Traveling by Myself with a Lap Child……Gulp!!

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I am a huge proponent of ponying up the extra dough or miles to get your little one their own seat when you fly.  Even if they are under two years old and can technically fly without a purchased ticket, I still think that purchasing their seat is the way to go for a number of reasons. For one, it helps when you bring the car seat that your baby or toddler is used to every day.  That way, even though the plane environment may be a strange one, at least they are in their own mini-environment that they are used to.  Having the additional seat space for the kiddo, having access to the space under their seat for storage, and the fact that it is just safer, all make obtaining the additional seat the way to go, if you can.

That being said, for this trip Little C will be in momma’s lap.  To make it even more exciting, this will also be the first flight that she and I are doing without Daddy!  Have I gone flipping mad?!  Well, maybe.  Here’s the deal, Little C gets insanely excited every time we see an ocean or a beach on tv or in books, so we really want her to see it in person.  Crazy as it may sound, it is actually quicker and more economical to do a one day flight to the beach than it would be to load up the family and road trip it.  We plan to leave on the first flight out, and come back on a flight late in the afternoon.  No need for hotel expenses or packing up all of her overnight gear.  Plus, it’s not like we will be able to tolerate countless hours on the beach anyway.

Normally we budget our money and miles for trips WAY in advance.  We know that we need three seats, and plan accordingly.  However, this was a spur of the moment decision, and thus there were no miles or dollars budgeted.  We could afford to purchase one seat, but it basically came down to lap child, or no beach.  Little C and I voted for the beach!  See how much she loves the pool (with “beach entry”)………just wait until the real beach!

Since it is just me and the toddler, the travel routine that we normally use will have to undergo some major adjustments for this trip.  Here are a few of the things I have thought of so far:

1.  Toddler containment.  As I have mentioned before, when we travel I normally wear C on my back in an Ergo carrier.  She is safe and secure, and my arms are free to do other things.  However, this time I plan to carry our things in a backpack.  Also, she does not stay in the Ergo 100% of the time, so I would need something to keep her safe when I am doing things like checking in, getting screened, etc…  She listens well for a 19 month old, but she is still only a 19 month old.  So, I plan to bring a stroller.  That way she can be confined in it when needed, and I can use it to help carry the gear we are taking with us.

2.  Easy access.  I plan to have my ID, her birth certificate, and our boarding passes in a safe, but very easily accessible location.  I know good and well that if I just shove them somewhere in my “mommy purse” that they will disappear into the deep, dark caverns within the purse and will take way too long to find when I need to be able to just quickly grab them.

3.  Toddler entertainment.  I need to have light, compact, easily accessible toddler entertainment.  When there are two of us we can bring more things to entertain her with.  I need things that are instant gratification (no 15 minutes of booting up and logging into Netflix this time!).  I plan to bring an old, cheap portable DVD player with DVDs that are ready to go.  We will also have her favorite miniature Toy Story toys on hand for instant playtime.

4.  Portable snacks.  Eating on a plane is always a good time-killer for C.  That will be the same this time, but I will need to make sure to have food and drinks already packed in her bag and ready to go.  Usually one of us makes a run for the food court.  While I may still be able to do that, I want to have the option to skip the food court and just go with what I packed from home.

5.  Car seat.  Since she will be traveling as a lap child, I don’t plan to bring her car seat on the flight with me, mostly because if I did I would turn into a pack-mule who would have no free arms or legs.  So, I have reserved one with the rental car company, but I plan to call the day before to confirm that they have it available.  I also plan to beg to have them install it for me ahead of time.  Installing a car seat is a pain – it will be an even bigger pain to install a seat I am not familiar with, it a car I am not familiar with, while wrangling a toddler in the 8 million degree heat.

6.  Patience.  Traveling with a little one always requires patience.  Heck, just being a parent on a “good day” requires an insane amount of patience.  I am certain that at some point in the day Little C will have a melt-down.  I just need to keep my cool and avoid having a melt-down myself.  I know that despite some likely rough spots, that C and I will have a great time seeing the beach for the first time.

While we will still usually travel as a family of three, this will hopefully be the first of many trips that Little C and I will take as a dynamic duo.  I hope that she will grow-up to have the travel bug just like her mommy has!

Here is a picture of her and I checking out a parade at the Magic Kingdom after a long day of traveling to Orlando, getting settled into the hotel, and then hitting the park hard for several hours.  It was hot and we were tired, but we make a great happy traveling pair!

What travel tips do you have for Little C and I as we get ready for our adventure?  Have we totally lost our minds doing this?  What have I not yet thought of?

PS, remember to leave a comment at least once per day this week to be entered to win the $100 gift certificate to the airline or hotel of your choice!  Like me on Facebook to receive an additional entry (more here)!!

