Mighty Blog

Tips for traveling with a medically complex child

With summer underway, many families are planning to do some traveling during these months. But, not all vacations are stress-free – especially if you have a child with medical needs, traveling can be complicated.

We’re here to provide you with some resources for traveling with a child with medical needs. And, you will hear from the Mendoza family about their recent travel experience.

Resources for traveling

TSA Cares

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, “TSA Cares is designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions and others who may need additional assistance with screening.”

Learn more about the TSA Cares program.

Navigating MSP Program

According to the MSP airport website, “Navigating MSP was created to allow people to practice unique airport experiences – including security screening, boarding, and fastening your seatbelt – before you fly.”

The Navigating MSP program aids families of children with special needs by offering a comprehensive and developmentally-appropriate guide to the air travel experience. The program, sponsored by the Autism Society of Minnesota, Fraser and the Metropolitan Airports Commission. It is currently offered on a monthly basis and families can register via the website.

This program provides an opportunity for a family to go to the airport for a tour, get their questions answered specific to traveling with their child and get on airplane with a full flight crew so the official trip day is less anxiety-producing for everyone.

Learn more about the Navigating MSP program.

The Mendoza family shares their experience with these resources

The Mendoza family, a patient family at Children’s Minnesota, recently used both TSA Cares and the Navigating MSP Program during their travel. Mom, Christie Mendoza, shares their experience below.

The Mendoza family travel

“We were able to utilize both programs recently. Our family of four flew to Washington D.C. in June [2023] to participate in Family Advocacy Day, to meet lawmakers and advocate for pediatric health care needs. We attended the monthly Navigating MSP event in May to prepare for the trip, and got help from TSA Cares on the day of travel in June.”

Alexa Mendoza and her brother on an airplane

Sharing the specifics about each program

Christie shares more about the specifics of each program they used.

About Navigating MSP Program

“We were greeted by volunteers when we arrived at the airport. While us parents checked in and got security passes, the kids got to pick out stuffed animals to bring home, and also got to meet some very sweet therapy dogs. A volunteer walked us through an expedited security line, gave us a tour of the airport (including all the best kid-friendly spots), and connected us with TSA agents and flight crew to answer questions specific to our child’s needs. We then got to board a plane, let the kids check out the seats and the restroom – and the kids even got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot.”

About TSA Cares

“A TSA agent called me prior to our trip to discuss our child’s specific needs and our concerns. Then on the day of travel, that same agent met us at the door when we arrived, helped us to bypass the long lines for check in and security, and assisted in ensuring we got all medical supplies through security quickly and easily.”

Alexa Mendoza on the flight meeting the pilot

The importance of these programs

“These programs made travel with a medically complex child so much easier. Because we were able to participate in these programs, our family was able to enjoy our first time traveling together without all the unknowns and stresses we would have had otherwise. These programs make air travel possible for families that maybe would not otherwise feel comfortable traveling with a child with special needs.”

Alexa Mendoza at the airport with a pet therapy dog
Alexandra Rothstein