What would come to your mind if I ask you about flying with a baby/toddler alone?
I can tell that I will first get a knot in my stomach! Then the worry wart me starts kicking in.
Here are some steps by steps guide to prepare yourself BEFORE the actual flight(s):
1. Read, read and read:
Don’t let the horror stories scared the heck out of you. Let them instead prepare you to face the worst case scenario! With plenty of preparations and reading – there are plenty of great resources out there if you Google up flying tips with small children, you can armed yourself with load of information’s. Check out this lady, Jamie Hassen. She’s a pro and very helpful! My personal favorite websites loaded with these tips are here, here and here. Learning about the rules of different countries is also helpful as it will help you prepare what to pack and what not to pack.
2. Documentation & paperwork:
- To fly internationally your child need his/her own passport and visa (depending on the country of destinations).
- Either you fly domestic or locally, it is always a good idea to keep a notarized copy of your child’s birth certificate to confirm their age should the need arise. I keep this in a small pocket where I keep the passports and tickets.
- If you are flying alone with your child it is a good idea to have a Consent Letter from the other parent. So far I never need them but I’ve heard stories of when they come in handy.
- Bringing a copy of your child’s medical record will also help especially if you are traveling internationally and should your child need medical assistance abroad this will help the physician to check your children’s record.
3. Booking for your flight(s):
- Check out the airline’s website prior to make the booking so you will be familiar with their rules and policy regarding minor passengers. Different airlines have different policies. Some are sticker some are more lenient.
- Paid extra to get your child his/her own seat is always better – yes it is more expensive but from the safety side it is always safer for them. Plus, having a child on your lap for 15+ hours flight can really hurts your butt!
- Choosing your seats: For infants, bulkhead seat is better because you can request for a baby bassinet, they have a bigger leg room there. They only have limited numbers of available baby bassinet so it’s based on first request first served basis. It is important to remember the downside of bulkhead seats is you can’t lift their armrests. For bigger child I would rather pick another seat, yes there are always risk they will kick the seat in front of them but if you got lucky and have another seat next to your child’s empty you can lift all the armrests and have your child lay down. Never pick a seat right next to emergency exit door. Check out Seat Guru as different airlines have different seating configurations.
- When you make the booking you can request for additional help and they will mark your ticket that you will need assistance as you are flying alone with a child.
- If you have connecting flights ask if they can do a check-in-through for your baggage meaning, you will pick up your luggage at your final destinations.
- Meal requests, most international flights even for economy class will have this. You can ask for children’s menu or if their children’s menu doesn’t sounds compelling for you, you can go for kosher. Also put in a request for milk, most flights have milk, some only serve 2% (aka low fat milk) so it never hurts to ask.
- Transit times: Ask if you can collect your gate checked stroller (this means your stroller will be stored inside the cabin instead of down in the checked-in baggage compartments) if you have to deplane for transit.
- Car seats: I never bring one on-board but I’ve seen parents struggling with them but now I chose to use CARES instead. Read more about using Car Seats here.
4. If your child never fly before it is a great idea to actually take them to the airport and let him/she gets excited about flying and its concept. When you are flying with an infant it’s easier – really.
5. Get your child an a-okay from their pediatrician prior to the trip.
Make sure your child is not teething (believe me flying with a teething baby is a nightmare!) or having ear infections. Also do not medicate your child hoping they will fall asleep on board. Some of the tale about Benadryl can backfire as some child will become more active as a result. Always and I mean always consult your doctor before and if they doctor prescribe you with something to make the trip a little easier for you, always do a try out at home first and see how your child reacts to the medicine.
6. What to pack:
I found this great diaper backpack and after so many flights and being dragged around across several countries it still holds up its duties fairly well. Read more about what to pack here and here.
7. Big D-Day (Departure Day):
- Always arrive early for your flight. Going through security checks these days alone takes time for a grown up let alone for parents with small children.
- Early boarding/Late boarding: Some airlines offer parents who travel with small children to do an early boarding. This is great to help you settle down before other passengers’ starts to board. Sometimes this will work; sometimes it won’t as your child might get bored while you wait for the flight to fly. Chose wisely depending on your child’s temperament, for my son we opted for late boarding because he will quickly gets impatience and wants to fly right away.
- If your baby still nursing do nurse him/her when the plane is in a taxing position and getting ready for takeoff or for older children, giving them something to drink or eat will help with the ear pressure thing. Some children are more sensitive to this, mine never have a problem. Also, those warm towels they handed out…that can actually helps to relieve the ear pain for your child too. Just put them on each ear for a few minutes or at the bottom of two paper or Styrofoam cups, then hold the cups over the ears.
- Depending on the airline, sometimes the flight attendants will be nice enough to offer to watch your child for a little bit or to take them for a little walk up and down the alley. Do take it as you will get that lavatory breaks you need but do not expect them to wait on you on their hands and knees. Always be nice to them no matter if they returning the favor or not. Personally, I try not to bug them too much. What I can do by myself I’ll do it — this will make them see you as an independent parent(s) and more often they will gladly offer a helping hands.
- Whip out your stash of toys/activities one at a time or only when you see your child is getting bored. Also, those little portable TV on-board really does helps, most airlines will have some cartoons. If you don’t allow your child to watch too much TV at home, make an exception for the trip. You’ll be glad!
- Have fun! Your child picks up on your emotions so if you’re panicking, they will starts to mirror you. Be thankful and accept any offer or helps you can get but do not expect everyone to come to your aid. I find most fellow parents have high tolerance to other parents traveling solo and sometimes you can see it from their understanding nod and smile or from their kindness gesture. Be thankful. Ignore those who thinks you and your child doesn’t deserve to fly, besides what are the chances you’ll run into them again?!
There…rinse and repeat for the flight home! It’s not easy to fly with small children but it’s do-able and it is rewarding to be able to go to different places and expose your child to it. My son now loves flying, he can’t wait to get on board and since his father works with airplanes he’s been in the cockpit and knows how fun it is to fly.
Good luck and who says having a baby/child means you are home bound until they are 18?! 🙂