When you’re an expat, there’s an awful lot of things to think about. One thing that’s crossed my mind a few times is “if I was to have children while living in America, there may come a day when I may have to travel alone with them when visiting home”. It’s not quick and simple. Living in Iowa, that’s a 3 hour drive to Chicago, followed by an 8 and a half hour flight on to England…and that’s if you fly direct!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
This guest post comes from my British friend Kerry, who lives literally 10 minutes away from me in Iowa. She recently made this exact journey with her three children, to visit her family back home in England.
So I pass you over to Kerry!
Travelling Alone With Children
I had made two trips back to England within a year, alone. My dad had some health issues and I had to be there. Thankfully, he is on the road to recovery, but his health troubles have stopped him from travelling and being able to visit his grandchildren. Life is short and we decided to take the family over to England to visit my dad.
Photo Credit: Kerry Roeder
I have three children. Brian, aged 10, Mason, aged 9, and Lyla aged 4. I have travelled all over the world with my family as a child, and alone, but I have never travelled with children. I browsed the web to find tips and tricks on travelling with kids, and added some things in which I knew would benefit my family. Also, whilst my husband did fly with us on the outgoing trip, he came home a week early, so I was travelling back with 3 children alone I wanted to be prepared! Here are my top 10 must have for travelling alone with children under 10.
Photo Credit: Kerry Roeder
Top 10 Must Haves For Travelling Alone With Children:
- Luggage. We booked Economy light due to the great prices, and decided we were not going to pay for a checked bag. This meant I had to organise everyone’s suitcases perfectly in order to fit in everything we needed for the trip. The trip was for 2 weeks. I decided to only pack 7 outfits/socks/underwear per person. We had access to a washer and dryer so I knew we could wash the clothes and re-wear the outfits again for the second week of our trip. Each person had a carry on rolling suitcase and a backpack. By the children each having their own backpack filled with their own goodies it saved a lot of arguments and headaches over whose is whose.
- Snacks. This was a life-saver on the plane. My children are not picky eaters by any means, but the airplane food did not please them. I packed each backpack with organic granola bars, animal crackers, sugar free organic candy, and organic fruit strips. I chose items with low amounts of sugar and dyes because who wants 3 sugared up kids in a confined space? Not this mama!
- Kindles. Now normally I am not a fan of sticking a child on a kindle for long periods of time, but for such a long flight (and not knowing the movies available on board) I wanted to make sure the kids would have something they would enjoy watching, reading, and playing. I also made sure they had their own headphones as the airline ones are not usually very good.
- Car Seat. My daughter is 4 years old and would need to be in a car seat to travel in England. I have a Diono Radian. This car seat weighs 25lb and I was very nervous about taking it and having to carry it around the airport. I knew Lyla would do better on a plane if she was in a seat which she was comfortable in, and that she couldn’t get out of. I watched how to install the car seat online before we left for the airport.
- Sit and stand stroller. As mentioned I was travelling back with 3 children alone. I had the idea of the sit and stand stroller to use as a carrier for the luggage and car seat, saving me having to carry and roll it all around the airport. THIS WAS A LIFE SAVER! I was able to use the stroller up until boarding, then gate checked it. It folded up so there was no issue about it being a bigger stroller. I bought it off a Facebook garage sale for $15.
- Activities for the 4 year old. Even movies do not occupy toddlers for very long so I made sure I packed some activities for Lyla. I made sure she did not see them before the flight, so it was all an extra fun surprise for her. Here’s the links to what I put in Lylas bag; Window Cling; Water Wow; Sticker book; Invisible Ink Colouring Pad
- Baby wipes. Kids are messy. It happens. Fingers get sticky. Drinks get spilt. Food gets dropped. I bought a brick of baby wipes which helped to easily clean up messy faces, hands, and clothes, without having to make extra trips to the bathroom.
- Ziploc bags. Whilst the airline tries to do trash sweeps periodically it is easy with 3 children to have some trash. I brought along Ziploc bags to use as trash bags. I also planned to use them if one of the kids happened to be sick on themselves on the plane (thank God they didn’t!). It would have made for an easier way to store the soiled clothes, if needed.
- Spare clothes. If you are checking in your baggage, make sure you have at least one clean outfit for each child on the plane. Turbulence can make anyone nauseous and you don’t want to have a child vomit and not have clean clothes to change into.
- Folder. I bought a standard 2 pocket folder from my local store. This was perfect for holding the passports, tickets, and travel insurance documents. I also e-mailed the airline to make sure both the stroller and car seat would be approved, then printed this conversation off also- in case I was questioned about anything.
- Ok, just one more thing! Child Restraint. I know my child is not a dog on a leash, however, she is a very curious and active 4 year old. She like to run and wander. When she was not in the stroller (which ended up being the majority of the time) I used this system to ensure she did not get lost. It saved me from anxiety and fear of her going missing in a busy airport.
Photo Credit: Kerry Roeder
Other Tips For Travelling Alone With Children
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When checking in on the way home I explained I was travelling alone with three children and asked if it was possible to have our carry-on luggage checked in for free. We travelled with Iceland Air and they allowed us do this. It was such a weight off not having to worry about rolling the luggage around with us on the way home.
Photo Credit: Kerry Roeder
Let the flight attendants know you are travelling alone with children. My son got sick on the flight and they were very helpful with my other children as I cared for my sick son in the bathroom.
Be prepared for meltdowns. Travel is difficult for most adults, let alone travelling with children. I mentally prepared myself that a meltdown was going to happen at some point along the journey. We had a couple of moments, but because I was mentally prepared I was not worried about what everyone else was thinking.
Be prepared for impatient and ignorant people. I was assisted by the crew on the way back and was allowed to board prior to other passengers as I had a car seat to install. The lady next to me began complaining to her husband that they should have been allowed to go first. I held my breath. Then she muttered ‘this is ridiculous, we should have been let on before them’. I politely said ‘excuse me, as you can see I am travelling alone with three children and these people are being wonderful and helping me out, you are a grown woman travelling with another adult, please have some patience’ She replied ‘ well it wouldn’t be so bad if check in didn’t take so long’ I replied ‘ that is not mine nor my children’s fault, so please be patient’ Then with an elbow nudge from her husband she apologised. People are rude. Travelling isn’t fun. Be aware that people are impatient and can be unkind. Don’t let them get to you!
Thanks again to Kerry for sharing her experience of travelling alone with children! I hope it’s given you some helpful tips and tricks that you can use for your next trip!
Are you planning on travelling alone with children soon?
Pin these tips for later!
Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking and it comes at no extra cost to you! As always, opinions are my own.