Flying Solo with Small Children

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We’ve all seen it before, the stressed out Mom with the screaming children getting on the plane. The silent prayers going up, “please don’t let them be sitting near me” as she boards the plane. You think to yourself, “that will never be me”, but then one day, it is. flying_solo_with_childrenThere are never guarantees, but there are definitely ways to avoid or minimize this. Having travelled alone many times with two small children, here are some ideas that I have found helpful.

Planning for the Flight

Booking your flight
Mid-afternoon flights can be easier with children as they are generally less crowded. An added benefit is that these can often be less expensive as these are considered less desirable flights.

Arriving at the airport
Arrive at least 30 minutes earlier than you would if you were travelling without kids for domestic flights and at least 45 minutes earlier than you normally would for any other flights. This allows time for slow walkers, meltdowns, the inevitable last minute diaper change, and anything else that could come up with young children.


The most difficult thing about flying with kids in general is disruption to routine. Preparation can definitely help. With minimization in mind, have comfort items, a favourite toy, entertainment (electronic and non-electronic), and lots of snacks.


Find out the rules of security ahead of time because if you can avoid disallowed items, it will save you a lot of time in security.

I have found that giving the younger children someone or something to look after can keep them busy during long security screening line-ups. One year when I was travelling with only one child, having my son “help” Elmo through security kept him happy and busy.

Going through security with small child who is just learning how to walk, or who is a runner and unlikely to listen can be stressful. I always carry the youngest through the metal detector with me, or if you have an older child with you should always keep the youngest one in between you and the older children.

Getting to your gate

I always bring a full sized stroller that has a basket underneath it with me so that my hands are free. If you bring a larger stroller, these can be gate checked, which means just before you get on the plane, you fold it down at the door and when you get off the plane, it is there waiting for you, all for no extra charge.

On the plane

Bringing a toddler car seat with you can make your time on the plane easier for everyone, however you do need to ensure that your car seat is approved for air travel and you will need to check with the airline to find out which sticker/certificate is needed. There are carrying bags you can get specifically for carrying a car seat and I would highly recommend getting one if you have small children and plan to do much flying as they are cumbersome to carry through the airport.

If your child insists on kicking the seat in front of them, and will not listen to reason this is extremely stressful, especially on a longer flight. It is a difficult situation, but definitely ask the flight attendant to help you.

Going up and down on the plane can be hard on little ears, so it does help to give your kids a drink both during take-off and landing. Most airline crew members will happily give you a drink at these times, when you ask. I always carry covered sippy cups with me to avoid accidents, angry throwing episodes, and turbulence.

Having a child on the plane with you who has allergies can be intimidating but when travelling with more than one child, make sure that the child with allergies is seated next to you, if possible. I always carry an Epi-pen with me. If you forget your epi-pen, a crew member once told me that there is an epi-pen in every airplane emergency kit, but I assume this would be the standard adult dose.

Getting help

Ask for help! Most people are fairly accommodating and helpful when they see you, especially alone, with small children, so my advice would be to ask for as much help as possible and to take any help that is offered.

If you have to change planes and your gate, map out how you are going to get from one plane gate to the next before you get off the plane. Most airports also have electric carts to get you from one gate to the next, which are usually no charge, but you do have to request them. Check ahead for the power cart guidelines as some carts will not allow strollers, even if they are folded up.

The Bigger Picture

When things get stressful, concentrate on the fun things you will get to do on the trip and to remember that your children are only young once. Take lots of pictures, especially of the fun parts of your trip. You are building memories that will last forever.

Author: Tanya Hansen

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1 thought on “Flying Solo with Small Children”

  1. I just wanted to check in with you on this article. I wrote this article in 2011 and was just going to show it to a friend as she was asking about this and was wondering why it says this other person wrote it?
    Maybe just in error. Wondering if you could please change it back to my name as I was going to provide a link to it on my website.
    Tanya Hansen

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