Flying with a toddler in general is not the simplest task. Flying by yourself with a toddler takes the difficulty level up a notch. But there are ways to make this undertaking a bit more bearable.
Read on for tips for flying solo with your toddler.
1. Buy a seat for your toddler
If your flight is going to be more than a few hours, buy a seat for your toddler. You will be more comfortable. Your toddler will be more comfortable. And most importantly, your toddler will be safer.
2. For younger toddlers, bring an FAA-approved, lightweight car seat.
Again, safety first. Find a lightweight one so you can easily carry it on with you while wrangling your human octopus.
3. Bring a stroller and gate-check it.
4. Check as much luggage as you can.
Before kids, we almost never checked bags. But because you will be carrying at least one bag, your car seat, and possibly your toddler on the plane, opt to check as much baggage as you can. Waiting for your bags to be delivered at the end is a small price to pay for not lugging large bags or multiple bags through the airport and onto the airplane.
5. Carry on one bag with all essentials for you and your toddler.
Again, we had only one main bag (my backpack) that we carried on. This held the diaper kit, snacks and drinks, a change of clothes for Emmett (just in case), a book for me (which I barely cracked open), and a couple toys I thought might keep him occupied for a bit. In addition to the backpack, Emmett had a little dinosaur backpack with a car, a blankie, and a lovey. I had a small crossbody purse for small essentials like the passport case, tissues, a pen, and lip balm. And that was it.
6. Bring toys to keep your toddler occupied.
7. Make your toddler as comfortable as possible.
8. Give your toddler a snack during take off and landing.
The best snack is something she can suck on, like a fruit and veggie pouch. A drink she can suck through a straw is also helpful.
9. Know that not every airport or every airline is the same.
Security checkpoints will have different rules at different airports. Some airports don't bring your stroller to you at the gate, but will deliver it along with the rest of the luggage on the conveyor belt (looking at you, GLA!). Some airports have multiple security checkpoints (we counted nine at IST for a short layover). Some countries allow liquids for babies and toddlers; some don't. Prepare ahead of time for the things you can, and accept the things for which there is no advance preparation.
10. Be willing to ask for help.
If you need help getting the stroller into the bag or out of the bag, ask.
Not sure what the security personnel need from you in regards to the stroller, the toddler, the car seat, your shoes, etc? Just ask.
At one point, the gate attendant asked me to load the stroller into the bag at the gate rather than at the end of the passenger boarding bridge where I normally break it down and put it into its bag. I asked him, "Are you going to carry it down to the end?" He agreed to do so, so I got it ready there at the gate.
If you need water for your toddler, ask a flight attendant.
I have found that both airline personnel and fellow passengers are generally eager to help, whether in ways mentioned above, in lending an extra hand with bags, or in just entertaining your toddler. If you need help, don't be afraid or ashamed to ask.
If traveling with your toddler seems daunting, that's because it kind of is. If you are thinking to yourself, "I could never do that," you are not alone. As soon as I booked our flights to Scotland, I thought to myself, "Oh gosh, what have I done?" But I am living proof that it can be done. If my 38-year-old self can do it, you can do it too! It will all be worth it when your little one experiences a new place with his favorite human in the world.
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