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Flying as a Single Parent

Flying Solo with Children: Single Parent Hacks

Flying as a single parent is not as bad as it may seem. This guide will give you tips on flying with kids to make your travel day easier and more enjoyable.

packing a suitcase

1. Pack light

Excess baggage will weigh you down and being the only parent, you may have to carry your kids and luggage so be mindful and only pack the essentials. It's important only to bring the necessities such as snacks, water, medication, diapers/nappies, spare clothes, toiletries and small toys. This can all fit in a small carry-on or hand luggage. Also, consider when bringing a buggy that folds down so it's easier to carry up and down stairs. Otherwise, some airports allow passengers to hire a buggy during their time at the airport.

Creating a travel checklist when packing for your holiday might be beneficial to ensure you don't forget anything or pack too much.

A toddler looking out a plane window

2. Book your seats in advance

It's a good idea to choose your seats when you make the booking to make sure you and your children are sitting next to one another. Please know that some airlines don't allow pre-selecting seats unless you pay extra. If you're flying with one of the airlines that don't allow pre-selecting seats at all, check to see if they allow families with small children to board first. Don't wait until you are at the gate to ask the airport staff as this puts them and the other passengers who paid for seats in a difficult situation.

If you’re flying with a child under 2, they can fly as a lap infant, but I'd always ask the gate agents if there is an extra seat we can sit near so that my child can have their seat. All children over the age of 2 require their seat no matter their size. So, if you’re flying with a 2-year-old, they will need their ticket their seat and their seat belt.

A toddler keeping entertained on a flight

3. Keep them entertained on the flight

Travelling doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it seems. With the right selection of aeroplane activities, you can keep your child engaged, entertained and happily occupied for the duration of the journey. Make sure you do your research on which airline has the best entertainment for kids as some airlines offer movies, TV shows, books, games, toys, audio and kids' meals.

Another tip for flying long-haul with kids is to download your child's favourite shows before you set off on your journey. There's nothing worse than forgetting your child's favourite toy or favourite book whilst travelling and it is their only source of entertainment. Plan and remember to pack a few of their favourite things to help keep them entertained throughout the flight for a smoother journey.

And here's a bonus tip: don't forget to bring noise-cancelling headphones. This way, your child can enjoy their shows without disturbing fellow travellers.

Baby at airport lounge

4. Book an airport lounge

The first reason why you should book an airport lounge when you are travelling with kids is security. When travelling as a solo parent, have you ever wanted a few quiet moments to yourself? Away from the busy crowds in the departure lounge and shops, not worrying about your children getting caught in the crowd and mistakenly being swept along? Then why not pay to go into an airport lounge?

We also suggest an airport lounge with little ones for entertainment purposes. Walking through duty-free and browsing shops isn't always fun for children, therefore, when you have lounge access there are soft play areas, games, books and toys. Others include showers, spas, bed cubicles and big sofas. For the adults, some lounges offer free newspapers and wifi. Just make sure you book a family-friendly airport and check the lounge facilities.

However, not all airport lounges are child-friendly therefore, make sure you do your research beforehand. Some examples of child-friendly airport lounges are: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, London Heathrow, American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge, JFK Airport, New York, Qatar Airways, Al Mourjan Business Lounge, Qatar, Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at Istanbul Airport, Turkey and Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, Kuala Lumpur

Emirates plane departing

5. Choosing the right airline

Choosing the right airline can make a world of difference. Look for child-friendly airlines that go the extra mile to cater to families. Some airlines also offer priority boarding for families with young children, making the boarding process smoother. Additionally, consider airlines that have spacious seating arrangements, making it more comfortable for you and your little ones during the flight.

Some airlines do go the extra mile to ensure your travel experience is the best it can be. Some airlines offer a Nanny service where a flying nanny entertains your child while you can relax and enjoy the 'me time'. Other airlines offer colouring books or goody bags for children just in case they get bored during the flight. Therefore, when booking child-friendly flights you don't have to feel like you're constantly having to entertain your children and you can sit back and relax.

Children on holiday

6. Choosing the right destination

Organising a vacation as a single parent can feel overwhelming, particularly when seeking a destination that caters to everyone's interests and keeps them entertained. Things to consider when looking for the perfect family destination is the flight time as when travelling solo with kids you won't want to sit through a 16-hour flight. Also taking into account whether the country or area is family-friendly and safe with low crime rates.

Destinations perfect for those in the UK wanting a getaway with a short flight time are Greece, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, Dubai, Portugal and Italy. Whereas those who live in the USA may want to consider the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico and Cuba.

airport security

7. Flying Alone with Children - TSA Rules

Know all the rules of what you can and can not bring through the line. TSA has modified procedures for children under 12 years old. For example, Children under 12 do not need to remove their shoes or jackets. These are important regulations to be familiar with before. You can help yourself have a smooth TSA experience by anticipating this portion of your trip by packing appropriately & having computers/iPads/liquids easily available to pull out of your bag for a scan. When travelling solo with a baby– the parent may carry the baby through the metal detector. If a search is required, the security team will explain how this will be completed.

NOTE: TSA is only within the United States - other countries have different security rules.

Close up of a passport sitting on luggage

8. Have all of your documents accessible and in order

Make sure you check in for your flight on time and when you receive your boarding passes you should keep them with your passport. You will need to check if those travelling have a valid passport and it's not expired, ideally before you book. Infants and toddlers need identification on flights. We suggest bringing a copy of your child’s birth certificate to identify how you are related. Also, if you are a single parent travelling with a child out of the country, you will need a notarized consent form from the other parent OR the court documents stating you are allowed to travel without consent from the other parent.

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What age is a child ticket?

It's always best to check with the airline you are flying with however, most airlines sell child tickers from ages 2-11. Some airlines consider a child ticket for anyone under 16. On average, discounted airline tickets for children are around 25—33% cheaper than adult tickets.

What are the best airlines for flying with kids?

Airlines such as British Airways, Emirates and American Airlines are all examples of family-friendly airlines. Have a look at our page on family-friendly airlines to find out more.

Are there kids food options on the in-flight menu?

Yes. Most airlines will offer food for children on their in-flight menus. Many airlines will require you to book your child's food separately from your own at least 24 hours in advance from the day of your flight.

Can I bring a pushchair or buggy on my flight?

Yes. Most airlines allow for passengers to bring at least one pushchair or buggy onto their flight, free of charge. However, the pushchair or buggy must fit within the maximum weight and dimensions that the airline state.