Yes, it can be done!
Flying with a baby/toddler as a lap child is overwhelming. Especially as a new parent! But, even more so when you are attempting it ALONE. But, as I said, it can be done. And I hope that my suggestions below can help you out if you find yourself in a similar situation.
I just recently got back from a cross-country trip. My daughter is 15 months old, so she flew as a lap child and we had a layover both ways. My brother flew with us on the way there (yay!) but we were on our own on the way back. Here’s what I learned!
1. Don’t fly alone!
Okay, I know this post is about flying alone but that’s not my first choice. If you can have someone fly with you, even if it’s not your spouse, do it, it’s MUCH easier. Please continue reading if you have no other option but to fly alone with your toddler.
2. Book Flights Strategically
I found that booking my flights during nap time or night time worked the best for me. We did red-eye flights one way and that seemed to work well. The baby nursed/slept on my lap for pretty much all of both flights and then when it was time to get off the plane I was able to transfer her to the carrier (which I think is a must for flying) while still asleep! I did use a nursing cover on the plane (I’m just more comfortable with one), which I think helped her sleep more. When she was done nursing, I just kept her covered up and snuggled on my lap. On the way home we flew during the day, but at her nap times. This worked well too. Again, she nursed then slept on my lap. She was awake for the last hour of our final flight, but happy.
3. Check Whatever You Can
If you’re renting a car at your destination, you can most likely rent a car seat as well. I felt more comfortable bringing our own car seat with me, so that’s what I did. But, I checked it at check in (I did put it in this bag to protect it some). There is sometimes a possibility that you can score an empty seat on the plane for your baby to use with the car seat. But I didn’t feel like it was worth taking the seat through the airport for that.
I also checked my rolling bag so that I only had my backpack, my baby, and our stroller. I was so glad I didn’t check the stroller because I really needed it for the layover. I did make sure that I could carry everything, including the baby, by myself. I wanted that assurance just in case something were to happen where I was by myself longer than planned. My stroller converts to a double stroller, so I just used the stands for the second seat to hold her carseat in that spot instead.
4. Make Sure Your Baby is Fed and Hydrated
No one likes a hangry baby! I found that it really helped to give her a few more snacks for her and buy her a meal during our layover. We don’t eat many snacks in our house, but I found some organic squeeze packs that had fruits AND vegetables in them. And, my daughter loves date bars, I just make sure there are not big chunks of nuts that she could choke on. I brought this water bottle with me, which my daughter loves to use. I like it because you can fill it up after security and have filtered water for your trip. She drank a lot of water during travel. But, the airplane air is very dry, so I’m sure she needed it.
5. Bring Lots of Toys
I packed our bag full of different books and toys. I picked the ones that my daughter plays with the most and books that keep her attention for a long time. Because she slept so much on the flights, she was wide awake for layovers. So the different toy options really helped. I would suggest going through your baby’s toys or trying to notice what they really like to bring with you.
6. Use Layovers for Exercise
I let my girl walk around as much as possible during our layover. It’s hard to let her walk on the plane, so I just pushed the stroller around and let her walk. She loved it! And, I’m sure it helped her sleep on the plane later.
7. Make Friends
My daughter loves to say “Hi” to everyone. This really came in handy for flying. We boarded early and she would say “Hi” to everyone as they boarded. Then later on in the flight, several people made faces at her and helped her be happy. If you make friends, then later, when the baby cries, everyone will understand and feel better for the cute little baby that said “Hi” to them.
8. Be Confident
It can seem overwhelming at first to fly alone with your baby, I get it. But sometimes it’s just part of life and unavoidable, so rock it. Don’t worry if your baby cries, babies cry. Don’t worry if you have to change a diaper on your lap, babies need diapers changed. The reality of it is, you most likely won’t ever see the people you’re flying with ever again. So it really doesn’t matter. Just do your best and be gracious, after all, that’s all you can do.
Overall, it was a good experience for me. And, I was super overwhelmed, slightly scared, so I’d say it turned out well in the end. Have you flown with kids? What are your tips? Let me know below!