You will never have more faith in yourself as a parent (or more faith in humanity) as when you decide to fly solo with your toddler.
“Oh my god, do you need help?” I hear the woman next to me in the Orlando airport elevator ask as the doors open. In one steady push of faith, I shove my 20 month old in the stroller out ahead of me while I fumble with our suitcases.
Traveling alone with your toddler can be intimidating. Between figuring out transportation (and how the heck you’re going to load yourself, your kid and that huge stroller with all of your bags onto multiple shuttle buses) and trying to achieve the impossible task of getting anywhere on time as your child decides to stop at every single food kiosk in the airport, it sounds a lot easier to just stay at home. Well, the good news is that it doesn’t HAVE to be that difficult!
Top Mom Tips for Flying Solo with a Toddler
Let other people help you
I heard so many comments throughout my trips about how “brave” I was pushing my stroller through the airport with two bags of rolling luggage and sucking air from being 4 months pregnant. Almost every single commenter offered to help me out in capacity. Whether that was holding the elevator door for me, helping to carry and load my stroller, or offering to sit with my child. There are amazing, good people out there that are willing to lend a hand!
Bring a snack caboodle
This is something you will prep ahead of time, and my son LOVES it. It offers not only a wide variety of snacks but it also creates a sort of accidental sensory bin for them to explore. This kept my son busy for 15-20 minutes, which on a flight is some super valuable time. You can throw anything your child likes into the little compartments. Have fun with it! I just used a cheap organizer I found at a craft store.
Have plenty of in-flight activities ready to go
Sticker books, Water Wow books, Color Wonder books, stringing beads onto pipe cleaners, dry erase work books, mini containers of play-doh, dot stickers, window clings, the possibilities are endless! A few of our favorites are this magnet dot art kit we found at target, these Whirly Squigz spinners from Fat Brain Toys that are awesome for sticking on the windows or tray table, along with window clings!
Teach them to wear headphones
This is the perfect time to take advantage of screen time. In my personal opinion, traveling is not the occasion to limit exposure to screens. Seize the opportunity and take advantage of the fact that your child will sit through a 2-hour movie to get through that flight peacefully. But if they aren’t used to wearing headphones it can be an issue. Work on wearing them a few minutes each day leading up to your trip! I use over ear Bose headphones that fit comfortably over my child’s ears. Another tip, if you really want your child to be engaged in their show or movie, try limiting screen time in the 2 or 3 days leading up to your trip!
Build in extra time
If you plan to gate check a stroller, allow extra time between layovers. I have walked off the plane onto the jet bridge and had my stroller lined up against the wall waiting for me. I have also stood in a line of frustrated parents all waiting 25 minutes for their strollers to be hauled up one at a time from beneath the plane. You just never know! It’s best to plane some cushion time into your layover so you’re prepared for any delays.
Fly during their awake time
if they are a toddler or nap time if they are still an infant. I have found that babies sleep beautifully on planes with the ambient noise and the warm snuggles against your chest. Toddlers on the other hand are so overstimulated and stir crazy, their chance of a nap is unreliable. Try to book your flight right after a wake up time and then find a moment for them to nap after landing.
Plan in time for meals/snack breaks
Traveling takes it out of kids and often when traveling you will eat later than normal, but your child won’t be as flexible. Factoring meals or frequent snack breaks will help keep them regulated to their regular routine as much as possible and the extra blood sugar boost will be helpful!
Bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate if they are under 2
This was something we completely didn’t consider when flying for the first time with our toddler, and he is pretty big for his age. His height and the fact that we didn’t purchase a ticket for him had the airline questioning us pretty hard on his birth date and wanting us to provide documentation as proof.
If you’re reading this because you’re on the fence about taking your toddler on a trip just the two of you, I say do it. You got this mama! There is nothing that will make you feel more capable as a mom. It’s empowering and will bring you so much closer to your little one. Time to take on the world with your little travel buddy!