Air Travel: Alone with 19 Month Old!

Updated on May 24, 2008
M.W. asks from Seattle, WA
10 answers

Hi Moms!
My daughter and I will be going cross-country this July to visit my family in the Midwest. Papa will be staying home due to work. I'm a little concerned (not overly) about traveling through the airport with a carseat (Britax Roundabout), a stroller (Quinny Zapp), diaper bag, my carry-on, and let's not forget the kid! Has anyone gone through this with a toddler? Any suggestions?

My daughter will be 19 months at the time we travel. She's a very good-natured kid, so I'm not worried about her behavior--just trying to picture maneuvering through Sea-Tac to get to the plane!

I normally would not take the car seat with my parents have one in their car already, but on a 4.5 hour flight she really needs her own seat and to be comfortable enough to sleep (both of our flights are evening flights). We have traveled with her on our laps, but she's much too high-energy for one of us alone so I shelled out the $400 for her own ticket! Didn't kids used to be cheaper than adults at one time??

Has anyone traveled with a carseat and stroller by themselves? Any what NOT to dos or what to DEFINITELY dos? Thanks in advance!

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answers from Seattle on

let me start by saying that I have traveled with three kids plus two car seats on my own across the country so i know that the scariest part is the advance worrying about how you will handle it. but actually, if you use airport resources, it's not that hard. here's what I recommend:

choice 1 (easiest choice)
have your hubby (or a friend) take you to the airport and get a special pass so he can walk with you through security and all the way to the gate. All you have to do is ask at check-in and the personnel working there can print one out for him. (he will need to show a driver's license or pother photo ID). you deal with the baby, he deals with the stuff and it's a piece of cake.

if, for whatever reason they don't give you a pass or he can't stay, ask them to have you met right after security by one of those drivable carts used to drive the elderly and disabled to the gate. have him help you at least up to the security gate. go to the special entrance that is for the physically disabled so you won't have to wait in a long line. Once you get through security, your ride will be right there (you might have to wait a few minutes or even ask twice, but they will come) and you can easily ride with the baby and all your stuff all the way to the gate. plus, your baby will love riding on this cart!

When you get close to your destination, ask the flight attendants to have airport personnel waiting with a cart again at the other side. they will pick you right up at the gate and give you a ride all the way to the outer area where you can be met by relatives.

The hardest part will be getting your stuff up and down the ramp and on/off the plane. 9 times out of 10 other passengers will offer to help you. since you can leave the stroller at the door at the bottom of the ramp, then you only have the car seat, the baby and the diaper bag. If no one offers, ASK the flight attendants to carry the car seat down the plane aisle for you. they may take a while, but they can't really turn you down. so you only have to take the baby and the bag onto (and off) the plane yourself. voila!

choice 2 (good if you like to work independently)
put the kid in an ergo or any other carrier that allows the baby to stay securely on your back. then, use the stroller to hold the car seat and diaper bag and whatever other stuff you have to carry and push it all. Do this in both directions. This is the best way if you want to get around independently, and very easy if you have only one kid.

Good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

MINIMIZE! I traveled alone w/ two toddlers recently Italy to Florida. This was one of many trips for me. You must remember that whatever you take through to the gate area will need to be taken apart as much as possible and put on the conveyer belt. Plan plenty of time, go slow and dont worry about the people behind you when going through security. Safty of the child is the most important. ASK FOR HELP from airport staff any chance you get. A few different ways to accomplish your trip:
1. Get a smaller car seat for this occasion. Fix it to the stroller some how safely and sure to be easy to disassemble for security. Then hang your bags on the handles. Your stroller will be taken at the gate and you can ask someone to carry the car seat at that point.
2. skip the stroller. get a car seat carring case. put the diaper bag on the car seat, seat, zip up the case and through it on your shoulder go hand in hand w/ your child who will have to walk through security herself any way.
3. skip the car seat and use a couple of pillows to get your child comfy on the plane.
CONSOLIDATE your stuff and her stuff. One bag (tote style works good) Then give here a small back pack with some things to entertain herself in it.