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  1. I swear by the ipad, which I know is an extra expense but it is so much easier than a dvd player! We have also never had luck getting a car rental place to install the seat for us for liability reasons, I hope they do for you!

    Just remember – everyone on that plane was young once and you will never see any of them again 🙂

  2. No need for the birth certificate. I logged about 100K miles with a lap child. If you can snag a seat with extra legroom or bulkhead it’s a big help to avoid any kicking the seat ahead issues. I tended on being on full flights so didn’t luck out often with an empty seat next to me.

  3. It really easy easier than you think to travel solo with your kids. Took my youngest on his first flight with just Momma from West Coast, CA to Michigan and he had a ball. I highly encourage lots of walking around the plane. No need to make them sit in their seat the whole time. Let them explore! Most people love seeing their cute faces as they walk down the isle. Lots of laps. The snack & movies are obvious but sometimes aren’t as interesting as exploring the plane.
    Enjoy your day! Sounds fun!

  4. Mrs. Bluto took our toddler on a flight last year by herself and he really misbehaved, and she broke down and cried. I am sure you will do better. He has gotten better as he has gotten more excited about planes and airports. We live in Orlando and he actually likes going to the airport now, partially because there is a monorail from the main terminal to the gate. I joke with my wife that all we really need to do for vacation is go to the airport, do the monorail a few times and then come home. That is 90% of the fun for him.

  5. A toddler backpack harness/leash is really great for traveling at this age. Gives her a little freedom to get her wiggles out and gives you piece of mind that she isn’t running through security.

  6. I would agree about the iPad. I read a lot of reviews about portable DVD players and most had a lot of comments about them dying after 3-4 months. It seemed more economical to get my son an iPad and load all of his movies on it. You can add games, access the Internet, etc.

    Kids really figure out how to use it quickly. I use it sometimes instead of a laptop when we are on trips and access hotel wireless. If only it had a USB port to plug in my camera . . .

    Ike

  7. I’ve traveled extensively by myself with our kids, now aged 4 and 2, when they were little. My tricks include:

    1) Dress them as cute as possible in something they like, which for us has included a Snow White dress up outfit complete with sparkly shoes for her and Spider-Man pajamas complete with webbed arms for him. The kids are happier and adults around them make comments about how cute they are, which puts everyone in a better mood.

    2) Change of clothes for everyone in the diaper bag in the event of an unfortunate accident.

    3) The air-sick bag makes a fun puppet or place to put in and take out crayons, etc. We also draw pictures for the people around us.

    4) Lets see home many dogs we can find in the magazine.

    5) When flying Southwest, I’ll hand one of my free drink certificates to the brave soul sitting next to me, which tends to build good will.

    6) I personally don’t like the bulk-head despite the extra leg room as there is nowhere to stow stuff within easy reach…no faster way to a meltdown then the toy I want is in the overhead compartment during takeoff. Both my kids by age 2 understood we have to wait for the “ding” to turn on electronics and the light to go off to get up.

    7) When my DD was an infant and a lap child, I once upgraded to first class (still cheaper than coach) for a long flight alone. Extra room, more attentive flight attendants, and an unlimited flow of snacks and drinks to keep her entertained. I initially got the stink-eye from folks around me (who all had noise-cancelling headphones anyway), but DD was well behaved and I made sure to sing her favorite songs very softly so as not to disturb those around me.

    Good Luck!

    • Christine, great tips! Isn’t it amazing how many dogs you can find in the SkyMall magazine? We do the same thing. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. @Andrea, Ipad is on my “Christmas list” for sure. Maybe Santa will deliver a little early this year. I know the car rental install is a long shot, but I’m crossing my fingers!

    @Marilynn, you sound like a pro! I agree completely about the seat kicking issue! Not sure what you mean about the birth certificate part though. I’ve actually already been asked for it once before the agent realized we had a seat for C.

    @Faith, I agree about walking around. I’m actually pretty excited traveling with just her, thanks for the encouragement!

    @Bluto, your wife’s experience sounds like a nightmare! I remember that monorail in Orlando, C loved it, too. 🙂

    @Nicole, that’s one of those things I swore I would never do as a parent……but I am very much considering it now. 😉

    @Ike, Apple should give ya’ll commission for getting me more excited about the ipad. Ha ha!

    @Taryn, aren’t they just like puppies sometimes! Cute, mischievous, unpredictable, and always entertaining. Thanks!

