If you follow on Instagram, then you probably already know that I recently made a trip with Layla to California. It wasn’t our first solo trip together. We’ve been making cross-country trips just the two of us since she was eight months old. But y’all, it was the worst. With the amount of travel I’ve done over my lifetime, having a bad experience here or there is just bound to happen. But this experience was a nightmare. Some of it, I was prepared for. And some of it, I just knew better. So today, I’m sharing it all: my top tips for flying solo with kids. Even if you, like me, have the worst travel day ever, you’ll be as prepared as possible!
Give yourself extra time
This applies to so many different parts of travel. Set your alarm thirty minutes earlier than you think you need to. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that your kids will inevitably drag their heels! Get to the airport with plenty of time to check in. (I typically arrive an hour and a half early, but we have a small airport!) And for all that is good and holy, do not have less than an hour layover in between flights.
Pre-baby, my ideal layover was 45 minutes. It was enough time to hit the bathroom, grab a snack, and walk to my new gate. Now, I’d prefer to double that and at least have and hour and a half. Delays happen and little legs just don’t move as quickly as you wish they would. It might mean a slightly longer travel day, which I know can be painful. (Those minimum-eight-hour transcontinental travel days take a toll, y’all!) But better to hang out at the gate an extra thirty minutes than miss your flight and be stuck for an extra several hours. Been there, done that.
Snacks, and Water, and Treats, Oh my!
It’s no secret that airport food is downright outrageous, so I always come to the airport stocked. I pack empty water bottles for both Layla and I in our carry-ons. (It easily saves us $5 or $6!) And we load up on food. Some of our favorite plane snacks are:
- peanut butter sandwiches
- apple sauce pouches
- goldfish crackers
- nuts / trail mix
- Kind bars (Layla loves the mini size!)
- cheese sticks
- dried fruit
- carrot sticks
- small pack of cookies
Obviously I don’t pack all of those things for one trip, but I do pack as much as possible. My child is a straight-up snackaholic, so I need options!
Word of advice: TSA has amped up their inspection of food items. I’d recommend packing them in a large ziplock bag or grocery bag, so it can easily be taken out of your carry-on at the security check point. You also may want to allow yourself an extra five minutes to get through security.
Pack a change of clothes
Make sure you have a change of clothes (down to underwear!) for both you and your kids. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has knocked over a cup of water straight onto my lap. (This is another benefit of bringing your own water bottles!!) And of course, little ones in diapers need back-up clothes in case of blowouts! For diapered little ones, I’d recommend two backup outfits, especially if you have a connection or long flight. I’d also recommend packing one diaper per hour of travel. You just never know!
Having spare clothes also come in handy in case of cancelled flights. If you end up having to stay somewhere overnight, you will be so thankful for a change of clothes for the next day! There is nothing like being stuck at the airport all day and then having to wear the same gross clothes two days in a row.
The Trusty iPad
I never travel without it. 😉 Layla has a few favorite games she likes. (I’ll list a few below for ya!) And I also like to download some episodes of her favorite shows on Amazon. There are both paid and free options through Prime! Just be aware that the free options expire after a few days. You’ll need to reconnect to WiFi and verify your Amazon account again for a return trip! Dora, Bubble Guppies, and Daniel Tiger are a few free-with-Prime options Layla likes!
We also make sure to travel with these headphones. They are packable and comfy for little ears. I tried sharing my ear buds with Layla unsuccessfully, but these are a winner! Bonus: they come in eight colors! ❤
A few Layla-approved iPad apps:
- Puzzingo Puzzle (free!)
- Paint and Draw (free!)
- Tiny Hands Educational Apps (We actually bought a pack, but her favs are Tiny Hands Raccoon Treehouse and Tiny Hands Sorting!)
- Wonster Words (free!)
New, Never-Seen Before Toys/Books
There is nothing like something new to keep your kids attention, right?! So, I always order a few inexpesive books and toys from Amazon pre-travel. Here are a few past hits:
- Water Wow (I used to get a new one for every trip. Now we rotate through old ones she hasn’t seen in a long time. These are the best!!)
- No-mess coloring books
- Wikki Stix
- Puppets (We have these finger puppets and these hand puppets!)
- Lacing toys
- Play-doh (We have one of these big sets and just throw two in our bag!)
- Scratch Art
- Tape Activity Book
- Little Golden Books (You can find them on Amazon for $3-$5 a piece!)
- Seek and Find Books
- Magnetic drawing board (Although now I use an app on the iPad, which takes up less space!)