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Flying Alone With Baby | Solo Parent Air Travel Tips

Flying alone with a baby? or maybe with twins? Here you will find my top solo parents flying tips! Even as an ex flight attendant who had helped many parents, I still had some questions and worries, so hopefully my experience and useful tips will help you too – whether flying short or long haul, domestic or internationally.

This guide is for you if you are travelling alone with your baby and also have similar questions and concerns about managing the flight; using the restroom on board, lugging baggage around, feeding on board and what to bring and not bring for the flight.

travelling solo with a baby
Leaving Cape Town, South Africa to fly to the UK solo with my baby. (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

My eldest’s sixth flight at 9 months old, meant me flying alone with a baby as my husband couldn’t get any time off work. So Little Miss A and I, travelled by ourselves to South Africa which was over 13 hours of travelling time and involved a transit stop in Johannesburg.

Yes, a part of me was a little worried and the other part of me was let’s just go with it! I am glad I just went with it cause I can now share my experience with you to better prepare you on what to expect on your next flight solo with a baby.

Flying alone with a baby does mean one less pair of helpful hands, but it is possible and dare I say, fun at times! I also want to reassure you first off, that now with a few trips flying alone with my baby, that everyone is usually very happy to help.

This article details a combination of my experiences of flying alone with a baby, compared to flying with my husband, and also rounds up some VERY useful tips below!

1. Know the Rules for Flying With An Infant

Most airlines stipulate certain rules for flights with infants which you need to be aware of, especially if you are traveling with more than one baby alone. So if you are flying alone with twins or two under two, it is important to know that you would need to purchase a seat and use a car seat for one baby and the other could be your lap.

If you are flying with one baby, like I did, it is fairly straight forward. You can opt to fly with baby on your lap (this is what I did) or choose a child restraint device like a car seat, if you have purchased an additional seat. N

Infant lap belt CRD baby in lap belt
Infant lap belt, used on my daughter under 1 year old (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

Non-American airlines will give you an infant lap belt to secure your baby to you for take off, landing and turbulence


2. Find out where you need to pick up luggage if you have a connecting flight and what’s allowed on board.

My first journey traveling alone with a baby, was an 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg, a two hour connection time, where we had to clear ALL of our baggage through customs, before embarking on the final two hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then back again a week later.

Packing light was the biggest lesson I learned. I also researched what airport facilities were available at my transit stop and on arrival and what my airline would allow.

Courtesy airport strollers were not available during our transit stop, so I found a baby carrier was a must when flying by yourself! A cabin sized stroller that fits as hand luggage is also a great alternative if you can fit all you need for the flight into a backpack.

The airlines website will state exactly the baggage allowance is for babies.

Some airlines allow a diaper/nappy bag and hold luggage, whereas others offer no allowance for infants at all. In that case, you would need everything under your baggage allowance.

(If you are looking for having older children flying as Unaccompanied Minors see here as they must be over a certain age.)

hand luggage and stroller at the airport with stroller travel bag abnd snoozeshade sleep cover over it.
Just a little bit of hand luggage and a stroller padded travel bag! (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

3. Pack lightly but with key items in hand luggage/carry on

We made the most of online check-in and had our bassinet seats on Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways, confirmed. I packed as light as I could for this occasion!

This included a Bugaboo pram travel system, although at 9 months she could have a cabin size stroller, a Bugaboo stroller travel bag, a medium-sized suitcase, a baby nappy/diaper bag, some baby travel toys and a small insulated cool bag for her milk.) I didn’t bring a travel highchair as we had one available at our destination.

Most long haul airlines allow extra for infants, including a car seat. This guide will help you see what some airline allow for infant baggage allowance.

Dropping the bags off at bag drop was easy and I opted to keep the pram with me up until the gate and gate checked it. (I’ve since found it easier using a baby carrier and check-in the stroller with my suitcase.)

I had already dressed Little A in her pj’s so she was ready for bed, and I gave her dinner when we arrived at the airport. The flight departed at 20.30, so not long after her normal bed time.


4. Practise stowing away any strollers quickly and one handed!

Admittedly, I was in a bit of fluster at the gate, just prior to pre boarding, as I packed the pram into the buggy travel bag. I just felt under pressure with a queue of people forming behind me.

Despite practising at home, it is never the same when you are under pressure to board. This again is another case for using a baby carrier or a travel stroller like the BabyZen YOYO. or a really compact cabin sized stroller.

bassinet on a virgin flight with a sleeping baby
Her Virgin Bassinet was a squeeze(Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

5. Try the bassinet!

I requested an airplane bassinet before the flight in the hope for some sleep. We survived the flight fairly well. She slept a block of 5 hours and then on and off the rest of the flight.

The Virgin bassinet was quite small for my over 90% percentile baby girl, and she barely fitted into it at 9 months. Still, it was better than nothing, as it could have been pretty uncomfortable holding her the whole way.   

