Travel with the Sunflower Lanyard – How it Works

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This article details our experience using the sunflower lanyard while travelling extensively with our son, who has a hidden disability.

We picked up a sunflower lanyard at Cork Airport in Ireland and have used it for every trip since.

Travel with the Sunflower Lanyard Featured Image

My youngest son has autism and ADHD. These are hidden disabilities.

You can’t see them when you look at him, but he struggles intensely with loud noises, big crowds, standing in queues, and disruptions to routine.

When overwhelmed by these things, he starts to melt down, which can lead to him vomiting and feeling very ill.

On top of the regular pressures of travel, it’s almost too much to bear for any family.

You wouldn’t be wrong in asking why on earth we even bother to travel because it really is so hard.

But tools like the sunflower lanyard have made travelling so much easier and given me hope that we can continue to travel as a family.

So, for those who aren’t familiar with the sunflower lanyard, here is a quick overview of what it is and how it works.

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard – What Is It?

Travel with the Sunflower Lanyard

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is a symbol that indicates to others that someone has a hidden disability, such as autism, anxiety, or a chronic illness.

Here are some of the most common questions people have about the Sunflower Lanyard:

What is the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard?

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is a bright green lanyard featuring a small sunflower design, which indicates to others that the wearer has a hidden disability.

The lanyard is not attached to a card or tag, but you could add one.

Maybe parents of autistic kids add sensory toys or name tags, anything helpful.

Ours came attached to a Cork airport tag, so we’ve kept that there for now.

If you are in the UK, the Hidden Disabilities Store has the best range of cards and lanyards available (for a small cost). You can visit their website here.

Where Did the Sunflower Lanyard Idea Originate From?

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard scheme was created by Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom in 2016.

The airport Accessibility team recognised that many of their passengers with hidden disabilities were often overlooked and that many struggled to communicate their needs or to receive appropriate support.

They started to explore the idea of using a symbol and engaged with local and national charities to assess whether the concept would benefit people with hidden disabilities.

After discussions with various organizations and individuals, the Sunflower was chosen as a symbol to indicate that a person has a hidden disability and may require additional support or assistance.

Who can wear the Sunflower Lanyard?

Anyone who has a hidden disability can wear the Sunflower Lanyard. This includes people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.

What does the Sunflower Lanyard mean?

The Sunflower Lanyard indicates that the wearer has a hidden disability and may need additional support, patience, or understanding in certain situations.

Where can I get a Sunflower Lanyard?

Sunflower Lanyards are available for free from many organisations, such as airports, train stations, and supermarkets.

You can also purchase them online from various retailers.

Do I need to disclose my disability to wear the Sunflower Lanyard?

No, you do not need to disclose your disability to wear the Sunflower Lanyard. It is a voluntary symbol, and the wearer can choose whether or not to explain the meaning behind it.

Will wearing the Sunflower Lanyard give me any special privileges or access?

No, wearing the Sunflower Lanyard does not provide any special privileges or access.

It serves as a visual cue to others that the wearer has a hidden disability and may need additional support or understanding.

What should I do if I see someone wearing a Sunflower Lanyard?

If you see someone wearing a Sunflower Lanyard, you can offer your support and understanding.

You may also want to give them additional space or time if needed and be patient and accommodating in any interactions you have with them.

Our Experience Using the Sunflower Lanyard

Chilling in the lounge at DFW.

So now you are up to speed on what the Sunflower lanyard is and how it is used, I would like to share our experience using it on our recent travels.

I am listing by airport visited; this list will grow as our experience widens.

Cork, Ireland

We departed from a very relaxed Cork airport in the low season, so we didn’t need a lot of help.

However, the baggage screening staff checked in with us, asking if everything was okay and if we needed any help.

Valencia, Spain

Arrival in this airport was fine, very relaxed again, and no help was needed.

Departure was during a busier time, and we used the special assistance option to board first (Ryanair recognises the Sunflower lanyard, as per their link here).

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin has their own program and doesn’t officially participate in the sunflower lanyard scheme, BUT in our experience, they make the same accommodations.

We were allowed in the special assistance line to have our hand luggage screened and then brought to the front when we went through US Preclearance (available in Dublin airport and an absolute godsend when flying to the States).

We were allowed to board first, and staff were regularly chatting with us and checking in to see if we were ok or needed any help.

Irish hospitality is next-level amazing.

Information about Dublin’s very own Important Flyer scheme can be found here

Orlando, United States

We arrived at MCO on New Year’s Eve, and it was chaotic; however, the US Preclearance meant we didn’t need any extra time or to skip any queues.

Dallas Fort Worth, United States

The agent at baggage screening at DFW corralled us into the regular queue for screening, even after I told him and showed him that we had the lanyard. No special assistance was offered.

Sydney, Australia

Transfer airport – were allowed to the front of the (very long) queue, which was fabulous after a 16hr50m flight from Dallas.

No dramas or questions, I quickly asked if they recognise the lanyard, and they responded by bringing us to the front of the queue.

Christchurch, New Zealand

We arrived in Christchurch, a relaxing airport regardless and didn’t require much accommodation as there were no queues.

The customs officer was friendly to my kids, but that’s normal.

I will update you next time we fly out of Christchurch.

Share Your Experience

Have you flown with the Sunflower Lanyard and had a good experience (or otherwise)?

I am opening comments in this article for people to share their experiences using the sunflower lanyard. I would love it if you could share your experience with as much helpful detail as possible.

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.