Flying solo with kids can be a daunting task, especially when you have to navigate through the airport. But with a little planning and preparation, and giving yourself plenty of time, you can make it through the airport with ease. Whether it’s the first time you’re flying solo with your kids or you’re a seasoned pro, these tips will help make the process a little smoother.

Flying Solo with Kids: Preparation

Ensure you have all the necessary documents

First, make sure you have all the necessary documents. This includes your child’s birth certificate, passport (if you’re traveling internationally), and any other required documents.

If you are flying solo with kids and travelling internationally, it may be necessary to have a consent letter, stating that you have the other parent’s permission to travel.

If you’re the only parent, be sure to bring a copy of the birth certificate stating that you are the sole parent.

Pack smart

Be sure to pack everything you need for your trip in an easily accessible place. This includes everything from your tickets and ID to snacks and diapers.

Having everything accessible will make it easier to get through security. (We’ve got more tips below on getting through security when you’re flying solo with kids.)

Certain electronics like laptops and phones will need to be taken out of your bag, as well as any liquids that are allowed through security, so keep those handy!

Allow Plenty of Time

And most importantly, give yourself plenty of time!

Getting to the airport early will help reduce stress and give you time to get everything sorted out.

It’s usually a good idea to arrive at least 3 hours early for an international flight, and at least 2 hours early for a domestic flight.

Now that we’ve covered some tips for preparing to fly solo with kids, let’s talk about actually getting through the airport as a solo parent.

Flying Solo with Kids: Getting through the Airport

Arriving at the Airport

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours before your flight, depending whether you are travelling domestically or internationally. Smaller airports may have different recommendations, so it’s always best to check with the airport ahead of time.

If you are getting a ride to the airport, ask to be dropped off at the departures area. This is usually right outside the check-in desks so you won’t have too far to walk with your luggage, kids and gear by yourself.

If you are driving yourself, check with the airport ahead of time to find out where you can park. The self-park at larger airports may be a distance away from the terminal and you might have to take a shuttle from the car park. If there is parking close to the terminal, it may be more expensive.

Checking In

When you get to the check-in desk, have all your documents ready. The agent will need to see your ID as well as your child’s birth certificate or passport.

If you are flying internationally, you may also need a consent letter if you are the solo parent. You can find a template here.

If there’s a long line to check in and your kids are getting a little restless, try to give them a simple job to do, like holding a coat or scarf, or play a game of I Spy. Anything that keeps them occupied will work!

Getting through Security Screening

Once you’ve checked in, it’s time to go through security. No matter how many adults and sets of hands you have, security is always one of the most challenging parts of flying with kids! And especially when you’re flying solo with kids, but keep calm and take your time and it won’t be too difficult.

Start by putting all your carry-on items on the conveyor belt, including laptops and phones, even shoes and boots in some places. Then, take any liquids out of your bag and put them in a separate bin. For more information on what you can take in your carry-on, click here.

Depending on the age of your kids, you can get them to help – even toddlers can help put their backpack or carry-on bag in the tray.

If you are travelling with a stroller, which makes it easier to get through the airport, it’s not as easy getting it through security.

Keep your little ones strapped in the stroller until you have all your carry-on items in the security trays, including anything that was in the stroller basket.

The stroller may have to be folded up and put through the x-ray machine, although sometimes you can push it through the body scanner, but either way, the kids will not be able to stay in the stroller.

If you are wearing your child in a baby carrier, you will most likely have to take them out of the carrier or wrap before going through the body scanner.

If your children are able to walk through, they will have to walk through separately from you but the security staff are usually very helpful with this part!

Once you’re through the scanner, put the kids back in the stroller if you are using one, or give them a small job to do – like stacking the empty bins – while you put the electronics, liquids and anything else back in your bags.

Once you’ve made it through security, the hardest part is over and now it’s time to find your gate and relax!

Waiting at Gate

Check the monitor for any changes to the boarding time or gate number.

Depending on how long you have before boarding starts, find a place to sit and wait at your gate.

If you have some time before boarding begins, let your kids run around a bit and burn off some energy before sitting on the plane. Some airports have kids areas with activities or equipment for kids to play on.

