Image via here.
Have the correct paperwork, just in case:
If you are only traveling with one parent (or a non-parent guardian), you should get a notarized note acknowledging that the non-traveling parent/ex has permission to do so. More information here and free travel consent letters can be accessed here. Customs and Border Protection recommend the letter have the following wording: “I acknowledge that my spouse is traveling out of the country with my son. She has my permission to do so.” Also include who, what, where, when and why and the absent parents information.
Work your way up to big trips:
“I found just going into the city or out to Coney Island was overwhelming at this time. I worked my way up to big trips. My first vacation alone with my daughters to Dominican Republic was at times nerve wracking navigating the airport and customs. But I did it! And you will too!”
Schedule night flights so they can sleep:
“I choose to take a late night flight before which they got super excited, but fell asleep at take off and slept through the flight (the main hassle was later getting the rental car, but the kids were asleep sitting on top of each other in the stroller, and if you just get a can it's easier).”
“Look into VIP airport services. I once did this though American Airlines (their 5-Stars service) and it was amazing. They expedited our check-in, expedited us through security, escorted us to the lounge and then escorted us to the plane so we could board before everyone else. we got from curb to lounge to in 15 minutes! I can't pay that every time i travel but if you are alone with kids or or traveling with aged parents, i think it's worth it. see what your airline offers, and you credit cards. and if they don't have anything like this, Google, "Airport VIP service, NYC."
Depending on your circumstances and country, your child might need a notarized affidavit from the other parent (and here are member-recommended notaries in the neighborhood):
“My husband has taken our kids on vacation to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic without any question being raised about my absence. But yesterday, when they went to the airport to fly to Belize, they were told they wouldn’t be allowed to get on the plane without an affidavit from me consenting to our kids’ travel without me. The airport personnel said it was Belize’s requirement. A $120 car service ride to Newark airport and $160 to a mobile notary who came to the airport in 20 minutes to notarize the affidavits I wrote up (Google is amazing) got my family on the plane just in time. My husband says that the border personnel in Belize were not interested in the affidavits but one couldn’t know that ahead of time, and since the Newark personnel believed it was required, we had to make it work. Luckily, we were able to pull it off.”
“I bought an ergo, so was able to walk around with her (and strapped her to me at take-off). You may want to do that so you could have one strapped one to you and have your hands free for the other?”
Ask for help:
“First, ask for help. I feel like I would never be able to get through security with two active toddlers, strollers, etc. all by myself. There are always extra security people around -- I would just ask if one could help me while I was on line before I took the kids out of the strollers. And if not someone official, then just some nice-looking person in line. My guess is that someone will offer. But if not, just ask.”
“Look for the moms or other passengers who smile...they will often be willing to lend a hand if you need it. Really! Don't be afraid to ask for help...people can be wonderful if you give them the chance.”
Don’t worry about disturbing others:
“I would try not to worry too much about disturbing others. For me anyway, that concern adds so much to my stress. Just bring along extra earplugs and offer them to people around you if your kids are being disruptive. I did that the last time I flew with my son. No one accepted (everyone's got earbuds or plugs themselves these days), but the mere offer (with an apology) elicited a lot of smiles and sympathy. I imagine most people will be really sympathetic to your situation anyway (and those who aren't really aren't worth worrying about).”
Tire the kids out before boarding
“Let the kids get energy out in the airport before boarding.”
Encourage sleep with a little help (but check with your pediatrician first!):
“If you want to go the benedryl route, make sure you know in advance what kind of reaction your kids have to it. My daughter had a terrible reaction the first time she took it (she was 18 months and sick w/ Coxsackie virus), so thank god I knew that before flying and trying to take this advice. Instead, you could look into melatonin which can also be helpful for jet lag recovery. Zarbees sells a natural "night-time" cough syrup that has some in it. I've seen it sold in some pharmacies in Park Slope and you can get it on Amazon as well. Give it to them 20-30 minutes before you hope they will fall asleep. Personally, I would also see how they react before trying to use it in flight, even though it's natural and mild.”
