Are you planning on traveling this fall or for the upcoming holidays? You cannot be too early in your preparations if you have Tourette Syndrome (TS) or are traveling with someone who has TS. Extra preparation can make the trip much smoother.
Traveling can be stressful for everyone. Air travelers are subject to long lines, cumbersome security measures that often invade one’s personal space, canceled flights, and fellow passengers that are sometimes agitated. Then there is COVID and the on-going questions about masking and sanitization. There are ways to alleviate some of the stress but often unexpected situations pop-up and things can get difficult in a hurry. If someone has tics or outward behaviors that might draw the wrong kind of attention, an already stressful situation can escalate. Here are some tips for travelers with TS and their travel partners.
Try These Tips Next Time You Travel
- If possible, fly off-peak—that’s Wednesdays, followed by Tuesdays.
- Sign up for TSA Pre-check. You will wait in line less time and be relieved of some of the security line demands. Plan for this months in advance!
- Select the seats that work for you.
- If you feel comfortable, let the airline know your situation in advance and, where possible, book special assistance in advance. Special assistance teams can help you get through security, get to your gate, and board your plane.
- Help is also available for the security process. The TSA website has a program called “TSA Cares” for those traveling with a disability or medical condition. Complete this application this weeks in advance, if possible, and be advised that you must follow up 72 hours in advance of your travel dates.
- At Newark Airport (and others), the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is available. It is for passengers with hidden disabilities including, but not limited to autism, PTSD, and hearing loss. This lanyard communicates that the passenger may need some extra help while traveling. It is recognized in a growing number of international airports.
- You can attach to your lanyard a TS Identification Card that provides information about Tourette Syndrome. This can help to alleviate some of the pressure from you. You can either make your own or use the one that NJCTS provides.
- Try to be super organized. Have the items and activities that help you or your travel companion cope with tics and stress handy and easily accessible such as headphones, eye mask etc. In the blog Tourette’s Hero “Have Tics, Will Travel,” the author has many tips, and advises that one travel with a letter detailing his or her diagnoses and explaining what one’s tics may look and sound like.
- In addition, if you feel comfortable, arrive early enough to let the airline employees at the gate and on the plane know exactly what the situation is and what tics or behaviors might come up. Let the attendant know if you are fine with letting the passengers around you know as well.
- If you are worried about the way airline and security staff might respond to your TS, explain your condition quickly and straightforwardly. Write a note to show them if you think you might have difficulty expressing it (this is where the lanyard and attached TS Information Card can come in handy!)
- Lastly, consider using a travel agent who is versed in all the services available and the advance planning that is necessary to avail yourself of them.
Don’t worry, if you cannot plan weeks in advance, the airport and security services are still available to you and many of these tips can be prepared with short notice.