Google Never Prepared Me For Travelling Alone With Kids
That’s why I now follow my own travel tips
When I was an expat living in China, I endlessly Googled articles about travelling with children.
My partner and I had one child (which has now grown to three!) but travelling with a one-year-old still worried me.
Flying with a toddler is interesting because when they’re in a good mood, it can be a breeze. But if your toddler skipped his nap it can feel like travelling through Dante’s Inferno.
The first time I travelled alone with my child was an eye-opening experience. The airport customs in China looked something like this:
If you’ve never been to China, you might not have heard about the ancient Chinese art of queuing. I still don’t fully understand it.
Basically, you push your way to the front of the line and hope for the best.
Google didn’t prepare me for the whole travelling alone with kids experience.
Most articles on travelling with kids discuss two parents or carers looking after their children, working together to keep their crazy kiddos under control.
But that advice can be useless when you’re travelling solo with kids. So here are a few tips I’ve learned during my years of travelling by myself with a child:
Travelling By Yourself With Kids
Tip #1: Always bring snacks
If your child has teeth, then you need to bring as many snacks as you can fit inside your carry on luggage.
Just the word ‘snacks’ seems to flip a switch inside kids brains. All of a sudden they’re your willing slaves and will do anything for that tasty snack.
It can even be healthy. I’ve called carrot sticks a ‘snack’ and my kid couldn’t get enough of them.
Tip #2: Don’t be fooled that your kid will sleep during an overnight flight
This was one of my rookie flying errors. I assumed that because we were flying on a non-stop overnight flight my kid would sleep.
Sure, they might nap, but be prepared for a sleepless night, which brings me to my next tip.
Tip #3: Be prepared to bribe your kid
Similar to snacks, you need to be prepared with an array of surprise presents.
That way you can get one out when your kid is on the verge of losing it because they don’t want buckle their seatbelt during turbulence.
As tempting as that in flight plastic cup of wine may seem, pick the coffee or highly caffeinated tea instead.
Because your kid will not sleep during an overnight flight. And they will be grumpy, bored, or both for most of the flight.
If your kid is at least 3 years old, you have the advantage of being able to bribe them with presents. And thank God for that, because otherwise you’d be in the ninth circle of Hell.
Surprise presents include toy cars/dolls, books/magazines, puzzles and colouring-in pages.
If all else fails, whip out the iPad, although that always seemed to end in iPad rage after a twelve hour flight.
If your kid is under the age of 3, then lots of singing and games are in order, which brings us back to coffee and tea. Drink lots of it. Not decaffeinated.
Tip #4: If you have the money, buy your toddler their own seat
Travelling alone with a kid is hard enough, but if you’ve got an under 2-year-old on your lap while you’re squashed between two strangers, it’s going to be a looooong flight.
If you can afford to buy your toddler their own seat, you’ll be saving half your sanity. Plus, there’ll be enough room to lay down your tired, grumpy toddler so you can catch a few blissful minutes to yourself.
Tip #5: Don’t be shy to ask for help
When you’re travelling by yourself with a kid, going to the toilet can be tricky.
In my earlier flying days, I was too scared to ask the flight assistants for help and ended up taking my toddler into the toilet with me. Big mistake.
Swallow your pride and get help from the flight staff, because most of the time they’ll be happy to look after your kid for just a few minutes.
Travelling by yourself with kids isn’t always going to be easy, but if you’re prepared for the worst, then it can only get better, right?
Because the real reason you’re flying is to get to that fabulous destination where you can relax and unwind, until you have to fly back home again.
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Lana Graham writes about parenting and the process of writing in her Medium publication Mama Write. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her partner (her rock) and their three amazing young sons.