Top Ten Tricks to Surviving Flying Alone with a Toddler

Flying alone with a toddler

Please excuse the cell phone quality photo. This was definitely taken at the start of the trip, you can tell because I don’t look totally exhausted yet.

Unfortunately my husband and I live across the country from our parents, which results in lots of airplane flights home. Since my husband is also a full time student I often end up taking our boy alone on these flights to visit the grandparents.  We just got back from our most recent excursion and I thought I would jot down my tips for surviving flying alone with a toddler since summer is upon us and it’s prime time to brave the airlines.

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1. Pack light and check as much luggage as you can.

It might be worth that $25 fee to not have to watch, haul, and maneuver your suitcase while chasing your toddler down the terminal or trying to get your little one settled in their seat.

2. Make sure you can handle everything you’re bringing by yourself before you’re standing helplessly at the TSA check point.

I ended up pushing my boy in a stroller, which I had tied the car seat to the back of with a little strap, while carrying a backpack and pulling a suitcase. I could maneuver it around but it was a huge pain, and trying to haul all of it around while my boy was trying to get some energy out before the flight was a joke. (See number 1)

3. Have all your liquids in a plastic bag on the top of your diaper bag to speed up going through security.

Strollers, car seats, diaper bag, and everything else you can image have to go through security, which will probably mean a little bit of unpacking and repacking.  Make it as easy as possible on yourself; having all your liquids in a plastic bag on the top of your diaper bag is a lifesaver, (and know you can bring all kinds of liquids for babies and kids, so pack up that milk. Most airlines will let you bring 70 oz of liquid, but double check with yours.)

4. Consider a toddler leash.

They have cute backpack ones that make your child look less like a pet, and having one gives you the option of freeing up your hands for a few seconds without having to worry about losing your child.  This is extremely useful when trying to get situated after going through security or while collapsing a stroller, for a gate check, before getting on the airplane.

5. Bring a car seat and stroller if you need them

Most airlines will let you bring both a car seat and a stroller at no extra charge, they consider them an assisitive device (but double check with your airline, a few of them will let you bring one or the other, but not both).  Bring the stroller you want to use for your whole trip, don’t bring a light one just to conserve space.

6. Don’t check your car seat

Even though it’s a pain to haul around, I would highly suggest not checking your car seat. You don’t know what’s going to happen to it between being check and getting it loaded on the plane (micro cracks from it being dropped or dirt from it falling out of the transport vehicle etc.) and you definitely don’t want to get to your destination and have your car seat lost along the way.  You can gate check it when you get on the plane, and if you’re lucky, and if they have an extra seat, they might let you bring it on the plane for your child to sit in at no extra charge.

7. Ask if there are any extra seats on the flight

If you’re traveling with a lap child ALWAYS ask if there are any extra seats on the flight. If there are, the airline will often move people around so you can have the extra seat. More space for you and your tot makes the flight go so much better.

8. Be prepared to entertain, possibly for hours. *sigh*

Don’t underestimate the power of a cell phone or tablet to help here.  Fill it with new games and favorite games, home videos of your child and anything else that your child might find entertaining. Will your child watch a movie?  Consider getting a portable DVD player, even 15 minutes of distractions helps.Bring anything you can think of in terms of entertainment, comfort and distraction.  Bring snacks, a favorite toy and a toys that your child has never seen before. I found a dollar store Magna Doodle that was a life saver.

9. Bring something to eat or to suck on for takeoff and landing so your child’s ears pop.  

My boy hasn’t had a problem with this so far, but other children on the flights have, and it seems miserable.  A sucker, a juice box, some crackers or anything that encourages your child to swallow can help your child avoid this particular misery.

10. Unfortunately, you should just plan on your child having a melt down (you can be relieved if it doesn’t happen).

It may be unavoidable, and that’s okay.  It’s okay for your child to cry, and to be bored and to be uncomfortable. Heck everyone else on the plane is too, your child is just young enough to voice it.  Know that you and your child have as much of a right to fly as anyone else, and the rest of the passengers can rest assured that they will be free of the noise when they exit the plane.

Take a deep breath, tell yourself you can do it, survive the fight, and enjoy the destination.

Do you find these tips useful, or do you have any others you would add to the list?  Let me know in the comments, so all of our flights can be that much easier.