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answers from Dallas on

I have done this several times with a younger child (14 months) and its not easy, but totally do-able. Pack only what you need for the flight in your carry on... fun toys and snacks (maybe even a few snacks that she doesn't normally get), diapers, a change of clothes, etc. Wear the car seat like a back pack (the Britax is easy to adjust) and take your lightest weight umbrella stroller. They will hoist the stroller onto the conveyor belt at security and the larger strollers sometimes dont fit and can cause a longer wait (speaking from experience!). There is a great, clean play area at seatac, USE IT! My daughter loves it and it helps me to unwind before the flight also. If possible, leave the carseat at home and bring a big, soft blanket instead so she can curl up and sleep on you (if she will). If possible, put her by a window on the plane... that will occupy her while you are waiting to take off.

Just remember to get there AT LEAST 1 and a half hours early... depending on the airline, it can take a long time to check in with kids (Southwest especially!) and its nice to not feel like you have to rush with a little one, that way you can stop and look at stuff, paly a little and she wont pick up on your stress and act off of it. Giving her plenty of time to play before the flight takes off is key. Hope this helps! Happy traveling!

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answers from Seattle on

I just got back from a trip to Alaska with my 22 month old (also a Lucy!), my 3 year old son, and I'm 6 1/2 months pregnant - so yes, it can be done, and it really wasn't a nightmare!

- Use your stroller in the airport, then gate check it and you'll have it when you arrive too. I had the benefit of having a double stroller, then had my 3 yr old walk next to me and used the extra seat in the stroller next to my daughter for the carseat or the carry-on.

- Pack as light as you can in your carry on. Don't take a separate carry on and diaper bag and purse, you need to combine what you need from all of those into one bag. A few snacks and an empty sippy, a couple diapers, a change of clothes, a few small books or toys that will occupy your daughter, and comfort items like pacifier or blankie. Also a couple empty plastic bags aren't a bad idea, in case of wet or dirty clothes. Try to take a carry-on that can be attached to or sat on top of your stroller while you are pushing it. As far as toys, my kids enjoyed a Viewmaster (remember those?) that was newly purchased so it was a novelty they'd never seen before - and I bought a few new books as well - ones with plenty of flaps and a neat Baby Einstein one that had a little round "chip" that was dropped into holes and came out on the other side of the page. Find a couple things like that, that you know she'll not tire of seeing again and again, and again and again. :-) I considered taking a dvd player but decided against it, my kids love to read and that was enough to keep them occupied without having them glued to a screen. But many parents swear by them, and on a longer flight I probably would have.

- Absolutely taking her carseat and having her own seat is a must! I couldn't have done it with my daughter on my lap (what is left of it, anyway). I also traveled with the Roundabout, it works great on the plane. When carrying the carseat, use one or both of the shoulder straps (let it out first) to put it on your own back like a backpack.

- If possible get your husband to help you through security - ask at the airline counter and they can give him a pass to go through with you. Last summer when I was traveling alone with both my kids and they were a year younger, they even let him go all the way on the plane with me to help me get settled. That was on Alaska Air, I don't know if other airlines would be as accomodating, but it's worth asking, even ask a few people until you get the answer you want. When we came back this time, he got a pass to go through security so he could meet us as we came off the plane and help us from that point to baggage. He had to ask a few counter employees before one would do it for him.

- Ask for help when you need it - flight attendants, other passengers, airline employees at counters, etc. If you can't carry all your stuff, just try to enlist someone who can help you.

The worst part for me on this most recent trip was unfortunately rude passengers both ways in front of me who insisted on pushing their seat back as far as it would go, making it almost impossible for me to get in and out of my row, much less sit comfortably or access my carry on under the seat. I would have thought there would have been more sympathy for a pregnant mama with 2 little ones travelling alone, but you just can't count on the kindness of strangers. I had to just brush it off and do my best in the circumstances. Fortunately I was pretty well prepared and my kids did really well in spite of it. We had our moments (of whining, crying, begging to get down, etc), but they didn't last long and those are just to be expected.

Good luck, and enjoy your trip!

