This past week was my third and fourth time flying solo with toddlers. Flying with toddlers, in general, can be pretty daunting, but doing it outnumbered is probably one of the more stressful and challenging mom things I’ve had to do. (Notice my red and sweaty face in this photo.)
We took a 4.5-hour flight out to Illinois to visit family for the 4th of July holiday, and even though the flight itself was a little rough, things overall went smoother than they did the first time I flew alone with the girls, and they were even smoother on our trip back. Since I’m a trial and error learner, I picked up a few tips (and a few flops) on flying solo with toddlers that I thought I’d share.
Tips For Flying Solo With Toddlers
The first time I traveled solo with the girls I took along this janky umbrella stroller I picked up for like ten bucks at Walmart. I figured I would have Loxley sit in the stroller and Fin would walk by me like a little angel. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Loxley refused to sit in the stroller and literally fell out of it while squirming around, Finley was all over the place, and I was carrying an unreasonable amount of stuff because I refused to check any luggage.
This time around I got smart… smart-ish. I decided to take along the fold-up utility wagon that I use instead of a stroller. If you are traveling with kids you are usually able to check your stroller at the gate free of charge, and this wagon counts as a stroller. I used the wagon to carry the car seats to ticketing and made the girls walk. I made the mistake of checking the wagon on our flight to Illinois, but on our flight home, I pulled it all the way to the gate with the girls and carry-ons inside.
This is a tip you will hear from anyone who has ever flown with a toddler, but seriously, bring all the snacks! And pack more than you think you will need. I was giving them snacks at ticketing, through the security line, waiting at the gate, and inflight. Anytime they started to get rowdy and would hand them a snack.
Here are some of the snacks we brought:
Bitsy’s cookies and crackers
Apples – I bought two at Starbucks and they took about two bites out of them before dropping them on the floor. It wasn’t the most successful idea, but it was an attempt to have something healthy among all the sugar.
Ring pop vs. Lollipop – If you’re planning on taking some kind of candy, lollipops worked better for us than ring pops did.
Fruit Snacks – These are Loxley’s favorite.
Chocolate for Mom
Complimentary Drinks inflight
Books – I brought both board books and regular books that I read to them on the plane. If you are taking a laptop bag, larger picture books fit in there easily.
Coloring Books – Coloring books are a great way to keep kids entertained, if you are going to bring them through, I recommend getting those nifty triangular crayons. I didn’t do this because once again I am stubborn and overestimated my abilities and we lost all of the crayons within the first hour of the flight.
Toys – This one I’m iffy about, but I really think it depends on the kid. Finley gets facetious when she is tired and started tossing toys in the seat behind her. Plus too many toys can be hard to keep track of. I let the girl bring one stuffed animal each.
Tablets – This one was an absolute lifesaver. Both of the girls have a kids edition Kindle Fire tablet that is great for trips. I downloaded 5 hours worth of their favorite shows to each tablet and they were able to watch them on the plane, along with different kid’s games. Tip: Make sure you have working headphones or they won’t be able to listen to it. Ours broke somehow and Finley kept fighting to blast the volume inflight.
Flashcards – Loxley loves to do flashcards, so this was a winner for her. The downside is they can be a bit messy.
Other Random Tips
Carry as little as you can. If you think your toddlers are going to wear their cute Minnie Mouse and Paw Patrol backpacks filled with snacks and toys as you walk through the entire airport, think again. You’ll be lucky if they even carry themselves. This is, again, why you should get a utility wagon, but if you don’t have one bring as little as you can or check your bag. I stubbornly decided not to check any bags the first time I flew alone with the girls and it was a disaster.
Accept help. Remember how I said that I’m stubborn? Well that same time I didn’t check any bags I also refused help from three different people. I was hot mess and obviously struggling with my bags and two tired toddlers, but I didn’t want to be a bother, and think I was trying to prove that I could handle it. It took the flight attendant calling me out and telling me to “accept the help,” for me to actually do it. The kind man that offered to help me wheeled my carry-on/luggage all the way to baggage claim where my mom was waiting to meet us. People aren’t going to offer to help you unless they want to, and there are more people willing to help than you may think. This time around I had no problem accepting help, and I was still a hot mess but it made a world of difference.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Pack extra snacks, bring your charger, pack a change of clothes for everyone, and expect the tantrums. If you plan the mishaps ahead of time you will be prepared if they happen and happy if they don’t.
This too shall pass. If things are going rough breathe and get in the mindset that it is only a few hours of stress and then it will be over.
What are some of your tips for flying solo with toddlers?