantrum's and emotional outbursts are our newest challenge for us and it is very unpredictable, which can make things more stressful.
One of the first things I do when booking airline tickets, is to alert the airline. I think its important to inform the airline staff of any developmental and/or medical disability. Although this is not necessary, it is just a good idea.
Most airlines make special arrangements and exceptions for special needs. For example having to go through airport security can be less of a hassle if airlines know ahead of time. Experiences we have encountered, is my son hasn't had to take his shoes off or has been able to bypass security check all together.
When he had medical equipment, learning what I needed to do with these items, ahead of time was very helpful, and of course don't forget a doctors letter indicating your child's disability and any medications needed to carry on the plane is always a plus to get thru security quicker.
Know the airport you will be visiting if you haven't been there before, (you can usually get a map of the airport on the airlines website) noting where the baggage claim is, taxi service or rental cars are ahead of time instead of stopping and trying to figure things out on the fly can get you in/out and to your destination as soon as you can.
Security: check out TSA security guideline's here. There is a small printout you can give with medical condition and disability you can hand to the TSA agent. Or you can apply for TSA pre-check.
Examples: there is the ever so trustworthy iPad, we don't go anywhere without it (note: be sure to download any movies or games needed prior to flying NEVER count on having wi-fi access on an airplane, it is very spotty. That route has never worked out well for us.) currently my sons other interests are are drawing (well having me draw) and cutting out the drawing (and YES you CAN carry a scissors on the plane if its less then 5 inches, found that out the hard way)... silly putty is always fun, Also, depending on the "mood" and if he is focused, lots of social stories on what to expect during and after the flight and the rest of vacation can be helpful.
Altho most airline do a good job with disabilities. I have to give a shout of to one of my favorite airlines, JetBlue for personal reasons they have done the best job accommodating my son and his disabilitie. There are also many posts/stories on why many parents prefer JetBlue.
Also, there is a program called "Wing's for Autism" Check out this website for upcoming programs. We just recently went. They did a good job with mimicking what happens on a rail flight. Our son got to meet the pilots and go into the cockpit.
Here is a great resource from Autism Speaks on other Air Travel resources.
For those of you who are going to amusement parks such at Six Flags, Disney, Universal Studios etc. Be sure to check in with their guest services as soon as you arrive, most will have disability passes and/or accommodations. Some even now have sensory break areas to make your visit more enjoyable.
Taking these steps is a great way to ensure your travel plans run as smoothly as possible.
If anyone has any other tips on traveling please comment below and share...