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Flying Alone with the Kids

Tips for Flying Alone with Kids

by Regan
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The past month or so has been a bit stressful. My grandmother, who will be 90 in a few months, developed an infection while traveling to Central America to visit my aunt. Yes, my 89-and-then-some grandmother still lives independently away from the rest of the family, drives, travels, and is very healthy. But still, she is a stone’s throw away from 90 and we have taken her good health and mental status for granted. 

The good news is, all is well. She is recuperating in a skilled nursing rehab and will be going home next week. Yay! But getting to this point has been difficult for us to coordinate care for her in Florida from Colorado, the Northeast, and Central America. We have each taken on tasks from a distance, but there has also been some necessary travel for all of us to Florida. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

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For my turn, Dub and I flew to Florida since it really wasn’t necessary for my whole family to go. This meant that I would be flying with a child alone for the first time. I admit that I was kind of nervous about the idea since Dub is unpredictable in certain situations. 

I made sure that I prepared for our trip to the best of my ability and overall, our adventure came off without a hitch. Phew!

Planning our trip

There are many trip planning websites out there to get deals on flights, but my favorite is Expedia. I have used Expedia for many years and while I do try others for kicks and giggles, I always seem to find the cheapest flights on Expedia.

Checking in for your flight

While buying tickets on Expedia is great, when traveling with children, I don’t recommend checking in for your flight on Expedia. Instead, I highly recommend going to your airline’s website directly to choose seats together after you’ve ordered your tickets. They often won’t automatically have you in two seats together, even when traveling with young children.

When the time comes to check in for your flight, check directly with your airline for your boarding passes. It’s just easier and the individual airline websites load faster at check-in times than Expedia due to lower traffic.

Flying Alone with the Kids

Packing

Since it was just Dub and me, I didn’t want to deal with a lot of bags. We each had our allowed carry-on as well as an under-seat bag; no large checked bags. For our carry-on we had a roller bag with both of our clothes (thankfully it’s easy to pack light when going to Florida in May), a backpack with Dub’s toys for the plane, my laptop bag which also doubled as my purse with my wallet, tickets, boarding passes, chargers, phone, etc, and a backless booster seat for when we arrived. 

Pro tip:

If you are one of the last groups to board or if the plane isn’t carrying much baggage, they will ask if anyone wants to check their bag at the gate for free. We were able to check my roller bag on the way there and back which made getting on and off the plane easier.

Flying Alone with the Kids

Car seat or booster?

If your child is still in a car seat or booster, this is another thing to consider. If your child is young enough that they will sit in the car seat on the plane then you may want to invest in a carrying bag or cart for your seat. While we use a Britax Frontier full time, it is a large, heavy seat. Too heavy to carry alone and can only be used on the plane in harness mode. Instead, I opted to buy a backless booster instead for travel since Dub is now five-and-a-half.

We chose the Clek Olli for several reasons – it has LATCH, a shoulder strap for easy carrying, it’s lightweight, comfortable, takes seconds to install and uninstall in any car, and it has a 9-year life While we aren’t using it in our vehicles yet, it will not expire before we’re ready to switch and will get our use out of it. If it’s within your budget, I highly recommend this seat. 

Note about checking car seats:

If checking your booster/car seat, which we had to do on our return flight, they will not come on the belt with the rest of the luggage. Don’t panic like I did! They handle car seats separately from the rest of the baggage (which is good news) and have them in a separate area of the baggage claim. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

Time to fly

When leaving Denver, the flight attendants let Dub visit the pilots in the cockpit. This was the highlight of the whole trip! Denver was the only airport who offered, so if your attendants don’t offer to let your kids see the cockpit, ask them if it would be okay. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

If possible, see if you can get a window seat. Dub loved looking out the window. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

In-flight entertainment

Some planes have movies and TV shows available for purchase, but not all. To keep Dub entertained we had his backpack filled with a small pad of drawing paper, markers and crayons, a travel-sized DoodlePro magnetic writer, his LeapPad Platinum with headphones, and some snacks.  This was plenty to keep him entertained. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

Snacks

We brought some snacks on the plane with us, but on our return flight, we had a pretty long layover so we opted to buy a kids’ snack box on the plane. The box had an applesauce squeeze pouch, animal crackers, fruit snacks, a turkey stick, and some wikki stix to play with. For me, it was money well spent.

Airport transportation

For our flight out my husband dropped us off at the airport and my mother picked us up. However, for the ride back to the airport to go home my mother was already gone so we were on our own. My husband has used Uber with good results, but I didn’t want to worry about a driver being in the area at 5:30 in the morning so we used a shuttle service. A van picked us up at our door and dropped us off right at our gate at the airport. I would definitely use this service again. It’s convenient and cheaper than paying to park at the airport or renting a car. 

In summary

I worried about flying alone for Dub’s first flight, but aside from a small fit after a long layover in Houston, our trip went perfectly. He handled the transitions from airport to airport well, he loved the trains that got us to our gates, and he was even good at 6:30 in the morning for over a half hour in Denver’s TSA check in line. I am happy to report that I worried over nothing! Which is a good thing since we will be flying again soon for my grandmother’s 90th birthday festivities later this summer. 

Flying Alone with the Kids

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1 comment

Mrs.AOK June 12, 2016 - 9:25 am

These are wonderful tips! You can’t go wrong with snacks and games. I always bring along gum for ear popping. Actually it’s been at least 8 years since I’ve been on a plane. We’ve been road trippers lately, which will probably change since our last road trip .
Thanks for sharing with us at MMBH!
XO

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