Fifteen Tips for Flying Alone with a Baby or Toddler

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Flying alone with a baby or toddler requires the swift dexterity of an octopus.

And in the days and weeks ahead of your flight, it’s easy to get bogged down in the logistical what-ifs? Some questions you may be asking if you’ll be a solo parent making the flight … with a baby or toddler:

  • How do you get your carry-on bag, diaper bag, stroller, and possibly a car seat onto the X-ray scanner while you juggle your child? And if they ask to see your boarding pass and photo ID for a second time?!
  • How do you fold your travel stroller at the gate with your child in your arms?
  • What do you do with your baby while using airplane lavatories?
  • And how do you install a car seat on the plane while wrestling your toddler and situating your carry on bag?
  • And if you’re flying with a lap baby, how will you eat your dinner when there may not even be room for the fold-out tray with your child in your lap?
  • Anything else to consider? How about negotiating baggage claim in an army of strangers slinging their heavy suitcases off the conveyor belt?


Help is here. Consider these tips and strategies to help streamline your first time flying alone with a baby or toddler.

But first! Pin this to your travel board for future reference and to help others!

baby on airplane looking out window

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15 tips for flying solo with a baby or toddler:

1. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets

2. Take a “test drive” around your home (or around your block!)

Hit the sidewalk with whatever suitcase(s), stroller, backpack, baby carrier or sling, or other gear you plan to transport through the airport on your own. Don’t wait until you get to the airport to discover your plan needs a little fine-tuning… And once you’ve ironed out this detail, it may also give you a helpful boost of confidence as travel day draws near.

3. Ask your airline (or check their information on your airport’s website) if you’ll have the option of curb-checking

It can be extremely helpful when flying alone with a baby or toddler if you can curb-check your baggage on arrival at either of your airports.

This may help you avoid struggling through the hairpin turns of the line inside the airport. An extra fee may apply (around $2 per item usually), but it could be well worth it.

4. If you want to wear your baby or toddler through the airport to keep your hands free

When flying alone with a baby or toddler, you may really need to keep your hands free for other things. My advice? Keep it simple!

Use a simple cross-body sling that will slip off and back on easily with one hand in case you are asked to remove it and put it through the X-ray. You’ll also be less likely to get asked to remove a simple fabric sling than a baby carrier with thick straps and multiple heavy-duty buckles.

While you’re not allowed to wear your baby in the sling in the airplane during takeoff or landing, it could also prove helpful in saving your back and arms during lengthy flights (and be helpful when breastfeeding). See recommended Child Carriers, Wraps & Slings for travel here.

5. Keep toddlers and older babies buckled in …

Also at security, keep your little one buckled into her travel stroller until the last moment — when you have finished loading all other items onto the X-ray belt first. See recommended Travel Strollers here.

On the other side of the scanners, collect your stroller first and strap in your child before collecting your other gear.

It may take a few moments longer initially for your stroller to catch up to your other gear. However, your child will be safer and you’ll be much faster at getting the rest of it together when you have two free hands.

6. Instead of lugging along a car seat in addition to your child …

There are many reasons a parent may prefer not to bring aboard a car seat. But if you’re flying alone with a baby 12 months or older, you may especially prefer to use the CARES child aviation restraint during your flight.

young toddler flying with CARES harness
Providing maximum leg room (and support) by using CARES is just one way you might help keep your toddler from kicking the airplane seat on your next flight! Photo: Shelly Rivoli

The FAA-approved CARES flight safety harness can be used for children 12 months and older flying in their own airplane seat. See my full review of the CARES harness with pros and cons and detailed photos.

You may also be able to simply rent the baby gear you need, including a car seat, at your destination. See the Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals to check your location.

7. If flying with your child’s car seat

Make sure it’s airline approved and is likely to fit in the airplane seat. To avoid unpleasant surprises, see the section on Flying with a Car Seat and be sure to read the Seven Easy Ways to Get Your Car Seat to the Gate.

Depending on your travel plans and needs, you may prefer to roll your child through the airport strapped into his car seat, and either check your stroller or leave it at home. (See recommended car seat travel bags and carriers here.)

And don’t miss Five Things to Know Before Flying with a Car Seat and How to Travel with a Car Seat (Without Losing Your Mind).

8. As you approach security …

Be assertive! Tell the first guard you see, “I’m going to need some assistance please,” and expect it (and ask the second guard you see, too, if you must).

A security guard should help you get your items into the X-ray, and one will hopefully help you collect them again on the other side.

If you’ll be flying alone with a baby often, you may also want to apply for or renew your account for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR express lanes. You can read more about using TSA PreCheck and CLEAR with kids in this post.

9. Keep your travel documents safely close to you …

Necklace-style travel wallet for moms flying alone with a baby or toddler

Don’t take any chances. Wear your travel documents and those of your child, boarding passes, cash, and credit cards safely in a necklace-style travel wallet.

Your important items will be easy to locate and access each time they are needed en route — even while you have a child in your arms).

Better still, the necklace-style travel wallet will slip under your sweater or shirt when not needed for far greater security and convenience than carrying a purse or placing your wallet in a carry-on. (See more styles and options here.)

10. When using airport restrooms

Fortunately many airports now have family restrooms, and some others offer baby care/nursery rooms for travelers with babies. Visit your airport’s website in advance to check for these and their locations.

Where those options don’t exist, use the handicapped stall where there is plenty of room for your child to sit in his stroller and for you to park any extra gear.

11. When using airplane lavatories with a baby

You can slip your baby into your over-the-shoulder sling (but remember flight crews in the U.S. will not allow you to hold the child in the sling during takeoff or landing).

12. Throughout your flight

Don’t hesitate to ask a flight attendant if you need help with anything, from assistance in installing your child’s CRS to getting your bag into the overhead bin. After all, your seat should come equipped with a flight attendant call button—don’t be afraid to use it.

13. At baggage claim

Always keep your baby or toddler secured in his stroller or car seat (if transporting stroller-style) so he is safe while you juggle luggage. And aim for a less popular portion of the claim conveyor belt where the “suitcase sling zone” is not so frantic or crowded and other passengers will likely be more aware of your child.

14. Rather than wait in potentially long lines for taxis or rideshare services after your flight …

Check the rates for private car service at your destination. It may not cost much more to have a driver ready and waiting for you on arrival, and in some cases, they may also provide car seats or safety boosters for your child. (See my Recommended car service in Paris providing car seats and you’ll find a few in NYC here.)

15. Don’t forget! Crossing international borders alone with your child …

Your child may need more than a passport when traveling internationally.

Are you flying alone with a baby or toddler and without the other parent INTERNATIONALLY? Even traveling from the U.S. into Canada, you will need a notarized letter of consent from the absent parent, or evidence that you are the child’s sole legal guardian.

See more on this topic and a sample letter of parent consent to travel in this post.

Airline-Specific Help for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

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