Travelling on your own, with a one year old. The idea itself can make you feel anxious, right?
I travelled alone with my little boy a week after his 1st birthday. I am a single parent and I love travelling. Hopefully, my LO and I will have many more trips in the future once COVID is behind us all.
Sharing my experience and tips from what I have learned will hopefully save you some pain and stress!
Checklist before travel
My checklist before travel:
- Passports are up to date.
- Tickets booked – including a seat for your little one if possible.
- Transport to the airport (taxi, friend, or book parking at the airport)
- Travel insurance (in case your holiday gets canceled or your luggage gets lost)
- Car hired (if needed)
- Nursery – give them enough notice so they don’t charge you
If you can, buy a seat for your baby. If you can’t, you could get lucky and not have another passenger sat next to you. When checking in, pick seats at the rear of the plane as they are assigned last, so the chances are you will get three seats for you and your little ones.
Why buy a seat?
Firstly, your little one can play and nap or even sit and enjoy a snack on their seat and not in your lap.
Secondly, when you have to change their nappy, you can use the seat but if you ask the attendant for permission, they will tell you that you need to use the toilets in consideration of other passengers. My little one is 1 but he is as big as a 2 year old! He won’t fit in those tiny changing desks in the toilets. When we travelled for the second time, he was 6 months old (I wasn’t on my own back then). I tried to change him there and honestly regretted it so much. If he didn’t fit back then, imagine now when he is 1 year old.
Going to the airport.
I was lucky as a friend of mine took us to the airport in my car. Adding a new driver for a month was free when I did it before but I didn’t have to do it again as he had insurance to drive any car. This way I didn’t have to worry about a car seat for my little one. The option to park at the airport wasn’t for me as I was going away for a month therefore it was going to be a bit pricey.
Get yearly travel insurance. It becomes a tiny bit more expensive than the one for your travel at the time, but if you are planning on traveling a few times a year it is worth it.
Transfer from the airport to the final destination.
I usually rend a car with the same car company and get 15% off as a VIP customer. Renting a car is very cheap when you travel off-season (the car cost me around £5 a day). I rented a car seat for the month and it was £3.50 a day. It cost me £40 only as they have a maximum price for renting the car seat.
Get your music ready for the car journey as there is no radio signal on motorways between cities.
Just going to the local park takes 20 minutes to prepare so traveling abroad needs some serious packing. Make a list of the things you need for the travel. Depending on where and how long you are going, the list of what you need will vary.
I won’t lie, I was extremely nervous, and started planning a month ahead. As a result, I was so tense that I couldn’t relax and do anything else. In the end, I made a list of what I thought I would need, and that helped me to relax.
Then, I left a box in my spare room and start putting in things I would need whenever I remembered, or began writing on a sticky note things that I needed to take but was still using prior to our trip. By the time of the travel, the box was overflowing and I was sure this was not going to fit in our suitcase. This is the benefit of placing everything in front of me rather than a list as visual is always better to judge.
So, if you like me prepared too many things to pack, take a look around and decide what you will definitely need. You will be surprised at how many things you can survive without. From my experience, my boy plays with everything else except his toys when there is something new around. I knew the plane would be new for him and he would play with all the buttons and handles therefore I took some of his favourite toys only for the travel.
Even for a short flight, prepare for the worst on the plane – delays for example, and make sure you have enough food and snacks, nappies, change of clothes.
On most flights, you are allowed one bag for you and one bag for your baby that can fit under the seat in front of you on the plane. Therefore, I took one backpack and a small gym bag. I wanted to make sure I could carry everything when they took my stroller before entering the plain.
Get your stroller to the plane. It is so comfy as I managed to hang the gym bag on it and had the backpack on my back. It almost felt like my hands were free.
I bought the Joie Brisk LX Stroller – Pavement as it is for toddlers for up to 22 kg. My LO was 13.5kg at the time of travel – a big boy, therefore I needed something sturdier and I am very happy with it so far.
This is essential as it will help you to have your hands free to carry the hand luggage. You can also use it to have access to places where the stroller won’t be able to go.
I have got the Baby Tula carrier and can’t be happier as it is so sturdy and I am not worried that will rip or anything.
Entertainment for the travel
A one year old has discovered their motor skills and they want to move around. They won’t stay still: some are walking, others walk with the support of your hands. The main thing is to prepare yourself mentally, that if your little one doesn’t sleep, you will be up and walking the aisle at least for half of the travel. It does make it easier once your mind is set to it, like everything else really.
