Flying with toddlers can be scary – I wrote this post when I was flying with one child. Now that I’m traveling with two in tow I have a system in place for success. The days leading up to a trip are hectic, especially if you’re traveling alone with your children. List making is helpful, but you have to be prepared for a sudden delayed flight or toddlers gone wild. From vomiting during takeoff to full blown sister fights, I’ve seen it all. If you’re traveling with kids alone, write down these tips to save your sanity.
Tips for Flying Alone with Toddlers
NOTE: I have updated this post since first writing it in 2019. My daughters are now 4 and 7 – and we have another one on the way! We took our first solo plane ride a few weeks ago and I used all of the same tips below – except for the stroller. Both of my daughters are old enough to walk alone through the airport!
I packed a few of these disposable face masks for kids since masks are required at the airport and on the plane. We also carried travel size antibacterial wipes in each of our backpacks to wipe down our seating area (and to clean messy hands while in flight).
The worst thing you can do when traveling alone with children is to set high expectations for the trip. More often then not you will experience something unexpected, like your three year old projectile vomiting as soon as the plane hits the air. The airplane has motion sickness bags in the back of the seats in front of you – but these disposable vomit bags are great to have on hand.
I’ve learned to roll with the punches and to anticipate anything when I’m traveling with kids alone.
Sometimes my daughters sleep, sometimes their ears hurt and they scream, other times they are pleasant and enjoyable. Just remember to be flexible, not rigid. Toddlers are going to live their best lives no matter what.
Pack Extra Everything, but Pack Wisely
Bring only necessary items for the flight in your carry-on bag – toys, sanitizer, snacks, extra clothes, bandaids, etc. Then check everything else in a suitcase! There is no reason to bring the maximum number of carry-on bags with you when you’re traveling with toddlers or you risk overwhelming yourself. A backpack is the easiest bag to carry when you’re traveling because it gives you two free arms to push a stroller/carry a toddler.
My toddlers love to do two things on a plane – eat and watch the iPad. These are the headphones we have and they’re the best. If we are on a long flight, the iPad can get boring, so I pack a few other activities. Any kind of workbook or coloring book is entertaining for toddlers – like mess-free Magic Ink books or Puffy Sticker books. Window clings are a lot of fun and mess free, as well as Wikistix.
Arrive Early, but not TOO Early
Everyone knows the airlines require passengers to arrive at least two hours before departure time, but I rarely follow that rule. My daughters aren’t easily entertained in an airport for two hours. Depending on the departure airport and security wait times, I schedule to arrive at a maximum of 1.5 hours before our flight. Did you know can check the security wait-time for airports online? There is no reason anyone traveling alone with kids should sit at the airport for longer than they have to!
When Flying Alone with Toddlers – Always Pack Surprises
I always pack surprises in my backpack that I keep hidden until disaster strikes. Sister quarrel? It happens – Ailey pulls Annabelle’s hair because she can’t see out the window and both girls start screaming. Quarters are tight on an airplane so timeout doesn’t really work. When all else fails, I pull out my secret weapon – candy/activity book/toy. Some flights I don’t have to pull out a new item, but it’s calming to know its there in case of an emergency.
Use a Stroller if Traveling with Little Kids
If your kids are small enough to ride in an umbrella stroller, bring it on your trip. It’s easier to push a crabby kid in a stroller than to have to carry said child. We just received this stroller that folds in half with the push of a button – it’s IDEAL for parents traveling with toddlers. The compact stroller can fit in an overhead bin or get checked at the gate. It also has ample storage under the seat for a child’s backpack, blankie, or even a small purse. Don’t forget to check your stroller at the gate before boarding. The flight attendant will give you a ticket to keep track of your stroller. Most airlines have an attendant waiting by the door of the plane to collect strollers – but if there’s not one there, just leave it by the door.
Bonus Tip: Bring your own water bottles and snacks!
Airports charge an arm and a leg for drinks and snacks, so I bring as many provisions as my bag will carry. We pack our own water bottles and fill them at the sanitary filling stations around the airport. Before traveling with kids we take a trip to the store together to pick out their favorite foods. Applesauce pouches, fruit strips, and individually packed snacks with lids are the best!
Overall, flying alone with toddlers isn’t THAT bad. Sure – there have been tantrums and dirty looks from fellow passengers. But if I remain calm and confident, the storm always passes quickly. Never worry about what others are thinking and just focus on your little ones! They are all that matters. And when in doubt… order yourself some bubbly if you’re on a long flight.