Solo Parent air travel tips

Solo Parent Air Travel Tips

Little Miss A and I, have travelled by ourselves to South Africa. Involving an 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg, a 2 hour connection time, where we had to clear ALL of our baggage through customs, before embarking on the final  2 hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then back again a week later. Here is a little extra information to master flying solo with children.

My Experience


solo parent air travel tips, bugaboo, snoozeshade, family travelLuggage We made the most of online check-in and had our bassinet seats on Virgin and South African Airways, confirmed. I packed as light as I could. ( A Bugaboo, a Bugaboo travel case, a  medium-sized suitcase, a baby bag and a small cool bag for her milk.) Dropping the bags off at bag drop, was easy and I opted to keep the pram with me up until the gate. ( I’ve later found it much easier to just use a baby carrier and check-in the pram 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. I was in a bit of fluster at the gate, just prior to pre boarding ,as I packed the pram into the buggy case. 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 stroller like the BabyZen YOYO.

FlightWe survived the flight fairly well. She slept a block of 5 hours and then on and off the rest of the flight. The 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. 

What to pack - flying solo, solo parent air travel tips

Making a ‘den’ to sleep in

I also set up a ‘canopy’ using the blanket, which blocked out the light when the crew were in the middle of the service.  Just a point to note Virgin carry Cow & Gate ready- made formula cartons on board. They don’t have many but they also have a few baby food jars too. Remember to request a baby meal or child meal if your airline provides them ( baby meals are pureed food in jars and child meals are usually kiddie treats like chicken nuggets, or cheesy pasta etc) or bring your own. 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.

Transit

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.

Top Tips 

1) Aim for a night flight; preferably just before their bedtime and try to keep to a bedtime routine as much as possible.

2) 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.


3) 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!


4) Ask the flight attendant to keep a watchful eye over your baby so you can pop to the loo. They are happy to do so.


5) If your itinerary  allows it, consider Gulf Air or Etihad, who provide FREE sky nannies in all classes on long haul flights. They will help entertain the kids and provide help with boarding and disembarking the aircraft.


6) 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 its one less thing for you to carry when flying solo.

7) If you are flying with children slightly older- consider choosing your seats carefully. A bit of forward thinking could be very beneficial! ( Click on the link for more information)

28 Comments

  1. Hi Carrie,

    Your blog has been a boon to relieving my anxieties building up with a first time air travel with my year old daughter. It answers most of the questions I had. Thanks Heaps!!

  2. hello! I'm traveling with my daughter, she is 6 months old and I'm so nervous because she is really independent and she can only sleep on her own, she never sleeps on my arms, she gets upset when I try to help her. we are flying to my country (6 hours flight) and the we have to take another flight (45 minutes) and we have to be at the airport for 2 hours. I'm anxious because we are flying alone. We didn't have to pay for her, so she will have to be on my lap and hopefully we will get a bassinet. She is very hyperactive, enjoys being by herself and on the floor. The flight will be from 8am until 1pm. what can you advice me, for my specific situation? I will appreciate it a lot! Other thing, she is not used to baby's carrier…and she is 6 months but 27.5 inc tall!!

    thanks!!

  3. btw, she is on formula. So, can I take the water distributed in the bottles? or do I have to buy a bottle of water or ask for it on the plane? Will it be a problem with the formula powder, can i take it inside the formula dispenser or do you recommend taking the whole can? I got 2 dispensers and an extra small plastic container for an extra bottle (just in case)

  4. Hi Suham,

    That's great your daughter sleeps by herself! She sounds tall like my one, but they don't often sleep with their legs straight at this age, so she should have some room to move. You don't mention the airline you are travelling with or how soon, but I would ring the airline and clarify that you have the bassinet seat as that will make things easier for you. If you don't have manange to get one, don't panic! Airlines and flight attendants are used to parents travelling alone, and are often a lot more helpful towards you when they realise this. Staff were great on all my sectors when they realised I was. Also fellow passengers were very helful.

    I would see if you can borrow a friends baby carrier and use it once or twice before the flight. It will be very useful for you when you are in transit for your 2 hour stop. ( unless you are at an airport which loans prams?)

    Your flight is mostly a day flight, and I'm sure you will be up a little earlier than normal to check in etc, so this should help your daughter feel tired and want a nap, prehaps a bit earlier than normal. If you get time, let her have a stretch and a play at the airports, to tire her out a bit more.

    Re the formula, yes you can take the water in her baby bottles. They may ask you to taste it in security and no problem with formula powder at all. Try and take what you need for the flight and a bit extra to allow for delays etc.

