How To Fly Solo With Kids (And Live To Tell About It)


Every military parent has been there: your spouse is away, you’re hauling your kids on a cross country flight to see their grandparents solo and your 2-year-old decides that now – NOW – is the time to have the meltdown of the century.

It’s like a nightmare, only you are awake. And there is no way for you or any of the glaring, judgey co-passengers to escape.

When I had my son five weeks before my husband left for Afghanistan the Good Lord knew that the only way to make sure both of us survived deployment was for him to be an Angel Baby. It’s the only way I can explain the patience (and silence!) with which my son allowed me to haul him solo all over creation visiting family and friends throughout his infancy. But even Angel Baby had his turn at a meltdown on one extremely late flight.

It was one of the worst nights of my life.

Nothing would calm him down. Snacks were rejected. Elmo was ignored. Pacis and blanket were hurled across the airplane cabin. I wanted to stand on my chair and scream “I’m TRYING to make him stop! Believe me – this is torturing me at LEAST as much, if not more, than it is torturing you! Please stop glaring!”

It’s with that experience in mind that I read about situations like this – where a family was tossed from a Jet Blue flight after their child absolutely refused to sit down for takeoff. I’m not going to judge these parents and talk about what they should or should not have done in this situation. But this gives us an excellent opportunity to talk about something we’ve all dealt with or will deal with ...

How to fly alone with children and live to tell about it.

1. Arm yourself with snacks.

Think about it: aren’t you about 1,000 times more happy with a bag of snack cookies next to you than you are when you don’t have one? That’s what I thought. The same principle applies to children.

And so, for ultimate flight happiness, my number one piece of advice, as someone who has hauled her child on no less than 20 flights during his 2.5 years of life, is this: bring snacks - lots and lots of snacks.

Pass them out at strategic times. For example, when his interest in the first half of his toy collection starts to wane, but before you break out secret toy collection number two -- snack time. Landing is another prime snack opportunity. When whatever electronic entertainment you’ve provided has been forced into the bag by the flight attendant something must fill the gap. That something is: snacks.

This blogger has some good snack ideas.

2. Bring Elmo. Lots and lots of Elmo.

… or whatever it is that your kid finds completely mezmorizing. The purchase of a small, portable DVD player and kiddo-sized head phones is something I have never regretted. We survive about 45 minutes into the flight with entertainment and snack, and then out comes the Elmo DVDs. Inevitably he falls asleep in front of it – and so do I.

These are the headphones we own for my son. They are amazing.

3. Bring "new" toys

They don’t have to be new – just new to your kid. It’s usually noisy enough in the plane that the other passengers won’t be annoyed by toys that keep the volume on the quiet side.

Toys like this kiddie remote (which I bought at Target for $10 -- not the crazy price shown through that link) have been our friend on many a flight. I bought it for one trip a few years ago and take it away when we get home. That time it’s “new” every time we get on the plane.

4. Travel by USO

This is one of my absolute favorite tricks – to the point that I refuse to fly through any airport that does not have a USO lounge. Knowing that we’ll have a safe, quiet place to go if our flight gets terribly delayed is a huge weight off my shoulders.

Read more about the USO lounges here.


Tell us: what are your tips for traveling solo with young (or even older) kids?

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