Last month I took the plunge and took my toddler on a plane ride. She’s no stranger to air travel—this was her fifth plane trip in her short life—but it was the first time I didn’t have her dad to tag team during the adventure.

My plan going in was that less would be more. 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 (I hate paying extra checking in a bag, but that changed once I got to the airport). I also lucked out, because at my destination there would be a car seat and pack ‘n play waiting for us (two very large and bulky items that I didn’t have to worry about).

I waffled back and forth between 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), and this is what I eventually went with:

  • Umbrella stroller
  • Ergo Carrier (We use wraps and slings, too, but for an airport/airplane I like 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 left the diapers at home and only took “just enough” and bought diapers and wipes once I got to my destination.

I planned it out to get to the airport super early. It’s about a two-hour drive to the airport from where we live, and I knew Bunny would nap on the way there. Our flight departed right at the beginning of her bedtime, so I was hoping she would walk around a lot and burn off energy. My plan almost worked like a charm.

We 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, the place was deserted (unlike the chaos 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. Best extra $25 I spent. After I checked it in, I stuffed our Ergo in the backpack, strapped it onto my back, and put Julia in the stroller—we were smooth sailing.

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 my daughter was literally running all around, so 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 Bunny 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 the complications 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 little Bunny out of her day clothes and into her jammies. Then we got ready to board.

We boarded with pre-board (where they allow families with small children to get on the plane) and got settled. It was nice since I had a little extra time to get situated, but Bunny got really restless, really fast. Watching everyone walk around while she had to sit still was torture for her. Next time I’ll board at the tail end of everyone and let her wander around more.

I picked an aisle, because I figured I may need to walk around with her (hopefully in the Ergo) to get her to sleep. She naps like that all the time (when not on a plane), so that’s nothing new for her. This time, however, she wanted 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’ve been in the weaning process). She eventually fell asleep, sprawled out across me, around an hour and a half into the flight.

All in all, I’d call it a successful trip. She didn’t cry (much), 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 so that I could have my hands free to push the stroller. I’m also happy I brought the Ergo even though I really only used it through security. (When she was younger I wore it through security and during the entire plane ride.)

The best advice I received from people 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). 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 be able to push her and let her hop out to walk.

Did the whole trip go as planned? Not exactly, but it was better than I expected and it was definitely manageable.

Now that we conquered our first solo-traveling experience, we’re about to do it again in a couple months, but since she’ll be older I’ll probably purchase her own seat, so I’m sure I’ll be back with another tale about how that adventure goes!

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