Traveling Solo with a Toddler: I Did It and So Can You!

1-17 months

I feared this day for the longest time, the day I would have to fly alone with a toddler.  I think after everything, I’ve come out stronger and am here to tell you that you can do it, too.

1.  Check everything.  Carry as little as possible.  Have an awesome stroller.

We spent $210 to check 3 bags because US Airlines are a**holes.  1 bag = $25, 2 bags = $60, 3 bags = wait, why did we decide to travel with a toddler again?  I didn’t realize how expensive checking luggage would be, so if you can pack less, do.  I didn’t carry a purse or diaper bag.  I used a backpack, and then I had Ellis’s small kitty cat bag that would make for easier access to things that I would need to pull out and put back the most.  Each backpack also had side pockets to carry water bottles, sippy cups, etc.  Our brand new UPPAbaby G-Luxe stroller had a cup holder, but that only lasted the first flight.  It was gone when we I retrieved it at the gate.  The stroller is great because it’s lightweight, easy to fold and unfold with one free hand, reclines, has a decent sized basket, AND my daughter likes sitting in it (as long as it is moving).

2.  Check the giant car seat, agonize over the guilt, and realize it is statistically still safer for a toddler to fly sans car seat than driving in a car with one.

Ellis was a lap baby on this flight, for the first time.  I really struggled with this at first, but in the end, it was a good decision.  There is no way I could have lugged around a car seat and a toddler, let alone smoosh it into an airplane seat while hanging on to her.  And on our previous flights, she hardly sat in her seat but wanted to be held by/sleep on me for the most part.  And really, it’s all about keeping the baby happy for the sake of the other passengers, no matter the means.  I did research, though, and besides the Car Seats for the Littles Blog who are adamantly against flying with a lap baby, the odds were on my side.  I think I read that there have been a reported 10 infants deaths in air since 2003, the majority of which were on long, international flights where the baby fell asleep and just didn’t wake up.  The other deaths were due to other complications, none involving turbulence or being unrestrained.  We did bubble wrap and double bag the car seat, and wrote a lovely “Handle with Care” note on the outside.  It arrived soundly each way.

3.  Keep the snacks and entertainment coming.

Seat belt

Seat belts were fun on the second flight. The window also provided minutes of entertainment for her.


The headphones did not stay on very long.

I see you

Peek a boo with the unassuming passenger in the next row.

Feed the beast.

Snacks. Lots of snacks.

I downloaded an episode of Curious George onto my iPad, bought her some child-safe headphones (which she did not like wearing), and loaded up on the snacks, milk, and water.  When she was done tearing up the safety manual and Sky Mall magazine in the seat pocket, I pulled these out to distract her.

4.  Accept that she’s not going to sleep, and she WILL draw attention.

We walked up and down the aisle on the first flight until we encountered some turbulence.  She was hours past her nap by the time we landed at our layover, so I thought I could zoom her around in the stroller, and she would nap.  That didn’t happen.  She DID keep pointing at every man she saw and yelling, “Dada!”  And she was mostly a happy camper except for boarding and deboarding.  She doesn’t like lines or standing still, so she practiced her flop maneuver and her sad pleas to nurse during those times.  Overall, people are very nice and offer to help where they can.  Not that I was about to let the questionable lady stroll my daughter around so I could sit down.  Thanks anyway, ma’am!



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