This week we bring you a few articles on how to manage “cabin fever”. With the cold seemingly never stopping, our article will look at ways to utilize the home time to your advantage. (Look for this later in the week.) My travels and many hours spent on an airplane have motivated a slight variation — how to manage a disability on an airplane.
Today I am writing you after a very long trip. The seatbelt sign is illuminated due to turbulence in air and I am ready to be home. Having been in an airport more than twenty-four hours over the past seventy-two hours, I am fading fast. I am also thinking about my clients, who often travel with young children with disabilities and have to maneuver through airports, airplanes and delicately get through cabin fever during their travels. Here are some complied tricks from BeyondTutoring, my firm’s clients and some flight attendants on Delta, who have graciously allowed me some of their time during these travels.
Food and Snacks: I always pack food snacks and snack packs when I am traveling. Just recently, I packed a few avocados and some Himalayan sea salt for the first leg of this long journey. I bought a hot and cold bag or insulated grocery bag for my journey and keep it full of healthy and filling snacks. Families can pack sandwiches, salads, (keep a dressing in a three- ounce container) canned tuna and avocados for a really rich and delicious treat. Another great treat is dehydrated fruits and vegetables. The sky is really the limit in terms of how much fun you can make this. I like getting cookie cutters (in the shapes of airplanes) and having an airplane-themed airplane picnic. Make sure you keep this snacks balanced and full of nourishing protein and fat. Although sugar snacks are easy and accessible, they will aggravate most cognitive disabilities.
Visualization: Your child, no matter what his exceptionality, probably has a lot of play energy while traveling. Physical play is not always possible when the seatbelt sign is fastened. If your child is having cabin fever, try some mental agility work. Ask him or her to go on a verbal vacation with you. Ask about his or her ideas about traveling and have the child imagine what it would be like at different destinations.
Inform your flight crew or airline provider: In this matter, I suggest you call ahead or speak to the gate agent. This is one of the few times I would use either the word disability or specific condition or disease and how they would suggest accommodating the situation. The gate agent will often give you a prime spot or an upgrade.
Send a messenger: There is a lot more freedom in the terminal than on a plane. If two parents are traveling with children, have one parent go with the luggage and get “set up” as the other does a final bathroom run and hang out in the terminal. The anxiety and sitting without going anywhere can produce anxiety and agitation in some.
Stock up on supplies: Movies, card games, flashcards, activities, crafts — are just a few of the activities to keep your kids’ minds working and cabin fever at bay. Write a list out before your travels so you can avoid the dreaded, “MOOOOOOOOM, I’M BOOOORRRRED.” One of the families I work with made a plane “documentary” — memorializing travel in a series of vignettes.
Get allies: I do not know if I have written a list without stressing the importance of allies and advocates and this one is no different. While I am not advocating a care package or baked goods for all your neighboring passengers, (unless you have time) find the most sympathetic face or ear and let that person know the situation. These allies will be your most zealous advocates, if your child gets rowdy, to less patient passengers.
Give yourself a break: Above all, give yourself a break. It’s hard enough traveling alone, then add on traveling with children or even children with disabilities. Everyone has to be accommodated in some way in a travel environment and the airlines are trained and willing to help.
Wishing you safe travels and Bon Voyage!