Well, I think "easy" is the wrong word choice there, because when you are traveling by yourself with your child it is never easy. Let's use the word "manageable."
Here are my tips for a manageable travel experience with your toddler:
1. Try to book a flight during nap/sleep times. This doesn't always work, but if you can get your kid to sleep on the plane you will be one lucky mama (or dada).
2. Fly JetBlue.
- They have more legroom than any other airline. This is huge when you are using a car seat, and your toddler has crazy long legs. This is also great because you can let your kid stand up and move around a bit in front of your seat.
- If you can afford the Extra Legroom, jump on it! Not only do you get to board first (there is no pre-boarding on JetBlue, so if you don't have extra legroom you board when your row is called), but now you actually get to go through security in a separate line! It is amazing - and such a pleasant surprise when I got to bypass the huge security line at Logan.
- They have TVs. M wasn't truly taking advantage of them, but if you have slightly older kids that can use headphones (and will keep them on) this is huge, especially when you can't use electronics for take off and landing (more on this in a sec)
- They have more room in the overhead cabin. This may not be true, but with my experience on Delta last month, this is totally true. The overhead cabin on our Delta flight was miniscule (as was the legroom - not good for 7 foot tall dad!). I am sure this depends on the type of plane, but all Jetblue planes I have been on have tons of overhead space.
- They give you snacks, which a lot of airlines don't do anymore. And they have animal crackers, which are M's favorites.
- You can check one bag per person for free, and you can check strollers and car seats without them counting as an actual checked bag.
3. Now that you have booked your flight on Jetblue, let's talk about packing:
- Check as much as you can. If you are flying solo with child, you don't want to be weighed down if you don't have to. I always end up having a huge heavy bag, so I am not one to talk, but if you can check it - check it!
- If you are bringing a car seat on the plane with you, purchase the Go Go Babyz wheely attachment so that you can wheel your kid like a piece of luggage through the airport. A lot of times your car seat will not fit through the scanner in security with this on, but recently they have let me keep it on, and the TSA employee will just scan it by hand.
4. Carry On 411:
- Pack everything in separate plastic ziploc bags, and then put all of them into one tote or duffle bag. This makes it incredibly easy to go through security, as well as keep things contained during the flight.
- Food/Drink: The TSA lets you bring as much liquid as you need for a baby/toddler to get to your destination. This means you can bring a couple juice boxes and filled sippy cups with you, not a Costco case of water. Take advantage of this rule. Remember to package them in a clear plastic ziploc and to remove from your bag to be separately scanned at security. Bring a bunch of pre-packaged snacks like energy bars, crackers, bags of food (apple sauce, smoothies, etc.), fruit strips, etc. so that you can just whip them out when you need to.
- Do not forget to bring an extra set of clothes!! For some reason my child always ends up either throwing up on herself, spilling something on her, or peeing through a diaper whenever we fly. Thankfully I bring an extra set of clothes with me (of course packaged in a little ziploc bag :)
- Bring a burp cloth. I never seem to have napkins handy when there is a spill (and there always is a spill of some sort with us) so I bring an old burp cloth with me. I usually bring an old receiving blanket (that doubles as a burp cloth) so if it gets cold I can put that over her as well...if we haven't used it for spill clean up yet of course
5. In-flight entertainment:
- iPad: if you don't have one, get one now. But here is my tip of the day: DO NOT GIVE YOUR CHILD THE iPAD WHEN YOU FIRST GET ON THE PLANE. WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE IN THE AIR AND CAN USE APPROVED ELECTRONIC DEVICES! If your kid is like mine and you have to take the iPad away from her during use, this will result in a meltdown. Case in point our flight down to Florida last week. I had to take it away from her during take-off and she screamed "I Want the iPad!!" the entire ascent. As soon as I gave it to her she was quiet. I now know not to even show it to her before we get in the air.
- On that note bring non-electronic entertainment for this exact reason: crayons and a notebook or sticker book are our go-tos.
6. Get to the airport early - I cannot stress this enough. It will always take longer than you think it will to check your bags and then go through security, especially if you are by yourself. Allow yourself at least an hour and 15 minutes to do all of this.
7. Take advantage of offered help. I will be the first to admit that I think I can do everything myself. When my husband dropped us off at the airport last week we had to curbside check as I couldn't manage all the bags myself (7 in all believe it or not - two suitcases, 1 packed stroller, two carry-ons, a little purse and M in her car seat with wheels attached). The line was very long, and my hubby had to get to work, so I was left to do this all by myself. I kept refusing the help of this very lovely couple behind, but after working up a sweat and struggling to move everything, they were happy to help scoot our luggage forward when needed. Every mom I encountered gave me the "I've been there honey - let me help you" look and was more than happy to help us! Take advantage whenever this is offered.
- Remember to let your kid drink during take off and landing to help clear their ears
- The changing tables in the back of the plane tend to be bigger than those in the front bathrooms, due to the placement of the bathroom itself.
- Use overnight diapers when flying, as you will have to change your kid less!
- Car seats always have to go in the window seat, so remember that when booking and choosing seats. They can also NOT go in exit rows, but can go in the bulkhead
- Take your time when you are de-planing. Don't feel like you need to rush off the plane.
- Have a cocktail if you can, and enjoy the peace and quiet while your kids is either entranced by the iPad or asleep next to you!