As I pull my two-year-old daughter out of her car seat and strap her into her stroller, my husband heaves my suitcase out of the trunk.
“Got everything?” he asks. I look around and nod my head before hugging him tightly. “Have fun!”
He kisses April and climbs back into the car. I sigh deeply, grin, and enter the terminal.
For single parents, or those whose spouses are often too busy take time off, the idea of travelling solo with your kids might cause your heart to skip a beat. But with these tips your flight – and arrival – will be as easy and pleasant as possible.
1. Pack light
It’s often tempting to double up on clothes, especially when weather and kids can be unpredictable, but remember that you can always do laundry or buy essentials at your destination. Make your life simpler by packing less than you think you’ll need and by sharing a suitcase to save space.
2. Take a stroller
Even if you don’t use a stroller at home, taking one along when travelling can prevent major headaches. You’ll always know where your child is and she can nap en route. Most airlines let you check strollers and car seats right at the gate, so you can get through the airport without the worry of hauling bags and chasing after your curious kid. And if your little one is still light enough, baby carriers save hands.
3. Pack food and request special meals
A lot of kids are particular about what they eat. There’s no reason to get stuck buying expensive food in the departure lounge, so pack healthy snacks for the airport and flight. Remember: sugar makes kids crazy. Try to avoid it on flights for your and the other passengers’ sanity. Also, many airlines have special meals for kids and people with food allergies. Call the airline after you book your tickets to find out your options.
4. Check in online
Travelling alone with a kid often means royal treatment and lots of line skipping, but it’s still worth the extra effort to check in from home. Online check-in usually starts 24 hours before departure but make sure to verify the rules pertaining to your particular flight.
5. Board first… or last
Most airlines let people with young children board before the other economy passengers, which lets you take your time getting seated and organized before the crunch of other people in the aisles. Alternately, if you’re on a long flight, you could let your kids run around in the lounge until everyone else has boarded. Just make sure you don’t miss your flight!
6. Pack plenty of activities and toys
Being prepared and willing to engage with your children for long periods of time helps them make it through long flights without making noisy nuisances of themselves. So bring (new) books, crayons, toys and if you have one, a tablet or laptop for watching movies. When you’re flying with a kid, you don’t get to relax unless they’re occupied or sleeping, so make sure you’re prepared for the whole trip.
7. Ask for help
Flight attendants can be your best friends when you’re travelling alone with a child. If you need a bathroom break, ask one to keep an eye out while you’re gone. Or make friends with your fellow passengers. If your kids know how to behave, other passengers will go out of their way to help you out.
8. Know how you’re getting to your destination from the airport
While there are always taxi ranks outside of airports, after a long flight the last thing you want is more waiting. So figure out how you’re getting to your post-airport destination in advance, whether it’s a shuttle, a friend or family member waiting for you, or a reserved car.
9. Choose your destination carefully
Visiting friends or family overseas is a great way to get away and have built-in help. But if you don’t know anyone at your destination, make sure to do your research beforehand. There are plenty of services that connect locals with travellers, and while travelling with kids is often a passport to excellent service and help, you can always make your life easier by enlisting a local guide or learning about kid-friendly activities before you get there.