What I did was to get his favourite small toys in a box with a lid as he loves taking the toys out and putting them back in.
Old cell phone.
He loves pressing on the screen and changing one screen to another. The phone doesn’t need to have a sim. Make sure to charge it so the battery to last the travel.
Small books are easy to take and you can read the same book many times before your little one gets bored. Kids love repetition.
Upload their favourite animation to watch and If you don’t have many it is not a big deal as they can watch the same over and over. I loaded the tablet and the phone with his animations but my LO wouldn’t sit and watch so that wasn’t helpful to me.
Take plenty of snacks and food and prepare for the worst on the plane, like possible delays.
I had savoury and sweet snacks packed in small boxes that my LO could use to play with after he is finished with the food. Fruits (banana, apple, blueberries)
Fiddling with the tray table, lights and air buttons above can occupy your little one for some time.
How my travel went.
On a way to the airport.
Our flight was at 6.30 am. I woke up my LO at 3 am. It took him a bit of time but he was up and happy after 10 minutes. I changed his nappy and dressed him for the travel. I got him some milk to give him while traveling to the airport.
Luggage check in and security .
We arrived early and went to check in our luggage and to print the boarding pass for my LO’s seat. A bit of wait there but my LO was looking around and waving at strangers with masks (COVID travel).
The security check went well. As I had baby food and drinks, they pulled my luggage to check the liquids in a special machine. It does take a little bit of time but it is all worth as you have what you need for your LO.
Waiting for the gate to open and boarding.
While waiting for the gate to open we sat at a bench and I helped him walk around the stroller. He started playing with the bottle of water I bought earlier. No issues with boarding. There was no sleeve to get on the plane, which meant I had some stairs and no lifts. This was the moment where I had to fold the Joie Brisk LX Stroller – Pavement stroller and strap my LO in the Baby Tula carrier.
I couldn’t take a picture but try to picture me. Baby in front, backpack on my back, stroller in one hand, and my gym bag in the other. I had people asking if I needed help but I was okay as the distance I had to cover wasn’t much. This is the only 5 minutes that I was loaded like a donkey. Once they took my stroller before the plane stairs I had one hand free again.
On the Plane and landing.
Luckily, he didn’t fall asleep until the flight took off. Then slept for 2 hours which left me with an hour to entertain him. The entertainment list above bought my LO about 10 minutes of engagement each. Then I changed his nappy before we started getting ready for landing (I wanted to make sure I was good to go and pick up the suitcase and get the documents for the rented car). The only time he got really unsettled was at taking off and landing as he didn’t want to be strapped on my lap. I was giving him his favourite snack during those times and it seemed to work. It also helped with equalising his ear pressure.
Getting to the passport was easy. With a toddler, you skip the queue go in front of everyone. That gave me a chance to go to the toilets before picking up the suitcase. Remember I couldn’t go on the plane as it was impossible to fit together with my LO.
Luggage pickup and collecting the rental.
The suitcase was waiting for me on the conveyor belt. the only thing was the car. My baby boy was still calm and interested in everything around.
While waiting on a quеue for the car I got my LO to walk around so that he could burn some energy as we had 2 more hours by car to my hometown, where my parents live.
Documents for the car were ready and the keys in my hand. I didn’t rush as it was lunchtime and we had plenty of time. I loaded the luggage in the car and start walking with my LO around for good 15-20 minutes. Gave him his lunch and it was almost his nap time again. I wasn’t sure he would fall asleep but was hoping he will.
In the car, I placed around 10 small toys next to me on the passenger seat and was passing them to him one at a time. This bought me half an hour. Next was an apple that was sliced and stored in a food container. He enjoyed every slice and then the container was his last toy before he drifted off under the sounds of my ‘lovely ‘ voice, singing the same song over and over, and over, and over …
Sign up for Amazon music if you haven’t done this already. Have a list for offline play and sing along. Toddlers love to listen to your voice.
Luckily for me, he slept through the rest of the travel and we got home safe where grandparents were so happy to see him after 6 long months. (We stayed with them for 3 months when V was 2 and a half months)
Travelling with a one year old does need a little bit more planning and preparation than accustomed. But it is possible, so having a baby shouldn’t stop you from travelling if you are a travel enthusiast like me.
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