Flying Alone With A Baby? Solo Parent Air Travel Tips
My eldest’s 6th flight meant me flying alone with a baby. Little Miss A and I, travelled by ourselves to South Africa. This meant 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. For general flying with a baby tips with lots of detail see here.
My Experience Of Flying Alone With A Baby
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 travel stroller like the BabyZen YOYO.
We 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.
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 or bring your own. 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.
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 For Flying Alone With Baby
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. They will not look after your child like a traditional nanny though.
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 it is 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!
8) 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.
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!