I’m writing this post, one handed, other arm going numb from a sleeping toddler laying on it. We are on our 13th flight together, and praise Jesus, he actually fell asleep at take off. As you can imagine after 13 flights, mostly to and from DFW airport to visit family, I have learned a few tips/ tricks to traveling alone with a kiddo under two.
First off, know every mom flying with a baby or toddler has anxiety about how it will go, it’s totally normal. Just take comfort in knowing most people on the flight have or have had kids, they understand. If there is someone that chooses to be snarky or give a glare try to not take it personal, just turn your back to them and not engage. However, You will be surprised at how many people will offer a helping hand. I encourage you to take them up on it, let them help grab your bag for you for example.
When booking, your child can ride free as a lap infant until age two. If your having trouble adding the free lap infant online you can either call them or just wait until you check in at the airport. You just tell clerk at check in you need to add a lap infant to your ticket. Unless you’re traveling internationally you do not need any form of ID for them, just name and age. Kids love looking out the window, so l get a window seat if possible. I recently have started upgrading to the seats with more leg room and just having that little bit of extra room has been a game changer!
Car seats fly free, you do not need a fancy bag to put it in, I never used anything, however they do sell them here if your so inclined. Otherwise you just buckle it up tight so cushions don’t fallout.
Unless there is a reason you really need to carry your bag on, I highly recommend checking your bag; trust me your hands will be plenty full you don’t worry about toting a bag around if you don’t have to. I usually just bring a diaper bag and my big mom purse as my carry ons. Bring more diapers and wipes than you think you need. I got stuck on a plane for an extra 4 hours once and was so happy I packed extras, be over prepared! Lastly, bring a change of clothes for baby and an extra shirt for you (again from experience unfortunately).
I highly recommend either baby wear or bringing a stroller to the gate with you. If your child is an infant and the car seat snaps into the stroller that’s ok, bring it all. Heads up, When going through security you will need to hold your child out of the sling/stroller as you walk through. Another passenger or a TSA agent will likely offer to help fold up the stroller, let them help. You can bring drinks, food, and breastmilk on the flight if you have a child, you just have to pull them out for screening (check TSA guidelines here). They will pull it aside for tests so just plan yourself a few extra minutes for them to screen the food and drinks.
If you brought your stroller, once you get to your gate ask the gate attendant for a gate check tag. You’ll need two tags if you also brought a car seat. When you board the plane you will leave the items at the gate or outside airplane doors, when you get your tags just ask where you will need to leave your items. Once Ryder got old enough to really walk on his own, I stopped bringing the stroller when we flew in and out of the Grand Junction airport because it’s such a small airport, I didn’t feel I needed it. However, if you’re going out of a large airport, like Denver, I would take the stroller every time for as long as you can, it helps tremendously.
Once you get settled where you need to be, try to find an area nearby where your kiddo can get out the squirmies and burn energy. If it’s a baby, lay a blanket down and let them stretch and crawl around. If your child is a toddler let them run, climb, etc (within safe limits of course).
If you’re feeling extra anxious or are gate checking a stroller/car seat I recommend taking advantage of the first call boarding. They will first invite Military and those that need more time or assistance, that’s you! Leave your stroller and/or car seat folded up at the gate check point, find your seat and know you made it on the plane, hard part done!
[ON PLANE ENTERTAINMENT]
When Ryder was an infant flying was easy; all I had to do was nurse him if he got fussy and he usually napped majority of the flight. I would bring a little book or toy, but otherwise just the excitement of people watching was entertainment enough. About the one year mark is when I had to be a bit more prepared to entertain.
What has worked for us is:
1. Lots of snacks! I usually bring something I know he loves, something special he doesn’t usually get, like mini cookies, and a fruit pouch/ baby food.
2. I get a new toy and wait to introduce it until he gets antsy. Usually something cheap under $5, like a magic marker coloring book or small building blocks. Another option is to hide a toy they love a month or so ahead of time and then reintroduce it while on the plane.
3. Download some movie favorites to your iPad or phone, just remember headphones and charger. This is the time I allow him to watch as much tv/ movies as he wants, I’m in survival mode.
4. My only other advice is when possible schedule the flight around nap time. The white noise and slight vibration of the plane is very soothing and a lot of times is enough to put them to sleep for awhile.
[YOU MADE IT]
When you get off the plane, if you gate checked your stroller/car seat you will wait just outside the plane doors and someone will bring it to you. Now celebrate, you did it, go mama go!