Although I have traveled with Andy (my four year-old) ever since he was two months-old, I had always traveled with someone else, whether it was with my late husband or my mom. But a few months ago I had to fly with Andy alone, since my family and I were meeting up in Dominican Republic for a little getaway. This was the first time EVER that I had to fend for myself at the airport with a toddler in tow. Luckily, Andy is an amazing traveler and he LOVES airplanes, so I wasn’t too worried about that part, mainly it was about looking like a crazy sherpa haha.
Here are a few tips I picked up along the way to make your next solo travel with kids stress-free.
Go hands-free: Backpacks are your best friend when it comes to traveling solo with kids. For me, it was important to have my hands free, especially since I needed to push a stroller and my luggage at the same time (my backpack is from Quicksilver). You can also pack all the essentials for your little one in your backpack like an extra change of clothes (in case of a spill) snacks, sippy cup…etc. A stroller also comes in handy to carry your backpack when it gets heavy. I also like to make sure I’m only traveling with one large luggage.
Get a stroller that’s easy to fold: I like to travel with a stroller that’s super easy to fold so I can easily close it up when I get to the airplane gate and then quickly open it back up when we get off the plane (especially if they’re people behind me, I try to be quick). A stroller is also helpful to get around the airport quickly and you know where your little one is at all times (so they don’t pull a Houdini act on you). I use the Baby Jogger Vue. It’s very easy to fold and it also has a great size canopy and it reclines, so it’s a good stroller to use on our trip (and no, this is not sponsored by them lol). My little man falls asleep super quick in this stroller. I also use to travel with a bag that would cover my stroller so it wouldn’t get scratched, but to be honest it just became too much of a hassle traveling with that bag, so now I travel without it. Oh well if the stroller gets a few scratches here and there. The less things I have to travel with, the better.
*strollers fly free with plane (be sure to get a gate check tag as you board).
Quick Tip: Going through security alone can be pretty stressful. One thing I like to do is count the number of bins I’m using so I make sure I don’t leave anything behind.
Make sure your child uses the bathroom before making long lines: I remember being at the airport in Dominican Republic and we were making a really long immigration line when my toddler says “Mommy, I have to use the bathroom!.” What do you do?! Fortunately, they were able to move us to a quicker lane, but it was a real learning lesson.
Don't be afraid to ask for help: Traveling along with kids is not easy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many times even strangers have been so nice when they see me traveling alone and will offer to help. Like the time a man helped carry Andy’s stroller when the elevator was broken at the airport parking garage.
Take a foldable potty seat: Andy is potty trained so every time we travel, I make sure to take his foldable potty seat. Going number #2 is not that easy when you don’t have a potty seat. It has been a lifesaver during our trips. Also take some hand sanitizer!
Take a lot of entertainment: Alright, so this really is the key for a stress-free flight in my opinion. Andy is at the age now where he is fine with eating snacks and watching movies on the plane. I love flights that have the Disney Channel or that show kid-friendly movies. But in case those options are not available I come prepared with my iPad and rent a few movies on iTunes (the rental is good for 2 days I believe). I also always make sure to travel with his headphones. They are made specifically for kids and help regulate the volume for their little ears. You can also plan to take a few new small toys/books.
Take Snacks: In my case, as long as Andy is fed and has slept, he is always such a happy camper. I always carry in my backpack several healthy snacks for our trip.
Here are some of my go-to’s:
Organic Dried (or Freeze Dried) Fruit (mangoes, strawberries, bananas, blueberries)
Organic Kale Chips
Organic Granola Bar
I also have water handy in his sippy cup. It’s also important to take items that make them feel comfortable and safe, for Andy it’s his bear (he calls him Oso) and his blanket. A blanket in general is also always a good idea to bring along—it can get chilly in planes. I love the brand Aden & Anais. They are really soft and don’t take up too much space. Andy actually packs it in his own small luggage he likes to roll out. Travelers always get a kick seeing him walking around the airport with his luggage.
Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Everyone knows that waiting in line with kids is no fun. If you’re a frequent flier and you don’t have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry do yourself a favor and please, please, please sign up. This will make your life so much easier when traveling, especially with kids. When you sign-up for Global Entry (which is $100 for 5 years) you automatically get signed up to TSA Pre-check. As a TSA Pre-check you don’t have to take off your shoes, remove your laptop or take off your jacket while going through security. You also go through a different lane that’s much quicker. For Global Entry, this is a great perk when you are traveling internationally. When going through customs, you simply go through the Global Entry lane which is SO quick. I remember recently coming back from my trip to Paris and looking at the immigration line and there was probably 200 people waiting in line (it was horrendous). Luckily I kept walking to the Global Entry lane, which only had a line of like 3 people. I’m telling you, it’s uh-mazing.
*Everyone in your family will need to have their own Global Entry (kids too) in order for you to go through the Global Entry lane.
*For TSA Pre, only adults need to have Pre-check and kids can come along.
I’ll be sharing my must-have travel gear in another post, but in the meantime, hope these tips have helped. Hope you have an amazing flight!