If they are old enough, get the kids to help you and each other:
“My almost 4 year old loves it when I say I need her help to take care of her 2.5 year old sister. We talk through the things that are so helpful to do, (sharing with her, holding her hand, playing nicely together on the plane, making sure she stays close to us all the time etc.) and she bursts with pride to be mommy' big helper and have lots of responsibility. It also makes her behavior very good, as she is so busy being "grown up" that I don't have to worry about her being fussy. Would your 5 year old accept such a mission? (Obviously I don't leave it totally up to her to watch the 2 year old but at a ticket counter or similar things when you can't keep your eyes on your kids every second, it is such a relief knowing my older one will always alert me to something I should be noticing.)”
“My oldest has always assumed the role of my little assistant and is very helpful.”
“Bring lots of snacks, games, crayons and paper are big and books for your kids to read. I would also buy their own little luggage so they can pull themselves. When my children were old enough to this, it really helped with my load of what to carry. Make sure all your luggage rolls and use a backpack to keep your arms free. People will assist you along your travel. My younger daughter is a social butterfly so we meet people and become friendly everywhere we travel. In fact, this past vacation, we became friendly with two families and we took turns watching the children.”
Let parenting rules go. Junk food and bribes are no longer a no but a must have!
“I suspend lots of rules...my goal is a peaceful flight...so I have been known to let my kids eat their way across country. I just bring healthier snacks (popcorn, cheese sticks, raisins) and some treats, just in case. While I never considered vacations restful until recently (my kids are now 5 and 9), they were fun and the time spent with them just doing fun stuff without the usual hustle to/from work/school was priceless.”
“For the plane - lots of bribing and prep talk for the older one, how you rely on his/her help, make him/her feel important. Lots of entertainment - small toys, and yes - some screens for backup. Make sure the 2yo has a seat, makes things easier (if he turned 2 he has to). And whatever meltdowns happen - just think how much fun this vacation will be, how nice of a break. Most people are understandable and will give you a hand, incl. flight attendants, there are very few exceptions to this.
Know it’s only temporary:
“Have a great time! You are going to be exhausted, but the best advice I ever had on long flights is that it will come to an end. The flight will be over and you'll all be in one piece.”
Travel with an airline you love:
“I traveled with my daughter between Zurich and NY at least 6 times before she was 2.5 years old. They were all night flights, and it was tough at times but totally do-able. My biggest recommendation is to travel with an airline that has a great reputation. My experiences on United were awful because the flight attendants visible cringed as we boarded and often refused to help with small things like helping me put things into the overhead storage. This rotten reception increased my stress and definitely made things worse than they had to be. Conversely, it was a pleasure to fly Swiss Air because we were welcomed, and asked repeatedly how they could help. Just knowing we were welcome helped me relax and happy mommy helps to make a happy baby!”
“In terms of flying alone, I find flight attendants tend to be nice and helpful (as do other passengers in the TSA line).”
Finger food, games, toys, books, stickers, iPads, coloring books on more - many parents have shared awesome advice about all the different ways to kids busy and happy en route. All the tips about that can be found in the travel section article “Travel Toys and Activities for the Plane.”
One member asked their baby group in Summer 2023...
"I wonder if anyone has advice for flying solo with two young kids - 1 and 3.
In the past I used our colugo travel stroller and a carrier, but now the 1 year old is too big for the carrier. So last time I thought my three year old could just walk. But she was drowsy from dramamine and moving really slowly through the newly renovated and now seemingly larger LGA, and we ended up missing our flight because I misjudged how long it would take us to walk to the gate. On the way back we landed late at night and she flat out refused to walk and I ended up having to put her in the stroller and carry the baby and our bags - not pleasant because he's almost 30 pounds.
I tried out uppababy's double travel stroller, but it's bulky and getting it into the storage bag at the gate while keeping the baby from crawling away doesn't seem very realistic.
I've seen kids riding on what look like rolling carry-on suitcases with wagon pull handles. Has anyone used one of these they'd recommend?
Or any other solutions?"
Look into a "BedBox":
"I can’t speak to traveling with two but I can give a solid vote of confidence for the JetKids rolling “suitcase”. We bought ours used off PSP Classifieds. I would definitely recommend going the used route if you can find it bc they hold up VERY well. My daughter loves riding it though the airport and I love not carrying her :)
I’ve seen other attachments that go on top of an actual rolling suitcase but haven’t personally used so can’t recommend a specific brand.
The other benefit of the JetKids is it turns a plane seat into a small bed, which can be nice if you’re looking to have a kiddo lay down and rest."