  9. If you renting a car i would print some google maps from the beach to the nearest walgreens/CVS and to the nearest babys r us then pack a little lighter knowing items you may need are really close. I always dislike being a pack mule

  10. Hi, I have been stalking your blog for sometime and reading now and then ever since DD Joyce-S has been trying to get me going on the points thingee! Was talking to her this morning and she again referred me to you as I have some biggee expenses coming up that I could get some youza good points with. Are there any especially good deals on cards with bonus points coming up? or is there one you would recommend right now for me? BTW love your banner! think the cartoon figures look just like you and J and little C! as far as traveling with a Toddler lap child or otherwise….you are a brave brave soul…sending you XOXOXO’s for the pain…take as needed!!!

    • Hi!! Thanks for stalking. 😉 The three best offers that are currently out (in my opinion) are: the Chase Sapphire Preferred deal that will get you 50,000 points if you spend $3,000 on the card within the first 3 month, the Citibank American Airlines Visa that will give you 75,000 American Airlines miles if you spend $1,500 on the card in the first six months, and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card that gets you 30,000 SPG points if you spend $4,500 in the first three months. The Sapphire and Starwood applications are pretty straight-forward, but make sure that you pay attention to details in the post about how to apply for the Citibank Visa if you choose that one. Let me know if you have additional questions about any of the cards after reading the posts (click on the names of the cards to be linked to the posts devoted to each specific card) and I will try to help you out!

      • Hi MP, and Congrats on the 100 posts! I got bored yesterday and instead of working…I applied and was approved for the ChaseExplorer card, and a Gold Amex. As DD Joyce said I should have waited for your reply…should I go ahead and apply for ones you suggest? And do I understand correctly…I can use these cards for ‘thinks’ and not just travel…I am sorry I don’t totally get it yet…but like a fledgling leaving the nest trying my wings!;) My son is going to be having some expensive medical treatments that I commited to pay his expen$ive co pays on shortly and I thought hey if I am paying I might as well get some of these ‘Brownie’ points everyone is talking about. Also have some big appliance expenses planned for my kitchen remodle. I was going to use the Amex for groceries, gas and stuff and since I buy those things for DS’s household too that should add up? and help too. Thanks for your dedication and help!!! I think I may have been bitten by the points bug..I always liked Free Stuff!!!! C

        • Ha ha, that sneaky points bug will get you! In a good way. You really can’t go wrong with picking some cards to get started with, and you picked some good ones! Especially since Continental will be a convenient airline for you to fly. Sounds like you will be racking in the points in no time with all the expenses you have coming up. Keep me posted. Very excited for you!

  11. I get a kick out of reading your blog. We’ve taken our (now 1 year old as of today’s big 1rst b-day) to Chicago, Arizona, and my wife solo to Florida in the past year. Hawaii is less than 3 months away, and I think I’ll have an anxiety attack over that airport/plane shuffle. You have some great ideas, and the commenters do as well. I try to load up our smart phones with new video’s, home videos and games. Our baby girl loves attention so I try to let her scan the plane as much as possible to lock eyes with someone wanting to give baby attention. Timing a nap is a crap shoot because if you keep her awake for too long then you are in the over-tired code red meltdown mode. Someone recommended this to me and I’m thinking about getting one: http://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Toddler-Seat-Travel-Accessory/dp/B000JHN3AS/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I1FWFMR3JLEA0X&colid=11K9KD43SIIY1 Good Luck!

    • Thanks for reading! Happy Birthday to your little one. 🙂 Hawaii will be a big trip, but I bet it will be SO worth it once you get there. I like the “travel accessory” you are considering. Certainly looks like it is worth trying out. Keep me posted on your family’s big trip to Hawaii!

  12. What a FUN MOMMY!!! Dang!! So–I loved the bulk head when my kids were little…bring a blankie or beach towel for the ground. Not much available on board any more. Saw the airsick bag puppet idea and remembered when my son was little we would adress and stamp those bags and use them as postcards or envelopes to write letters to friends. “Just sick you can’t join us Daddy… 🙂 “

  13. You will officially become one of those people that I feel bad for in the airports – alone with a child and all that stuff that comes with that kid. But more power to you! What a great memory!

  14. yes, you should have a copy of the birth certificate just in case. the airline has a right to refuse entry if child is not under 2 years old (that’s federal regulation). only way to verify child’s age is with birth certificate.

    car rental agency will not install car seat for you as it is a liability for them. it took 2 of us an hour to do this last time. erg…

    • I totally agree with you about the birth certificate. I would not chance flying without that myself. That’s too bad about the rental car agency. I had read an experience where they installed it for someone, so I got my hopes up that was a possibility, but I guess that was a “fluke”. I think that is now officially the part of the trip that I am most concerned about! Installing car seats is such a pain……new seat, new car, summer heat, baby, no help, this oughta make for some fun! 😉 Thanks for the info!

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