    Hope this helps and have a lovely holiday.

  5. Hi.
    I'll be travelling with my 11.5 month old by myself from ATL to Maputo, Mozambique with a change of planes in JNB from Delta/SAA to SAA/LAM. I have paid for a full seat for my daughter so I am entitled to the adult baggage allowance of one bag at 23kg and one carry-on at 8kg. I will bring her car seat. But I also want to bring a stroller and travel crib. Will I be charged extra for these? ($150/per piece?) I can't find anything on their website about this.

  6. Hi Teddy,

    You will be restricted by each operating airlines rules. Even though they have a codeshare, you will have to abide by the rules of the actual airline operating the aircraft you are flying on. So if on Delta from USA their rules, and with LAM to Maputo (MAM)

    If you are on Delta from the USA, children's strollers and seat restraints are not counted as part of the standard baggage allowance. So these you can carry in addition, at no extra charge. Also if you pay for a seat, infants are allowed the full adult baggage allowance on Delta, SAA and LAM. So providing you just pack one suitcase for your and baby's items, and use the other 'adult' allowance for the cot , you should be fine. (Remember, that the cot must fit the weight/size restrictions though which is generally max weight of 23kgs or 20kgs on LAM)

    SAA, don't mention clearly regarding the car seat AND stroller being part of an extra allowance when travelling with an infant and they haven't got back to me yet to confirm ( nor have LAM)

    I suggest you double check with them. SAA in USA is. Is 1- 954-769-5023 and email saausa@flysaa.com open 0830 to 1630 ET Mon-Fri

    LAM does not have a USA office but one of the other numbers may help. The UK email for them is lam_uk@global-sales.co. And the South African email is reservations@airmozambique.co.za who act on their behalf.

    Hope some help 😉

  7. Thank you so much for this excellent blog/resource. I just wondered if you had any experience with FLYBE? I've recently flown with them in the UK and they were just awful. EG: despite booking assistance I was not offered any help and told to bounce my buggy down several flights of stairs to the gate at Edinburgh and East Midland Airports!

  8. Unfortunate for you that you ended up on a VS flight with sky cots, i found they were just enough for my then 6 month old! We travelled with them again when she was 15 months and they had the basinets that attach to the wall, look a bit like a baby bouncer and are good to 16 months (depending on weight) plus they have 5 point harnesses and infants don't have to be taken out with turbulance. I'm finding your site refreshing all the US advice sites just ram it down your throat that if you don't buy an extra seat and use a car seat then you must be a bad parent

  9. Thank you so much for this site!!!
    I'm traveling alone on the 21st of August with my little boy who will have just turned 5 months!! I am so nervous and wouldn't do the trip only we are going to visit my sister who has breast cancer. I flew myself 4 years ago and it's hard enough alone than with a baby. We're flying with Quantas. He's a great baby rarely cries unless somethings up so worried about his ears popping!!

    Great advice and tips! THANK YOU!

  10. Hi
    Thanks for your great site! this will be my 2n long haul flight with daughter and found your site very helpful the first time when my daughter was 6 months. This time around it will be much much harder for me: i will be travelling by myself with 2 yr old from Australia to the Netherlands. Why Why WHy. I am starting to get nervous. I booked with etihad to benefit from the nanny so that should help a lot. I still don't know how to make it to the airport (live 3 hrs away from international airport), park the car, pack up my girl and our hand luggage covering both of us and check in luggage and take it to check in. How on earth do i do this by myself? and the flight leaves at 23.30… argh (no flights earlier in the day). Any advice would be welcome.

  11. Hi Simone, thanks for your kind words. It may be worth investigating a coach- airport drop off from where you live? Then at least you can relax during the journey and be dropped off straight to the airport? Alternatively, a lot of airports do provide services to help, like porters or other such assistance. in Abu Dhabi they have the airport meet and assist and etihad provide a meet and greet to, so may be worth having a google about these and also see what you local Oz airport and Netherlands airport provide too?