Or a toddler carrier:
"Have you tried a toddler carrier? We had a Tula toddler that I think went up to 50lbs. No one wants to carry a giant baby, but a toddler carrier can make a huge difference. I used mine plus a stroller to get my 2 kids through many an airport solo. I always gate checked the stroller and carried the smaller kid in the Tula onto the plane."
Or a travel stroller with a roller board:
"What about a travel stroller with a roller board that has a seat? For example we have the baby zen yo-yo stroller which folds down easily and also has a roller board that my older child can either stand on or it has a little bike like seat that he can sit on too.
There are others - the bugaboo butterfly, uppababy minu, come to
Mind as light travel strollers that fold down easily and have the ability to attach a roller board but I’m sure there are others as well. You would just want to make sure that the roller board comes off super easy without any tools in order to be able to collapse the stroller for the flight easily. The yo-yo roller board comes off very easily."
More great gear recs:
"I travelled solo with my oldest when she was almost 2 (and I was 14 weeks pregnant).
Here's what worked for me with 1, some Ideas, and what I'm planning on doing this time around:
1. Recommend you ask PSP classified if anyone is willing to lend the ride on suitcases or more packable strollers. I looked into the ride on and from advice/research/knowing myself it just seemed like another thing to keep track of. I wasn't proactive enough to reach out to PSP to try it out and I also wasn't sold on the cost/practicality but wish I'd asked to borrow to see for myself and if my daughter would like it.
2. Can also ask about the Doona car seat - We have it and I'm worried my 1.5 yo is getting slightly too big for it (she just had a growth spurt), so have to check she still fits but this is how I hope to deal with car seat for her, stroll her around, and check it at the gate.
3. Ergo baby carrier - I used it traveling solo and wore it the entire time to make throwing her in easier. I also wore it to the side so it was a little more comfortable for both of us because she was a large 2 year old. Ive been practicing wearing it with my 1.5 year old so we get used to it as I don't usually carry her in it anymore. Also helpful to have on so I could carabiner her stuffy and mini backpack to myself to keep my hands free.
4. Harness backpack. Not this exact one but another dino one that to this day we use anytime we leave the house that has special toys to entertain. This gave me peace of mind when I had to put the toddler down and needed to shift attention. Prior to our trip I practiced listening and stopping bc she would run off. I like that you can remove the 'leash' part or at least tuck it into a side pocket.
5. Luggage carts - unsafe but when I had to re-check bags in Toronto, I just sat my kid on them and held her. I had a carseat and 2 bags to contend with.
6. Throw away umbrella stroller - I have a cheap target stroller that is falling apart. It's not great and I'd rather not take it but I'm not ruling out taking it to the airport and just leaving it by a garbage can by the gate if I decide I need wheels. FWIW I saw one discarded in Toronto and regretted not taking it for our long walk through the terminals.
7. Special treats/candy - my kids like to run and even when tired, love a good game. I'm planning on bringing things they love but don't usually get to eat (m&ms, dried cranberries) because on hard days like this I am all for bribing."
A wagon can work too:
"Do you have a wagon? They're easy to fold up, you can put bags and kids in them, and you can usually just gate check them like a stroller for no extra fee. Some of them have adapters for car seats if you're bringing one. They're also great for longer trips to park, beach, etc. on your trip when carrying a lot of stuff with young kids. Otherwise, maybe a ride-along board for a small stroller."
A tandem stroller can be helpful:
"My friend swears by the Joovy Caboose for travel with her kids who are the same age.
This is a good article on it.
We had luck with the Minu with piggyback but my older one loves walking so we were not very reliant on it."
"This one worked for us - cheap no frills but functional for what we needed! Delta Children City Street LX"
“I started liking my independence. I liked that I could choose where to go and what I would like to do. If I wanted to go the Thai restaurant instead of the Italian at the resort, it was my choice. And when you reach your vacation destination, and settle by the pool or the beach, you will be so happy to see your children playing and it will all be worth it.”
“And yes, you will see other “happy” families of four when you are just three, and then you might feel blue like I do, but then I come to and acknowledge my gratitude for having the means to travel with my children. I am very fortunate.”
“You should definitely go. While I’m not pretending that it can’t be stressful to travel with small children I guarantee that you can absolutely handle it and that it will feel very liberating and empowering to do that on your own. Travel light, pack lots of distractions, don’t hesitate to bribe, and reach out to friendly strangers; people love to help. However, at your destination do get a sitter and pamper yourself. It’s your vacation, too!”