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answers from Seattle on

I haven't read the other responses so I'm guessing some of this will be repetitive. I travelled alone a year or so ago with my 3 year old and 6 month old from Seattle through Dallas to Baltimore. Long trip. Biggest advice I have is to give yourself PLENTY of time at the airports. You will find people to be incredibly helpful and sympathetic. Flight attendants will help you get all your things on the plane. It really seemed to me that as long as I was aware and acknowledged my slowness to those I was affecting, they were quite fine with it.

Get some new toys and books that Lucy has never seen for her to play with on the plane. Bring lots of snacks and milk.

A flight attendant advised my sister to not take her children out of the car seat once they were in. If they don't know they can get out, they'll be pretty content. I've had similar experience.

There are carry bags for car seats with back pack straps. You may need one of those to carry everything.

Sorry - in a hurry. That's all I have for now.

Have fun and good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

I have traveled with my 18 month old daughter alone several times. These are some of the things that have made life easier for me:

The biggest travel tool that has done wonders for me is the Go-Go Kidz travelmate. It is a universal carseat adapter (I am using it on a Britax seat myself) that lets you wheel your child throughout the airports like a stroller. You can bring it on the plane with a little help from the airlines in-flight team, and buckle it into the seat without removing the wheels.

Secondly I would recommend to check your stroller as baggage, you can probably purchase a travel bag, or the attendant at the airport will wrap it in heavy plastic for you if you ask.

Lastly, if possible, combine the needs of your diaper-bag/carry-on. I pack all but the essential in flight items ie. diapers, clean cups, snacks, toys/books, and change of clothing, in the suitcase(s) I am checking. In addition I carry a small purse for ID and cash needs, and put it in the diaper bag before boarding the plane.

On another note, kids did used to be cheaper than adults...the airlines unfortunately did away with this January 2007! And I completely get the own seat thing, I switched myself a few months ago for travel.

Good luck with all this, hope you and your daughter have a great trip.

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answers from Seattle on

I flew along with a 1- and 3-year-old, and my husband flew alone with them when they were 17mo and 3 1/2. It can be done. Neither of us took a car seat so I can't speak to that. I'm sure you've already checked with the airline to make sure your car seat will fit into an airplane seat.

Take new (so they are exciting)little toys for the in-flight entertainment, and of course favorite snacks.

I suggest combining the diaper bag and carry-on into one Backpack, whick can be worn on front or back.

I checked the stroller and used a kelty pack to carry the yougest through the airport so I could keep my hands free.

I know that my kids would scream if they were strapped into their car seats on a flight. They are fine with it in a car, but on a plane they want to move around. I had mine just sleep on the plane seat and me.

Sorry this is so disjointed--I'm being used as a jungle-gym.

See you at Folk-Life...

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answers from Seattle on

You do not have to have the car seat for air travel. My son would sit in the airplane seats just fine and then I could put the arm rest up and let him snuggle me. I did it one with the car seat and it was not too bad. I got a luggage cart and put all the carry on stuff inclding the car seat and then put my son in the stroller and the baby in the Bjorn and pushed the luggage cart and pulled the stroller. The pain is security check and hopefully someone will help you. Best of luck and happy travels.



answers from Seattle on

I would check out the carseat carrier that turns your car seat into a stroller. You can buy it at and it's made by Go Go Baby. I used to travel by myself with my 18 month old and trying to push her in the stroller while carrying the car seat and all of the "gear"... was a nightmare. This makes things A LOT easier.
Other than that.. my only advice is lots of snacks!! Good luck.



answers from Seattle on

I traveled alone with my son from 1 - 2 years. My saving grace was puttin him in my ergo baby carrier to get through the airport (he was 30lbs before I stopped using it). These days, I don;t think you even have to take the baby out of it to go through security. Then you can check the stroller (do your parents have one of those on the other end? Or can borrow one for your visit?) I had a GIANT bag that I put everything in and zipped up so nothing fell out if i had to grab it in a hurry. Getting on the plane first helps to get you settled, of course. You are smart to bring her seat.

Of course, going through your bags and taking out everything you don't need will help. Stuff starts to accumulate and really begins to weigh you down.

Good luck. People are kind and do help. Plus, if you have a positive attitude, it will help too.

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