  12. Hi Carrie

    Thx for the helpful site you have made. I'm flying alone in January with my 3months old little boy to South Africa, visiting my parents.
    At first I was really nervous but the more I read here the more confident I get.
    I fly from Brussels to Johannesburg with a transit in Zurich.
    I had many choices like emirates ( traveling time 22houres and a transit of 4h45m) just to long for little Liam.
    Next was British airways but then I have to clear customs again when we enter hall 5 at heatrow not so fun to do with my little boy.
    So now travel time 13h25m and 1h35m and no customs check at zurich.
    Bassinet is reserved. Check
    Liam loves the baby carrierso I can have my hands free. Check
    the only minor detail I don't like about Swiss, is the fact Liam can take 23kg of checked in luggage but NO hand luggage so everything he needs for on the plane has to go in my hand luggage. (No baby bag allowed)
    I don't need a stroller or a car seat because it's al present at my parents house.
    I'm taking a little trolley for my and a larger handbag that I use as baby bag.
    Liam also has reflux and is on a special diet formula so I need to bring it along but I put it in my checked in luggage. I hope I don't raise any alarm bells " because of the large amount of white powder I carry along ?
    Do you have anymore tips?

  13. I think you sound like super parent! just make sure you have enough extra of Liam's diet formula powder in your hand luggage in case of any delays etc. You will be absolutely fine otherwise with the rest in your checked in luggage.
    relax and enjoy and if anyone offers help, take them up on to, and ask if you need it. I found fellow passengers really helpful when travelling solo. Enjoy SA and have a nice rooibos for me. Love the place!

  14. Hi,
    Thank you for the great site. I'm nervous as I'm travelling with a 11 month old baby on jet airways and I've been reading bad reviews regarding bassinets and their poor service. Do you know if they have changed, do they provide with bassinets?

    And another thing, I'm still Breast feeding him ( of course, he is also having other foods). I'm worried about feeding him. I know a friend who had to feed her baby in the toilet which I'm not keen on doing. Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Thank you

  15. Hi Vidya, I haven't any personal experience with jet Airways, but like all airlines, some passengers have good flights and others, not so good. Jet Airways bassinets go up to 11kgs, so it will depend on the weight of your baby whether she can use it or not. The weight restriction is there due to manufacturing guidelines and how the bassinet secures to the bulkhead.

    contact Jet to reserve your bassinet,
    re feeding, there is no private area as such, and Mums usually use a wrap or shawl to discreetly breast feed. i wouldn't want to feed or eat in the toilet either. You may prefer a window seat,as this will give you a little more privacy to feed. Hope that helps.

  16. Families traveling to the nation will in any case confront a tangle of red tape.The new law looks to handle child snatching and the trafficking of young people.Any child touching base in South Africa must have a full birth certificate.What's more,if both parents are not together with the child,the person who is traveling needs a legally embraced affidavit from the other guardian "authorizing him or her to enter into or depart from the Republic of South Africa with the child he or she is traveling with."

    Bonnie Jenkins.

  17. Hi,

    I'm travelling alone with my 19 month old girl to Dubai using Emirates. The bassinet seat is available but the other 3 seats beside it is occupied. Should I take the bassinet seat because my daughter can only seat on my lap and not comfortable for both of us. My daughter too tall to fit in the bassinet.

    Thanks

  18. Hi Nur,

    The crew will definitely not set up the bassinet for you as she is too long etc, but the extra leg room space for you and the fact that no-one will be in front of you to recline their seat could make you feel a little more comfortable. So the bassinet seat is handy for that alone.

    It's also worth asking once you get to the airport and on board, if there are any spare seats where you could stretch out a bit and your little one even lie down and sleep.

  19. Hello, this is a brilliant site! In March I'm flying from Glasgow to New York and back with my then 4 1/2 month old. I'm meeting my partner there and we're traveling from New York to Puerto Rico and back together. All flights are with United and I've heard they're not that great, mainly due to having old planes, apparently. My partner has flown with them lots and says that isn't the case, but that was pre-baby, so he wasn't on the lookout for baby-friendly or -unfriendly stuff! We're flying premium economy and have booked bassinets – do you know what we can expect? Also, any tips for looking after baby in a hot country…?(vI'm breastfeeding exclusively and pretty comfortable with in in public.) It'll be my first time out of Europe and my first long flight, with my first baby! We've done two short internal flights with her and she traveled really well, but as this'll be much longer and my partner won't be there to help for some of it, I'm a little nervous! I'm excited though and just want to plan well… Many thanks 🙂

  20. Hi Carrie, I stumbled upon your site – and very thankful.i am traveling with SAA on the 21 March with my 17 year old and 9 month from Durban to Perth. I have pre booked our seats and arranged for kiddies meal. I have also requested a bassinet as my little one is very small under the 10kg mark – so we await to see if the airline will allow. I am planning on taking bottles on board as well as decanted formula and a tin of formula just in case, plenty snacks and toys – she is a very busy little one. As well as her stroller. Any other suggestions on what I should be doing or taking would be great.

    Much appreciated

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!!!!!!

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