Traveling alone with a baby and a toddler is no joke. Here are some unique tips that will help make your trip smoother and easier.
I can do anything I put my mind to – I really believe it. So when the opportunity came up to go to Toronto alone with the kids to visit my in-laws, I figured, it would be difficult, but I could do it.
I researched and took careful notes days before our departure date and did everything that other parents recommended. I organized the suitcase and the diaper bag strategically so that all the clothes and toiletries were on the bottom, and everything we needed in the airport and on the airplane was on top or the side pockets. I brought a carrier for Zoe and an umbrella stroller for Alex.
Yet, despite my research and careful preparation, this flight was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I definitely learned a lot, and I want to share what I have experienced so you will be better prepared than me for your trip.
Tips for Traveling with an Infant and Toddler Alone on a Plane
1. Prepare your kids emotionally for leave your significant other.
Trouble started right out of the gate…literally. Alex was going through a phase where daddy was everything, and we could not go anywhere without daddy. When we got in line in security, I was super nervous that he would be upset that daddy wasn’t coming along with us.
So imagine my relief when he sat in the stroller and came along with mommy to the security checkpoint. And then imagine my horror when Alex jumped up just as I was handing the passports and boarding passes to the TSA.
I apologized profusely as I snatched the documents from the officer’s and chased after my son. Marc tried his best to convince the airline to give him a gate pass but to no avail. Finally, we took out one of the new toys to give to Alex and that distracted him long enough for us to get past security.
Your kids may not understand why they are leaving without daddy or mommy and feel anxious about flying without both parents. Therefore, explain to your kids the scenario beforehand and maybe even do some role-playing before the big trip.
2. Don’t count on people to help you.
The umbrella stroller we brought could not be navigated without using both hands. I asked one of the airport crew to help me with the stroller or my luggage because Zoe started being fussy so I had to carry her in one arm instead of having her in a carrier.
I read that people are extremely helpful at airports. Guess what? LIES! ALL LIES! None of the crew said they could help and told me that I had to carry everything myself.
There may be kind, generous, helpful people at the airport, but don’t always count on them to be around when you need them.
3. Take out all items that might pose as a security risk out of your bag at security check.
Security stopped me to search our bags and pat me down. I guess I looked like a security threat while holding my crying infant and chasing after my toddler. 🙄
They told me that my bags had to be searched because I brought a couple of food pouches with me. I even asked several moms prior to the trip if I could bring pouches with me in the carry-on, and all moms said yes!
And guess what? My toddler never ended up eating them. Sadly, my perfectly organized bags were no longer well organized.
When in doubt, leave unessential items at home. If you want to take a chance with them, take them out of your bags at the security check. Worst case is that they do not allow them and you can throw them out.
4. Pack light.
We got to the airport early and Alex had fun rolling around his luggage. Of course, after security Alex decided he no longer wanted to roll his own luggage. Zoe was still fussy so I had to carry her with one hand while holding the luggage and stroller with another (and wearing a backpack too).
Let me tell you, all my training at the gym did not prepare me for all the weight I had to lift during this trip.
Count on at least once during the trip that you will be carrying everything. Carry your baby in a carrier so you have two hands to manage your belongings and your toddler.
If possible, ship some items over to your destination ahead of time or buy what you need when you get there.
5. Feed your kids before arriving at the airport.
I saw a place with fries near the gate and headed there right away. Alex usually loves fries, and since we don’t usually eat out, he views them as a special treat. I figured eating fries would help us pass time while waiting for the plane to arrive.
While I was waiting in line, Alex decided to make the restaurant his playground and I swear I had multiple heart attacks watching him climbing and jumping off the tables and chairs. I was so happy when the fries finally came out, but Alex was way too distracted by all the activities at the airport to sit still and eat and chose instead to run around, touching everything in sight.
Come on kid, how can you resist greasy, crunchy potatoes?
With all the excitement, don’t expect them to sit down calmly and eat a full meal at the airport. Bring lots of healthy snacks to keep their stomach happy.
6. Get lots of rest the days leading up to the trip.
Alex was in such a weird mood. It would seem as if he wanted to do everything and anything to freak me out.
At one point, he looked at me and licked a random table while we were waiting at the gate. Yuck!
I was too tired mentally and physically at that point to chastise him so I just looked at him grumpily and shook my head, which was apparently amusing.
Get as much rest as you can before the trip, because you are going to need it. Besides being physically tired, your kids will push your buttons, buttons that you didn’t even know you had.
In a highly stressful situation, you will need all the “Zen” you can muster up not to lose it at the airport.
7. Wait to board the plane.
The plane finally arrived, and Alex wanted to get on the plane right away. I knew that he would get bored sitting around waiting for takeoff, so I told him to wait after everyone boarded to get on the plane.
Meanwhile, I set Zoe down on the ground, thinking that I would change her diaper one more time before we get on the plane. Just when I took Zoe’s diaper off, I saw in the corner of my eye Alex running away from me, zipping past security, and down the walkway towards the plane.
I freaked out and ran to the door and started yelling like a mad woman for him to come back. Zoe was lying down the ground crying her head off, and all I could do was pray that she doesn’t project poop everywhere.
Finally, after promising to give him another new toy, he returned.
Amazingly, not one single person budged to help me.
