How to Survive Flying Alone with a Toddler and a Baby: Part 1 – At the Airport
I can do anything I put my mind to – I really believe it. So when the opportunity came up to go to Toronto alone with the kids to visit my in-laws, I figured, it would be difficult, but I could do it.
I researched and took careful notes days before our departure date and did everything that other parents recommended. I packed a neck pillow, an iPad full of toddler games, and a handful of new toys. I purchased Alex his own little suitcase so he could help drag it through the airport. I organized the suitcase and the diaper bag strategically so that all the clothes and toiletries were on the bottom, and everything we needed in the airport and on the airplane was on top or the side pockets. I brought a carrier for Zoe and an umbrella stroller for Alex.
Yet, despite my research and careful preparation, this flight was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I definitely learned a lot, and I want to share what I have experienced so you will be better prepared than me for your trip. I have broken down the trip into two parts: at the airport and on the airplane.
This is how everything went down:
Trouble started right out of the gate…literally. Alex was going through a phase where daddy was everything, and we could not go anywhere without daddy. When we got in line in security, I was super nervous that he would be upset that daddy wasn’t coming along with us. So imagine my relief when he sat in the stroller and came along with mommy to the security checkpoint. And then imagine my horror when Alex jumped up just as I was handing the passports and boarding passes to the TSA. I apologized profusely as I snatched the documents from the officer’s and chased after my son. Marc tried his best to convince the airline to give him a gate pass but to no avail. Finally, we took out one of the new toys to give to Alex and that distracted him long enough for us to get past security.
Tip #1: Prepare your kids emotionally for leave your significant other. They may not understand why they are leaving without daddy or mommy and feel anxious about flying without both parents.
The umbrella stroller we brought could not be navigated without using both hands. I asked one of the airport crew to help me with the stroller or my luggage because Zoe started being fussy so I had to carry her in one arm instead of having her in a carrier. I read that people are extremely helpful at airports. Guess what? LIES! ALL LIES! None of the crew said they could help and told me that I had to carry everything myself.
Tip #2: There may be kind, generous, helpful people at the airport, but don’t always count on them to be around when you need them.
Security stopped me to search our bags and pat me down. I guess I looked like a security threat while holding my crying infant and chasing after my toddler. They told me that my bags had to be searched because I brought a couple of food pouches with me. I was suspicious about the food pouches, so I posted on several Facebook mom groups before the trip, asking whether or not we are allowed to bring them on the plane. All moms who had responded said yes! If I knew that my bags would be searched because of them, I would not have brought them. And guess what? My toddler never ended up eating them. Sadly, my perfectly organized bags were no longer well organized.
Tip #3: When in doubt, leave unessential items at home. If you want to take a chance with them, take them out of your bags at the security check. Worst case is that they do not allow them and you can throw them out.
We got to the airport early and Alex had fun rolling around his luggage. Of course, after security Alex decided he no longer wanted to roll his own luggage. Zoe was still fussy so I had to carry her with one hand while holding the luggage and stroller with another (and wearing a backpack too).
Tip #4: Pack light when possible and count on at least once during the trip that you will be carrying everything. Carry your baby in a carrier so you have two hands to manage your belongings and your toddler. If possible, ship some items over to your destination ahead of time or buy what you need when you get there.
I saw a place with fries near the gate and headed there right away. Alex usually loves fries, and since we don’t usually eat out, he views them as a special treat. I figured eating fries would help us pass time while waiting for the plane to arrive. While I was waiting in line, Alex decided to make the restaurant his playground and I swear I had multiple heart attacks watching him climbing and jumping off the tables and chairs. I was so happy when the fries finally came out, but Alex was way too distracted by all the activities at the airport to sit still and eat and chose instead to run around, touching everything in sight. Come on kid, how can you resist greasy, crunchy potatoes?
Tip #5: Feed your kids before the flight when possible. With all the excitement, don’t expect them to sit down calmly and eat a full meal at the airport. Bring lots of healthy snacks to keep their stomach happy when they finally settle down long enough to realize they are hungry.
Alex was in such a weird mood. It would seem as if he wanted to do everything and anything to freak me out. At one point, he looked at me and licked a random table while we were waiting at the gate. Yuck! I was too tired mentally and physically at that point to chastise him so I just looked at him grumpily and shook my head, which was apparently amusing.
Tip #6: Get lots of rest the days leading up to the trip, because you are going to need it. Besides being physically tired, your kids will push your buttons, buttons that you didn’t even know you had. In a highly stressful situation, you will need all the “Zen” you can muster up not to lose it at the airport.
The plane finally arrived, and Alex wanted to get on the plane right away. I knew that he would get bored sitting around waiting for takeoff, so I told him to wait after everyone boarded to get on the plane. Meanwhile, I set Zoe down on the ground, thinking that I would change her diaper one more time before we get on the plane. Just when I took Zoe’s diaper off, I saw in the corner of my eye Alex running away from me, zipping past security, and down the walkway towards the plane. I freaked out and ran to the door and started yelling like a mad woman for him to come back. Zoe was lying down the ground crying her head off, and all I could do was pray that she doesn’t project poop everywhere. Finally, after promising to give him another new toy, he returned.
Tip #7: Do expect your toddler to be super excited when the plane arrives, especially if it’s his first time flying. Try to hold him off so you don’t spend a lot of time on the plane waiting for take-off, but be ready to go whenever necessary (a.k.a. when your toddler cannot contain himself anymore).
To be continued…. Part 2 – On the Plane
Do you have any tips for flying alone with a toddler and a baby while at the airport?