Q&A – Flying With A Toddler Solo And Surviving A Long Layover

flying with a toddler, toddler, airport, suitcase, family travel, travel with toddler, traveling toddlers

The Travelin’ Two-Year-Old

I received a lovely email recently from Judy, who will be flying with a toddler soon to Florida. And it worked out that she’ll be flying solo with her toddler daughter, and their travel day will include a fairly long layover:

My daughter and I will be traveling to Fort Myers via a 4+ hour layover in Chicago this February (my husband is following two days later and flying home a different route). My daughter and I are on comp tickets that we won at my husband’s Christmas party last year and it was too expensive for him to get the same flight (especially with seat sales available!). I’m a tad worried about flying with an opinionated two-year-old & how do I keep her entertained for eleven or so hours?

Well, Judy, flying with a toddler is work. This will be a very long and tiring day for the both of you, and you have a number of things working against you, but also a lot in your favour!

She’s two. Which means she gets her own seat and also her own luggage allowance. But because she’s two, ultimately you will be the one shouldering the luggage when she’s tired of “helping”.

If you haven’t got one already, invest in a cute toddler-sized wheeled luggage bag (I love the new ones from Skip Hop). Make sure it has a shoulder strap so that you can manage it easily when she no longer wishes to pull it. You can get her excited about the trip by allowing her to pack a lot for herself – Bub loved packing his woobie and a few toys, and I did a final once over to ensure there was nothing to trigger alarm bells and include a few extras. Make sure there’s a variety of activities – coloring books and crayons, a travel etch-a-sketch (more popular than you might think). If you have a tablet, bring it. This stays in your bag, of course, but if you have a number of low-tech toys mixed in with some new apps, movies, and/or shows, cycling between them will help pass the time. During your four-hour layover, never underestimate the power of a movator. When we had a five-hour delay at Orlando airport, the many movators saved us. Seriously.

She’s two. Which means she’s probably eating and having snacks at fairly regular times. But because she’s two, she probably gets super cranky when she’s hungry. Arm yourself with snacks. Obviously the healthier and lower-in-sugar the better, but don’t be afraid of packing a few reward/bribe foods. You can re-enter the race for Mother Of The Year when you get back 😉

She’s two. Which means she is probably still napping. But because she’s two, she probably often resists her nap, resulting in a grumpy afternoon for the both of you! In a perfect world she’ll nap at some point during your journey. Make it easy for her to do so by making sure you have everything she would usually have with her for a nap (blankie, binky, etc.) and my friend Lianne from Sprout Right recommends oatmeal to help toddlers sleep on planes.

To make life easier for yourself, make sure you can manage your carry-ons yourself – either with her in the stroller or not (you’re bringing a stroller, right?!) When I flew solo with my five-year-old and 20-month-old, I had my system figured out with shoulder bags, car seat strapped to rolling suitcase, booster seat and diaper bag in stroller basket, and Bub strapped into the stroller even if he was not entirely thrilled about it! Make sure you have at least one new outfit for each of you, and wear comfortable clothes that you know will stay that way throughout the day. On my solo journey with both kids I wore a pair of new jeans that felt great and fit like a glove. Except after a few hours of wearing them they stretched out so they were continually falling down. Since I had my hands full, I had trouble yanking them up. A lot of people saw my bum that morning…

My motto with almost everything parent is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You might be surprised at well things go! Aside from a barf-o-rama episode on the plane, our day went fairly smoothly and we all gained new confidence and respect for one another since it was just us with no Dada to swoop in and save the day. Due to the aforementioned barf-o-rama, our first stop at Disney’s Polynesian Resort was the laundromat instead of Magic Kingdom, but by the time we got the castle we all smelled a bit better.

Have a fabulous vacation with your family, I know you and your daughter will rock your flights!

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