Flying alone with toddlers or babies can seem impossible. You may be thinking, can this actually be done? The answer is, “Yes!!” I first flew alone with my children when one was an infant and the other was one-year-old. It was terrifying!
I was a seasoned traveler, but traveling with two kids, without another adult, seemed impossible. How in the world would I navigate the airport with a baby and a small toddler? After quite a bit of research, and now with a little practice, my kiddos and I have mastered traveling with just one parent in the airport.
If you want to know what to pack, check out my free child carry-on packing list at the bottom of the post.
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Helpful tips for flying alone with toddlers:
1 – When buying your tickets, consider the seating arrangements.
If you are flying alone with young children who are 2 years old or older, you will need to buy them an adult ticket. It sucks, but you will be more comfortable in the end.
If you have a child under 2 years old, you can make them a lap child. This is a personal choice, that is usually based on convenience, safety opinions, comfort, and more often than not, cost.
I always preferred my kids have their own seat. Not only is it safer in the event you face any unforeseen circumstances or turbulence, but it is also way more comfortable for you and your child. Kids sleep well in their car seat, and they are used to sitting in them. They are also belted in, which makes for a safer ride. However, costs often dictate choice, which is totally understandable.
When flying on an airline where you can pick your seats, do your best to grab seats together, but do not stress over this step. We flew standby for years, and we never got a choice of seats. Passengers are often gracious in moving, either because they want to be helpful or because they dread the idea of sitting next to little kids. Either works for me, so long as I have my babies with me. The flight attendant will often help you too if you ask.
If your kids are not sitting in their car seats on the airplane, check them as luggage. Most airlines do not count car seats as luggage, so you do not have to pay the bag fee.
2 – Have the right combination of gear.
When flying alone with toddlers your set up can make or break you.
Bring your stroller into the terminal (if you checked your car seats). If you have a double stroller, it may feel like a bus, but still, bring it! Navigating the airport will be incredibly easier. The airline can gate check the stroller when you are getting onto the airplane. Make sure to grab your gate check tag before boarding.
If you want your kids in car seats on the airplane, then I highly recommend Go-Go Babyz Travelmate products. We have tried most of them. Our favorite choice was the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Car Seat Stroller for Toddler Seats. You attach the car seat to the stroller, and now you have a stroller for navigating the airport and a car seat for the airplane.
If traveling with twins that need car seats on the airplane, the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Deluxe Compact Car Seat Stroller comes with a twin adapter that connects the two.
On one of my prior trips with two young toddlers, we took the single stroller. I pushed the single stroller, and I pulled the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Car Seat Stroller. We looked goofy, but the stroller allowed me to physically carry the car seats when navigating in and out of the airport with our luggage.
The only downside to a Go-Go Babyz Travelmate stroller is you will have to detach the car seat from the stroller when getting on board. See #9 on asking for help. One or even two people can help you carry your stuff. You carry your babies or walk with them. The Go-Go Babyz Travelmate stroller stores in the overhead compartment.
Upon entering or exiting the airport, you can always rent the luggage carts. I found it easier to pack light or in one suitcase. I also bring a small bungee cord with me. It sounds silly, but a bungee cord can be quite handy when juggling a suitcase, a stroller, car seats and kids.
3 – Invest in a baby carrier that grows with your child.
I loved wraps and slings with my babies. I used numerous versions. Pick what suits you best, but they are well worth the investment. They will be a life-saver when flying alone with toddlers You only have two hands!
My favorite and most affordable carrier, once my kids reached the age of two, was a simple sling without the ring (the version I used from Target is no longer available). It folds compact, and I have used it throughout the airport and for a week at Disney World. I bring this with me even if we have a stroller. Sometimes travel can be overwhelming, and your little one wants to be held. This frees your hands to keep moving. If you want one that grows from baby to toddler, I highly recommend the ring sling baby carrier. They are way easier to figure out than the wraps, although I loved my wrap!
4 – Use a bookbag instead of a standard diaper bag.
Shoulder strap diaper bags are amazing and a requirement when running around town. When traveling all day long with a full day’s worth of entertainment, diapers, and snacks, it can get super heavy and wear on your shoulder. I recommend using a bookbag instead.
It does not have to be a diaper bookbag. It can be a regular bookbag. We use a business laptop bookbag because it has a ton of zippered compartments. I like having the diapers and wipes in one pocket and the change of clothes and snacks in the bigger compartment. There are also little pockets for headphones, your wallet (pack your purse in your suitcase), and anything else you need.