Do expect your toddler to be super excited when the plane arrives, especially if it’s his first time flying. Try to hold him off so you don’t spend a lot of time on the plane waiting for take-off, but be ready to go whenever necessary (a.k.a. when your toddler cannot contain himself anymore).
8. Tire your toddler out before the flight.
While the airport was difficult, I dreaded the flight so much more. We did get lucky. Right before we got on the flight, we got upgraded to premium seats (more leg room, yay!), and they reseated us so that we had the three seats to ourselves.
After the incident at the airport with Zoe screaming and Alex running away from me, the airline probably figured that it would spare some poor soul the torture of sitting next to us.
Alex was so excited about the plane taking off that he climbed up and down the seats and kept looking over his seat at the people behind us. I tried to get him to close his eyes and go to sleep because the plane was still dark at the time (they turn on the light after take-off) and it was already past his bedtime. However, my hyper toddler could not even sit still, forget to try to sleep!
Your toddler will be extra excited due to the flight, so your toddler needs extra help settling down for the night. Tire your toddler out physically as much as possible before the flight. It might be worth letting him/her skip the afternoon nap if you think that he/she could handle it and not be overtired by the time the plane takes off.
9. Pack a variety of toys and activities.
After trying to appease an energetic Alex for an hour on the plane, I gave up and took out the backup plan – the iPad.
Of course, my kid has to be the one kid on earth who doesn’t care about the iPad. We are not big on screen time so this was the first time we gave him an iPad to play with, and I thought he would be overjoyed. Instead, he played each game for 1 min max and then gave me back the iPad.
Do not count on any one toy to entertain your kid. Pack a variety of toys for the flight because you never know which one will work to calm down a super excited toddler. For us, it ended up being a moose and a bear figurine – who knew?
10. Bring extra diapers and wipes.
Usually, Zoe only poops during the night, so I thought I was safe after that last diaper change at the airport. However, she decided that mommy needed more stress and pooped not once, not twice, but THREE times within two hours.
Each time I tried to convince Alex to come to the bathroom with me, but he refused. I probably could have asked the flight attendant to watch Alex while I ran to the bathroom with Zoe, but I was too paranoid that Alex would freak out without me and make a big scene.
I ended up laying the changing pad across the seats, kneeled on the floor, and changed Zoe while Alex bounced up and down on his seat like a trampoline.
I packed extra disposable changing sheets so that I could just chuck them after use, which made things a lot easier than folding up the changing pad and putting it back in my luggage when I was in a cramped space.
11. Pack extra clothes for yourself.
Zoe fell asleep at one point after crying for a while, then all the sudden she woke up and projectile vomited all over me and herself. I was SOAKED.
I somehow convinced Alex to follow me to the bathroom, where I changed a sleepy, screaming Zoe and myself.
The good news was that I brought extra clothes; the bad news was that I did not bring extra underwear. After a couple of minutes, Alex got impatient because the bathroom was so small for three of us and almost opened the door and ran out while I was butt naked.
It’s hard to remember to pack for yourself when you are packing for two little humans but this one is critical. I was lucky that Zoe didn’t end up having a blowout and pooping all over me, but her projectile vomiting definitely made up for it. A long flight while sitting in curdled breastmilk would not have been fun.
12. Pack your toddler’s favorite sleeping item.
We got Alex this cute neck pillow for sleeping. It was a nice, cozy lion that I would have loved to use if it fit me. Alex didn’t even want to try it because he didn’t want something touching his neck. Then when bedtime came around, he couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep and kept shifting and trying different positions.
Finally, 3 hours after his normal bedtime, he fell asleep.
Pack your toddler’s favorite pillow, blanket, stuffed animal, or whatever item that your toddler associates with sleep for the flight. This will help set the mood for him/her to sleep. If you are planning to use a neck pillow, take it out a couple of weeks before the flight and let him/her use it during car rides so that he/she gets used to having it around his/her neck and resting his/her head on it to sleep.
13. Ask for extra blankets and pillows at the beginning of the flight.
We landed about 1.5 hours later. My arms were killing me from holding Zoe the whole time, but I would die before I risk waking her up mid-flight.
By the time the plane landed, my arms felt like they were going to fall off and I lost feeling in some of my fingers.
You never know when you might need some extra blankets and pillows to help your toddler sleep or to support your arms while holding your baby.
Finally, We Landed.
I waited until everybody got off the plane, then asked the stewardess to help get my luggage and the stroller. Finally, helpful people!!! One of them offered to hold Zoe while I put on the carrier, and I transferred Alex from his seat to the stroller. I almost kissed one of the stewardesses when she offered to help wheel my luggage for me to customs.
Alex woke up while we were at customs and started to cry. He was super tired, but he was having trouble staying asleep in the tiny stroller. We went past customs and I sped walk towards the exit.
We had to walk past a huge swarm of people at baggage claim before reaching the exit. Multiple planes must have landed at similar times because the baggage claim area was packed. Zoe was screaming in the carrier, and Alex looked like he was about to throw the biggest fit ever.
As I walked towards the crowd, people stared at me with huge eyes as if I had a ticking bomb in my hands, and cleared the way as I hurried towards the exit. I felt like I was Moses and had the power to part the Red Sea as people backed away from me slowly left and right.
So I completed my first trip with the kids by myself, and I survived… barely.
What are some of your experiences flying alone with the kids? Any helpful tips?