Things you must do when flying alone with your child.
My two year old son, Camden, and I are currently in Michigan visiting my mom and dad. Because we don’t have family where we live in Charlotte I’ve been flying with Camden by myself since he was five months old. He’s flown domestic and international. Some trips have been fine. Others have been anxiety-ridden…filled with screaming fits and entire bags of food dumped in the aisle. Each time we travel together I feel more confident, partly because he’s getting older, but also because of better preparation and learning from past travel experiences (good and bad).
Traveling alone with your infant or toddler can seem terrifying for a mom who’s never done it before. The anxiety really amps if the toddler is strong-willed like mine. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the stress of traveling with your mini:
1) Before you book your ticket make sure you read the airline’s regulations for traveling with infants. Different airlines have different rules.
2) If your child is under 2 and you aren’t purchasing a ticket for him make sure you let the airline know your child’s name and birth-date so they can add “infant in arms” to your ticket. I forgot once and it was a massive deal for security.
3) Seat assignments. When my son was an infant I always chose an aisle for easiest access to the bathroom. Now that he’s older I book the middle and window seats so that he can look out the window. If your child is over 2 years it’s proper etiquette to put yourself between your child and the other person in your row. It’s one thing for your seatmates to have to put up with crying, it’s quite another if they are being kicked and their space is being invaded by your toddler throwing a tantrum. Also, sometimes you may not be able to assign seats online for your and your little one (like when you’re paying with points). This happened to me and made me uneasy. Call the airline and explain that you really need your seats assigned ahead of time because it’s too stressful to try and get this done with a child at the ticket counter.
4) When booking your tickets, consider traffic volume on the way to the airport along with business travelers at the airport. Try not to fly in the morning during the week because the airport is usually packed with business commuters who are short on patience rushing to make their flights. If you are flying during the week then aim for afternoon. My favorite time to travel with Camden is early afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday.
5) Consider investing in TSA Precheck. It’s around $80 but beyond worth it when you are carting around a child, stroller, carry-on, laptop, toys, etc and sweating bullets. Plus it’s easier than ever to apply for TSA Pre because they have satellite application locations in almost every city. Apply for it here.
6) Security now allows liquid baby formula, water to mix your baby formula and breast milk to go though the check point. But be sure you let the officer know you are carrying it (and remove the liquid container from your bag to show them) before your bag goes through the x-ray. If you don’t they will flag your bag and make you do a check. If you are flying with a toddler then pack two empty sippy cups so you can go get juice or water once you are through security. I say two because there is a good chance that one will get lost in transit.
7) The Right Stroller is Key! Even if you have TSA Pre you will need to collapse your stroller and put it on the security belt. GET A ONE HAND FOLD STROLLER. It makes all the difference!! I had an umbrella stroller for air travel that took two hands to collapse when my son was just learning to walk. He fell while I was trying to collapse the stroller at security. Get a stroller that does some of the heavy lifting for you. It should be light, easy to maneuver, have a sizable basket at the bottom to hold your carry-on/diaper bag and have cup holders. I am in love with my Graco LiteRider Click Connect Stoller.
8) Once you find your gate and if you are killing time consider finding an empty gate nearby so your toddler can run around and burn off some energy. Some airports have play areas, but empty seating makes a wonderful playscape.
9) What to pack? Beyond the diapers, wipes, child’s change of clothes, iPad, toys and snacks here are a couple things that will be a huge help. Remember to make a mental note of where things are in your bag so can find them. The more necessary the item, the easier it should be to get to.
- Clear gallon storage bags. Put two diapers, your wipes, powder and a folded gallon storage bag inside another gallon storage bag. If your child should go to the bathroom while on the plane it’s so much easier for you to just take the clear bag into the micro-sized airplane bathroom then having to lug a huge diaper bag. Also, after you change your babe, put the dirty diaper in the spare gallon storage bag and then put in the bathroom garbage. No smell. Everyone who goes to use the bathroom post diaper change will thank you.
- Child headphones to watch movies on the iPad.
- A hoodie and socks for your little one. Planes often get cold so make sure your child has warm clothes.
- Healthy snacks for you. Mothers make sure their children have food, but then remember we haven’t eaten all day. This is a recipe for making bad, high-sugar food choices. My favorite “mom” airplane snacks are 100 calorie packs of raw almonds, baby carrots, Kashi honey almond flax bars, Think Thin brownie crunch bars, Kind Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt bars and anything by Chia Warrior.
- Movies and TV shows: Ok you don’t pack these, but you need to be sure they are downloaded before you get to the airport. Gogo Inflight, which is the wifi on all major flights, does not support Netflix or iTunes downloads during flight. It’s not fast enough so it is critical that you have your entertainment downloaded ahead of time. A word on Gogo wifi. Set up an account in advance so once you are on the plane all you need to do is enter your username and password. Every minute counts when you are trying to keep the peace with your child so the faster you can get online the better.
10) Do not pack kids’ snacks that can melt or stain. Just a bad idea.
11) If you are traveling with an infant, make sure the baby is drinking something at take off. The sucking will help relieve the pressure in their ears. If your child is a toddler give them a wide sucker so make a sucking motion to relieve pressure. Yes it’s solid sugar but it beats them being in pain.
12) If your child starts crying remember that all children cry and most people on the plane just block out the noise and/or sympathize. Almost everyone wears headphones. And if you are in a situation where you are sitting next to
a jack ass someone who is not understanding, then hold your head high and tell yourself that they must be miserable in all other areas of their life too. Say a little prayer for them that they find happiness. Be proud that you are making this journey with your child (YOU ARE A WARRIOR) and that the tantrum is temporary.
Do you have any tips you use while traveling with your child? Please comment and let me know. I will definitely keep them in mind on my trip home! xx CC
When you fly somewhere, what do you do about a car seat once you get there? Will airlines place them with stored luggage? Do they count as a piece of stored luggage, extra charge? Are they rentable at rent a cars? How did you travel with a stroller, car seat and luggage?
Hi Kat. From my experience car seats do not count as a piece of checked luggage (no extra $$) but I would be sure to check with the airline your flying. Yes, they are available to rent at the rental car place.
Sarahlen paSajol says
Travelling alone with my 12month old in a few days. 7hr flight. This is so helpful
I’m so glad. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave feedback for me. C