My First Attempt at Flying Solo with a 15 Month Old

A few months ago, I took the plunge and took Julia (then 15 months old) on a plane ride.
She’s no stranger to air travel, but it was the first time my husband wasn’t there to tag team with me
during the adventure.

My plan going in was that less is more. Sounds simple, right? I was flying from
Georgia to New Mexico and would be there for more than a week, so I
wanted to pack everything we both needed into one carry-on sized
suitcase that I’d check in. Luckily, when I arrived in NM, I had a car seat and pack ‘n play waiting for us (two very large and
bulky items I didn’t have to worry about).

Since this was my first time doing it all alone, I was so torn on what to take for our adventure in
the airport and on the plane (specifically, I questioned if I wanted to
lug a stroller with me). This is the loot I ended up taking:

  • Umbrella stroller
  • ERGO carrier (Wraps and slings are awesome, but for an airport/airplane I liked using the carrier that clips and goes on quickly)
  • Backpack (Inside I had my laptop and all of my personal
    things—wallet, phone, chap stick, etc.—new snacks and toys for her, and a
    few extra diapers and wipes in their own separate Ziploc)
  • Suitcase filled to the brim with everything the two of use would
    need for our trip. I took just
    enough diapers and a pack of wipes for the airport/plane ride, and bought a pack of diapers and wipes once I got to my destination.

I got to the airport super early. It’s about a
two-hour drive to the airport from where we live, and I knew—okay, hoped—Julia would
nap on the way there. She did, thankfully! Our flight departed right at the beginning of her
bedtime, so the reason I wanted to get there early was so she could walk around a lot and burn off
energy. My plan almost worked like a charm.

usually park near the Atlanta airport at a hotel and then take a
shuttle over to the airport. When the shuttle dropped us off near the
curbside check-in, the place was deserted (unlike the chaotic mess inside the
airport). I made a split-second decision to check in my bag, so I
wouldn’t have to deal with pushing the stroller and pulling the
suitcase any longer than I’d have to—it was the best extra $25 I spent. After I checked it in, I stuffed the
Ergo in the backpack, slung it over my shoulder, and put Julia in the
stroller—we were ready to roll.

As a military spouse, we’re allowed to use the USO in different airports around the world.
I highly suggest checking it out if you’re traveling and have access to
a USO—they typically have an area specifically for kids, which is where
we hung out before our flight. I wanted to take more pictures of the
USO to show you, but Julia was literally running around all over the place, and I
had to keep up with her!

The children’s area at Atlanta’s USO facility

I gave us ample time to go through security, since you never know how
long it will take. Before we got in line, I took the Ergo out of the
backpack, strapped it on, and put Julia inside, then I dragged the
stroller behind us. The hardest part about security was taking off my
sandals while wearing her, but that was a small feat compared to what could’ve been. Security turned out to be a breeze.
They swabbed my hands for bomb residue (I was clean!) and tested the
milk I brought (took a bit of time, but I planned for that), and then we
were back on our way.

Just before our flight started boarding, I found a family restroom
and changed Julia out of her day clothes and into her jammies.
Then we got ready to board. I took advantage of the pre-board option (where they allow families with small
children to get on the plane) and got settled. It was nice, because I had a
little extra time to get situated, but Julia got really restless,
fast. Watching everyone walk around while she had to sit still on my lap
was torture for both of us. I vowed that the next time I flew with her, I’d board at the tail end
and let her wander around more.

I picked an aisle seat, because I figured I may need to walk around with
her to get her to sleep. She used to nap all
the time in the Ergo, so that wasn’t anything new for her. That
time, however, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. She was exhausted, but
didn’t want to sleep. We bounced up and down the aisle and I nursed her
like crazy (which is interesting since we were in the middle of weaning at that point). She eventually fell asleep, sprawled out across me, around an
hour and a half into the flight. Thank goodness. Now if only I could’ve had a glass of wine…

All in all, it was a decently successful trip. She didn’t really cry, and
except for having a really, really lousy seatmate (I’m pretty sure he
hated children), everyone was very helpful. I’m glad I spent the extra
money and checked in my bag at the very beginning so I could have my hands free to push
the stroller, and I’m also happy I brought the Ergo even though I really
only used it to get us through security. (When she was younger I wore her in it through
security and during the entire plane ride.)

The best advice I received from people before flying was to bring new things for
her to eat and play with. I picked up some small toys that I knew would
fit in my backpack, along with some new treats (Teddy Grahams and some
fruit chews, for example), and I’m also happy I brought the stroller. The
Atlanta airport is fairly large and while we’re both comfortable
babywearing, it was nice to push her and let her hop out to
walk when she wanted to.

Did the whole trip go as planned? Eh, not exactly, but it was better than I expected and it was definitely manageable. I also learned a lot for the next time, which I’ll be talking about in my next post.

Have you flown solo with your little one in your lap? How did it go?


  1. I flew alone with my then 16 month old from San Francisco to St. Louis. I don't recall that being too bad, but someone was nice enough to buy a seat for her so she could crawl around. I then flew alone to Okinawa when she was 19 months and my son was 5. That was torture. Pure, freaking, torture. She still gets restless on flights, but it's to be expected.

    1. Oh man, having an extra seat makes ALLLL the difference when they're that age! I'm seriously dreading flying solo with two kids—AHH!!!

  2. I used to fly all the time with my son by myself, he usually got his own seat though. I held him one time at 8 months and was like "nope, never again!" Of course, we're flying on Thursday with our daughter on our lap but the flight is only an hour. 😉

  3. You are brave. I’ve only driven across the US by myself but never with my toddler. I’ve had the unfortunate flight of having to sit separately from my son……that was a nightmare because someone didn’t want to switch seats with one of us. But what could I do? I was constantly reaching behind me to keep on eye on him and hope he didn’t do anything crazy to the people next to him. Both of them kept giving me dirty looks which could have easily been prevented if they switched seats with one of us all three of us where in seats close but not next to each other.

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