The way back we had a half empty flight, so I swapped my bassinet seat for a row of four. Meaning she could sleep in whatever position she choose, I’m sure she appreciated the freedom. Travelling alone with baby on a plane was made so much easier with this luck!

What to pack - flying solo, solo parent air travel tips, Flying alone with a baby
Making a ‘den’ to sleep in helps if there is spare seat! (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

I also set up a ‘canopy’ using the blanket, which blocked out the light when the crew were in the middle of the service.   Remember to request a baby meal or child meal if your airline provides them or bring your own. It is only pureed jars, so if that is not suitable do bring your own food.

airline baby meal
The baby food on the flight (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

Baby meals are pureed food in jars and child meals are usually kiddie treats like chicken nuggets, or cheesy pasta etc.

The crew were especially helpful as they could see I was travelling on my own, as were other passengers. I also found this on the internal South African Airways flight.

Here is a little extra information to master flying solo with children. For general flying with a baby tips with LOTS of detail, see here.

baby eating in highchair in cape town
My daughter in Cape Town with our travel toys in the background. (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

Top Tips For Flying Alone With Baby

  • Aim for a night flight; preferably just before their bedtime and try to keep to a bedtime routine as much as possible.
  • Try and get your baby to sleep in you arms before placing in bassinet, particularly if your baby is looking like they will only just fit in the bassinet. Miss A only just fitted into the Virgin sky cot, and because it had a harness, she couldn’t move and consequently was a bit of a grump.
  • However both Virgin and Qantas allow a baby to stay in the bassinet during any light turbulence, which is obviously very beneficial if you are flying solo. The blanket over the seat like a canopy worked a treat too. This would also help a toddler in their own seat avoid the brightness of any cabin lights.
  • A baby carrier is ESSENTIAL when travelling on your own with a baby, and enabled me to navigate steps and buses whilst in transit in Jo’burg as well as my hand-luggage and baby bag. Fellow passengers do help you too.
  • Ask the flight attendant to keep a watchful eye over your baby if you need to use the facilities. They are usually happy to do so. Sadly, both Etihad and Gulf Air no longer have sky nannies on board to help.
  • Consider using a back pack for your hand luggage, and if flying with slightly older children who are in their own seat, a back pack is also easy to squash under the seat. Plus it is one less thing for you to carry when flying solo or as a single parent.
  • If you are flying with children slightly older- consider choosing your seats carefully. A bit of forward thinking could be very beneficial!
  • Look at the airport or airline site, and see if they offer any service to help you. Many offer a meet and greet service which provides an extra set of hands to help you through the airport.
  • DO not worry what other people think. Some other passengers may look at you as you board as they are worried about a baby crying, but honestly, most people were super helpful.
best baby carrier for travel, Baby carriers airport family travel
Me wearing our baby carrier – it is so useful! (Image: Carrie Bradley/ Flying With A Baby

Airport Transit With A Baby

Transiting was fairly easy, as I had my baby carrier in my carry-on – so I just used that until we had boarded our next flight. Fellow passengers were very helpful from the gate to the plane, as we had steps to navigate.

Flying with more than one infant solo.

  • Q. I have twins and I’m the only adult flying. Can I fly solo with two infants under two? What are my options?
  • A You can either purchase a seat for both and use an airline approved car seat or have one infant as lap baby and one in a car seat.

I hope these tips help? Flying alone with a baby was much better than I thought it would be, but I was pretty terrified at the initial thought! If you need some more help, this detailed bumper guide of all my best tips and resources on flying with a baby will help too.

Flying alone with a baby

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Roopali

Monday 23rd of September 2019

I have to travel with my 3month old son n my flight is 9hrs long.i m bit nervous as i’ll be travelling solo.i bit tensed about the air pressure during takeoff n landing..

Susan

Saturday 14th of January 2017

Just got back from round trip, transatlantic flight. Without you, I would have had no idea bassinets on the plane even existed, let alone request them!! Thank you so much!!!!!!

CarrieB

Sunday 15th of January 2017

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much for getting in touch and letting me know it went well! That's really good to hear!

Solo Parent Travel Tips - Advice From the Best! - Taylor Hearts Travel

Thursday 3rd of November 2016

[…] Carrie from Flying With A Baby flew with her little one from the UK to South Africa. She’s well-travelled and has a whole host of family travel pointers on her site, including these solo parent air travel tips. […]

Laura's Lovely Blog

Friday 28th of October 2016

My children have only been on a plane once and they were older (1.5 & 4) at the time and even that took some coordination - you are very brave doing it on your own. But I bet it was totally worth it for the holiday!

Carrie Bradley

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Hi Nats,

Be prepared for them to say your little one can't use the bassinet- due to age. However, still ask for the bassinet seat area- for more space etc and be a bit naughty and tell the crew she is 6m and her actual weight. It's the weight which is more relevant due to the safety fittings of the bassinet. Take a look at my what to pack guide and what to expect on board too. Also pack your baby carrier in your hand luggage to save your arms on the walk to baggage reclaim.

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