When on the airplane, store your bookbag under your kiddo’s seat. They have short legs. Keep your leg and foot space comfortable for you.
5 – Pack enough snacks to survive the apocalypse (or a really long flight delay).
This is a lesson I learned when flying stand-by one year, and we spent eight painfully long hours in the airport. On my next flight, I had so many squeezie packs of applesauce the TSA agent questioned me on why I would possibly need so much food for a day of travel. I politely told him I liked to be prepared and to mind his own business, in the sweetest Southern voice I could muster up. He obviously had never traveled alone with two babies.
You never know what bumps you will hit when traveling alone with young children. If the airplane is delayed on the tarmac for a couple of hours, you do not want to depend on whatever snacks they have on board to sustain your now cranky kiddos. Be prepared!
Snacks and drinks are also good for little ears when taking off and landing, so have them handy at these times as well.
6 – Pack wipes and a travel-sized baby powder.
Even when your kids are out of diapers, pack wipes. It never fails, you are finally ready for takeoff, and your sweet toddler spills sticky apple juice everywhere. Wipes to the rescue!
The best piece of travel advice I ever received with babies was to pack baby powder. If your precious little stinker has a blow out in the car seat (or three blow-outs), a little paper towel action and a healthy sprinkle of baby powder will make the ride home a little less miserable.
7 – The potty.
Let’s talk the potty. It seems instinctive if you are a parent, but do not forget to go to the potty before your boarding time. I usually take everyone 20 minutes before boarding time. It is awful when you hit turbulence, your kid has to pee, and they never turn off the seatbelt sign.
Airplane bathrooms are small. It requires a little bit of yoga to survive them. I mastered going with two children in the airplane bathroom with me a couple of times. I’m still not sure how that happened.
When potty training and air travel, I highly recommend having your little one wear a pull-up. That way, if it is impossible to get up and go to the restroom, you have a plan B in place.
You can also do diaper changes on your lap. It does not always make the person next to you happy, but if it is a pee diaper, go for it!
8 – Bring out the technology!
I categorize myself as one of those moms who severely limits screen time for her children. Flying on an airplane is NOT the time to be stingy with screen time, especially if you are flying alone with toddlers. Break out the iPads, the phones, or whatever it is that can entertain your kiddos.
We recycled our old iPhones and iPads into devices our children can use. They connect to the internet, and they can play entertainment apps. Our favorite sources for downloading movies are the Movies Anywhere App (the Disney Movies app transferred to here), Netflix and Amazon Video.
Download movies even if your airplane has free wi-fi. We were on a flight once when the wifi was broken, and I was unprepared. Lesson learned!
9 – Ask for help when flying alone with toddlers.
I cannot stress this enough. Ask for help, ask for help, ask for help. You are flying alone with young children. People want to help you. Often times people do not know how to help, but they do want to offer assistance.
When going through TSA, do not be pressured to hurry. If you can, seek out the line with the wheelchairs and the other families. Other travelers avoid these lines like the plague. Also, do not be afraid to ask the TSA agent for help folding the stroller and putting it on the belt.
When getting food, I have asked the cashier to have someone help me get to a table. They may be reluctant, but helping you eat at their establishment is their job. Ask for help.
When boarding the airplane, you will be surprised at how helpful people can be when traveling alone with young children. If no one offers help immediately, do not be afraid to ask the person right behind you. I often seek out other moms or dads traveling with older children. They are the most willing to help.
Most importantly, if someone offers to help you, please take it!! You are not in this alone.
10 – Have a drink (and dessert).
If your nerves are fried, go get something to eat and have yourself a drink. Buy your kids a treat.
Once we were stuck at an airport for hours on a delay. I was alone with two young toddlers. The youngest was screaming from exhaustion. I went and grabbed myself a nice 22-ounce draft beer. Folks around me can judge away. Sometimes you have to survive. There is no shame in it.
Flying alone for the first time with young children can be terrifying. Nevertheless, know when you finally land at your destination, you have accomplished an immense task. Celebrate every little win. If your toddler walks all the way to the rental car counter while pulling their suitcase twice the size of them, celebrate. Do a dance. Have a fruit snack. Have fun.
You can also download this FREE child carry-on packing list. Good luck mama!
You are a rockstar!!! You can do this.