Traveling alone with a baby or toddler
There’s no reason why you need to stay at home and miss out on all the fun and adventure, when traveling alone with a baby or toddler is more achievable than you think.
Whether you’re parenting on your own, your partner is unable to travel, or they need to leave early from your vacation, I’ve got 10 great tips for flying alone with a baby or toddler that’s going to get you there with less stress.
Now I’m not going to promise it’s going to be easy because what was the last thing you did (especially with a toddler) that was easy? But it’s achievable.
If it makes you feel any better, often the best age to fly alone with kids is up to six months old. They don’t need much in the way of food or entertainment, they sleep a lot, and don’t take up much room, so can sleep on you or in a bassinet.
So on that note, are you up for the challenge? I know you can do it.
Here are some of my best tips on how to fly alone with a baby or toddler.
Choose your airline
All airlines are not the same and you’ll need to decide based on your needs, not just your bank balance, what airline to fly. Low cost airlines have less seat and legroom and you’re unlikely to get any assistance if you run into trouble. And on the other end of the spectrum are full service airlines that are more likely to have things like strollers for the airport and a spare nappy for the explosion your baby waited to unload on the plane. Some airlines even have sky nannies, which won’t take baby off your hands to give you a rest, but will help out.
Airport drop off and pick up
Get one of your family or friends to take you to the airport and help you make it through check-in. It’ll make all the difference. And when you arrive at the other end, see if you can get someone to pick you up. Or at the very least know exactly what transport you’re going to use when you arrive.
If it all possible, get a direct flight to your destination. Getting kids off and onto another plane is a hassle and something you want to avoid if possible.
But if you have to stopover, try to keep it at two to three hours, so you don’t miss your next flight, but you’re not going crazy stuck in an airport. And if you’re going to be stuck in the airport alone with a baby, then see if you can organise a pass or membership to an airline lounge. It’ll be your little piece of sanity to regroup.
Pack light for onboard
Being prepared is one thing but overpacking will end up being a burden to you. Take a small backpack for you onboard the plane with snacks, nappies, change of clothes(for baby and you), and a few things to entertain everyone. And if you group these and put them into a packing cell, ziplock bag, stuff sack or similar, you’ll find it super simple to find what you need (rather than taking five minutes to find that quickly needed toy that fell down the bottom of the bag).
If your toddler is old enough, they could carry a backpack as well with some of their stuff inside.
Remember, when you’re traveling with a baby or toddler alone, going through security will be a bit tricker, so leave your belt and metal jewellery at home, wear slip on shoes, and make it easy to present electronics and liquids at security by grouping them together at the top of your bag.
Go hands free
Putting your baby in a baby carrier or sling harness to navigate the airport and board your plane is great because it means you have free hands to deal with other kids, passports, and your bags. A carrier or sling is also great if you have a lap baby, so you can sleep.
If you’d rather use a stroller, take a look at whether you can use the airline or airport’s strollers at departure and arrivals. Otherwise, you can often take a small collapsible stroller into the plane, but always check this first with your airline.
Getting your baby or toddler to sleep
When you’re on your own you want your baby to sleep as much as possible. For a long-haul flight with baby, I’d recommend paying for the bulkhead seat and bassinet. If you don’t pay for it, then someone else likely will, meaning you won’t get a bassinet.
You can also use your child’s car seat on many (but not all) flights. Check with your airline.
Another option is to use a seat extender pillow which you inflate onboard the plane. Check with the airline whether you can use them and in what seats.
The last option is the classic let your baby or toddler sleep on you. For this, make sure you have a pillow and some good support so you don’t end up with a dead arm, and a sore neck or back.
Should you buy a plane seat for baby?
Children under the age of two can fly on your lap but think carefully before you agree to this. If it’s a short flight, it’s not such a big deal. But if you’re going to need to feed yourself or your baby or toddler, or you need to move, or do anything, then having them on your lap is going to make things REALLY difficult. Also consider how tired your arms and body are going to be if you need to hold them for the entire time if they’re a lap baby.
Accept help from others
If someone offers you help while you’re traveling alone with kids, then take it, if it’s going to help you in any way. And if and when you need help, ask for it. Whether it’s the person sitting next to you, the flight attendant, or the person standing in front of you at the baggage carousel. The worst that can happen is they say no. The best that can happen is they help make your day a little easier.
Remember the documentation
If you’re traveling alone with baby/toddler, be sure to bring documentation. A birth certificate may be required to fly domestically, and a passport and a letter of consent to fly without the other parent if you’re flying international with a baby.
If you can’t get a letter of consent and you require documentation, you’ll need to look at bringing something along the lines of custody or court orders, or adoption papers. Make sure you check the entry requirements with the appropriate embassy or consulate you’re visiting.
Preparation is key
The best thing you can do when flying alone with a toddler or baby is to be prepared. Put together a plan of what you’ll need, what time you need to be where, and how you’re going to do it, and everything will be okay.
If you want some help to prepare you for your trip, I’ve laid out everything you need to do step-by-step inside the Family Trips Made Easy Academy. Take a look at how it can help you travel easier, cheaper and better with kids.
Have a good flight.