For young kids, finding a seat near the window is a good idea so they can watch the planes take off or watch the activity outside as the ground crew loads the planes.

This is also a good time to pull out some activities that you’ve packed in the kids carry-on, whether it’s colouring books, books to read or small toys to play with, this will help pass the time before you board.

Be sure to visit the washroom just before boarding!! Some airports have family washrooms available, which makes things much easier, or look for accessible washrooms, which will be larger and easier to use when you’re travelling solo with kids.

Boarding the Plane

Once it’s time to board, families with small children are usually called to board first so that you can get settled on the plane.

If you are using a stroller, they will usually take it from you at the bottom of the ramp to be stored in the cargo hold.

If you are using a car seat on the plane, carry that on and settle your child in your seat while you install the car seat. Flight attendants may help with this, but it’s always good to know how to do it yourself just in case!

Store your carry-on items below the seat ahead of you so you have easy access to everything you need during the flight.

Once you’re seated, put on your seatbelt and get settled in for the flight!

During the Flight

When you’re flying solo with kids, the flight itself is one of the easier parts of your journey!

Bring plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied.

Depending on the ages of your kids, we’ve found sticky notes, window clings, magnatiles and colouring books are some of our favourite activities on the plane.

Leaving the Plane

Once the plane has landed and you’re able to leave the plane, be sure to gather all your belongings and do a quick check under the seat for any toys that may have accidentally dropped on the floor.

If you are using a car seat on the plane, you will have to uninstall it and carry it off the plane.

If you are using a stroller, it’s usually waiting for you at the bottom of the ramp when you exit the plane but sometimes you may have to collect it at the baggage claim area.

Once you have all your belongings, head into the terminal, go through customs if needed and make your way to baggage claim to wait for your luggage.

If you are travelling with small children, this is a good time to have some snacks on hand to keep them happy while you wait!

When you have all your luggage – a luggage cart will be your friend here – find the exit and make your way to your next destination!

And that’s it! You’ve made it through the airport solo with kids! Just remember to take everything one step at a time, ask for help when you need it and be prepared for anything! With a little bit of planning and a lot of patience, you’ll be a pro at this in no time!

Other Tips for Flying Solo with Kids

If you are travelling with a car seat (or multiple car seats), there are a few helpful options for managing the car seat through the airport.

You can check the car seat with your luggage at the ticket counter when you check in for your flight.

While we don’t personally recommend this, as it can easily get damaged, if you do, we suggest using a car seat travel bag which will protect your car seat from getting damaged or dirty while travelling. Many come with backpack straps, to make it easier to carry the seat through the airport.

Another helpful option is a car seat cart, which is specially designed to hold and transport car seats through the airport. Or you can purchase a strap to hold the car seat to your carry-on luggage.

If you are travelling with children over 40 pounds and you need a car seat at your destination, you might want to consider using a portable booster seat. While these can’t be used on the flight, children over 40 pounds are able to use the airplane seat belts safely and you can use the portable booster in a rental car or taxi on arrival. We personally use the mi-fold booster seat and find they are great to travel with. They’re compact, lightweight and easy to install in any car.

If you are travelling with an infant who will be sitting in your lap on the plane, you can bring along a baby sling or wrap to wear them in while going through the airport. This keeps your hands free to manage everything else and helps to keep your baby calm and content.

If you are travelling with a stroller, most airlines will allow you to check the stroller at the ticket counter when you check in for your flight or at the gate when you board the plane.

A stroller travel bag is also a good idea, as it will protect your stroller from getting damaged or dirty while travelling.

We also recommend packing some snacks and drinks, especially for long flights! And if your child is old enough, a few small toys or books to keep them entertained during the flight.  Read more on what to pack in a child’s carry-on here.

Finally, don’t forget to pack your patience! Flying with kids can be challenging, even if you’re not doing it solo, so make sure to give yourself some extra time and grace as you travel.

Do you have any tips for getting through the airport when flying solo with kids? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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For more family travel tips, including tips on travelling as a single parent, be sure to check out these posts:

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