Our family has traveled quite a bit since my 2-year-old twins came along. Each flight has, of course, been a different adventure. Babies and toddlers change so quickly, so what worked one time might not work the next — but you gather new tricks and tips to add to your travel plan each time.
I recently flew to Orlando by myself with my toddlers to meet my parents at Disney World. I know there are many single parents who do things like this on the regular, but since I’d only traveled with my husband or other family members, going alone took planning, patience, and a few pep talks. Here are five things that helped make traveling alone with kids — two 2-year-olds, in my case — as smooth as I could have hoped.
1. Prep your kids
Kids do better when they know what to expect. I talked about our trip for weeks leading up to it. I checked out at least a dozen library books about going to the airport and flying on a plane. My kids knew that going on a plane meant they would buckle up and stay in their seats, which was what I expected to be the hardest part for them. Buckling them into their carseats every day is a struggle, so I rented CARES harnesses for the flight. We practiced putting their harnesses on so they knew what would happen. There was no question that we would sit in our seats and buckle up on the airplane.
2. Prep yourself
Since I wouldn’t have my trusty husband to help lug our bags from place to place, I needed to make sure I could get us and all our gear through the airport myself. Before heading to the airport I figured out how to attach all my bags together (bungee cords to the rescue), what could go on the stroller, and who would go in a carrier. Since I knew how I was carrying everything ahead of time, I wasn’t fumbling around with bags while trying to get two toddlers through security. Also, I wore a fanny pack. Was it my classiest accessory? Nope, but I could get my phone, wallet, wipes, and favorite toys out in a matter of seconds while wearing a baby and pushing a stroller. Worth it.
3. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
I was inspired by a friend to make snack boxes, which kept my kids happy and entertained for a good chunk of time on the flight. I brought sippy tops for water bottles to prevent spills and help my kids’ ears when they hurt on our descent. And I packed bagels for breakfast at the gate, which took awhile to eat and weren’t messy.
I brought one small bag of entertainment, which, when combined with the in-flight TV, was all we needed. New books, animal flashcards, cars, figurines, Water Wow books, magnet blocks, pom poms to put in a travel bottle, and reusable stickers were all winners and kept my kids busy.
5. Accept help
Although you might think traveling with toddlers could earn you side eye from other passengers, what I’ve experienced is kindness. Fellow mamas, dads, and grandparents jumped to help us. At the bag check, two agents pushed my stroller and rolled our bags. In security, a fellow mama waited to make sure I got all our gear as it came through the X-ray machine. At the gate, an older man played endless rounds of peekaboo with my daughter. A fellow twin mom sat behind us on the flight and offered help and a thumbs up when our two sets of twins were rocking it. The pilots helped carry my carseats up the jetway, an elderly woman told me I was strong, and a new grandma brought my suitcase all the way to the rental car. I will gladly accept all random acts of kindness offered, especially at the airport.
As daunting as traveling alone with kids was, and as exhausted as I was by the end, it was a good experience. If I can do it, you can do it!