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Unless I am forgetting a flight somewhere along the line, I think yesterday was my first time flying with both of my little kids at the same time without any other adults along for the ride. I’ve flown solo with each child individually a number of times, but never both at the same time. The journey started out a little rocky but ended with smiles and smooth sailing thanks to luck, airline lounges, and some toddler travel training along the way.
In case you are about to embark on your own solo parenting high flying adventure, here was what I learned from my first time playing zone defense in the airport as opposed to relying on man on man coverage. As opposed to the good, the bad and the ugly, we’ll break the journey into the bad, the good, and the awesome as it fortunately wasn’t ugly at all.
The Bad: Ticketing and Security
Our journey started at the massive DFW airport, which is apparently larger than the island of Manhattan, and one of the busiest airports in the country. We were dropped off at the ticketing area which was very helpful as opposed to parking, shuttle busing, etc. but not being super familiar with this airport, we ended up being dropped off a good distance away from an actual American Airlines ticket counter, so when you are counting on a two-year-old’s legs to do the walking, we burned up a lot of energy before ever reaching a ticket counter.
Normally, I do not visit a ticket counter at all as we just print boarding passes at home, but one of my daughters had ended up on her own reservation. As a result, the system thought she was flying as an unaccompanied minor, so that had to be overridden by a real person who could only be reached by standing in a real line. If possible, avoid all of that by having your tickets printed at home as managing bags and children in a line is not one of my favorite activities.
Next, the security line closest to the ticketing counter was not a PreCheck line, and I wasn’t about to have our small army of three march further than necessary just so I could leave my laptop in my purse, so we dealt with the traditional security rituals, though we did get to access the priority line.
A little chaos ensued when my two and seven-year-olds had already gone through security screening but then my shoes unexpectedly set off the alarm, which meant I had to take them off and try again while the kids were bolting further away. When we tried again after getting them to come back through security, carrying her set off the alarm a second time. On the third try, now shoeless, we each made it through.
I did not try to bring a juice through security this time as that is a guaranteed search and/or patdown and it just wasn’t worth the hassle since I was flying by myself. I’d rather purchase something post-security than try to keep an eye on a wiggly toddler while getting the full security treatment.
Mommy Points Tips: Print your boarding passes at home, learn where the PreCheck lanes are before arriving to the airport and get dropped off there (assuming you have PreCheck), and carry toddlers through the screening device even if they are old enough to walk through.
The Good: Family Room in the Airport Lounge
Once through security, the worst part was over and we retreated to the Amex Centurion Lounge’s family room at DFW. Your Platinum Card® from American Express
can get you and two guests into the lounge without any additional charge, so we maxed out that guest benefit and exhaled a bit as we shut the almost sound-proof door behind us and just played for a while. I would have skipped the lounge portion of the airport visit entirely, but due to a variety of reasons, we had a fair amount of time to kill on our hands before the flight and I didn’t want potentially feral children loose at the gate area for that long.
I can’t tell you how grateful I was for a room for the kids to burn off our extra time and a little extra energy. Thankfully, my second grader is now able to keep an eye on the toddler for a few minutes in a contained area so I can go grab a water or take a quick bathroom break. I would not leave them unsupervised in the airport at large, but for a couple minutes in the lounge, I trusted my second grader to be able to make enough of a ruckus to get help if there was a problem.
It also helped that there was enough of a food selection in the lounge to suffice as dinner for me, and an appetizer for them until we reached our final destination, Grandma and Grandpa’s house. This not only made for a convenient all-in-one stop, but also saved money since we didn’t have to purchase anything in the airport.
We left the lounge rejuvenated, filled, freshly diapered, and ready for the long journey between terminals. Thankfully, my two-year-old loves escalators and trains, both of which were in ample supply on this journey to our gate.
Mommy Points Tips: Know your lounge access rights thanks to status, membership, and rewards credit cards. Even if you don’t plan to visit the lounge, it is good to know options in the case of a delay.
The Awesome: Smiles on the Train, at the Gate, and on the Plane
Not only was this my first time flying as the solo parent with both children, but I think it was also our first time getting through the airport without a stroller for Little S. Frankly, it just didn’t really fit in the car. We had combined two trips into one, starting with a night at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas before I flew onwards from Dallas with the kids. That meant a four hour trip with six people and six people’s bags in the Yukon from Houston to Dallas and no room to add anything else. I thought we would manage without it, and I was thankfully correct, but it did mean we were walking at a toddler’s pace.
We all worked together to move our bags and each other, enjoyed letting the second grader help read the gate signs, and the youngest had a blast on the train ride between terminals.
Honestly, it was pretty fun working together as a little team to get where we needed to be. Our traveling team was all smiles at the gate area where we arrived about 15 minutes before boarding, and that teamwork translated to an uneventful boarding.
We had used miles to fly in first class, so this meant that we didn’t have to get too far down the plane after boarding, had plenty of room, a pre-departure juice to refill that sippy cup that had been emptied at security, and we also had ample snacks offered during the flight. Obviously, sitting in first is not essential for a successful trip, but it was only 15,000 American miles each since it was a shorter flight (plus we got 10% of those miles returned via our co-branded American credit card), so we made the splurge and it did help to make the flight super easy and comfortable. Add in a couple of iPads and headphones, and we enjoyed a quiet and happy flight.
Before long we were touching down in Kansas as a successful traveling crew of three.
Mommy Points Tips: Make each step of the journey through the airport sound like an adventure to your kids, and get them as involved in the process as possible. Let them help check the flight status, find the gate, carry their own bags, spot the airplane, and find the seats. I also highly recommend tablets and kid-friendly headphones for the little ones on flights as it makes flying a breeze.
Final Thoughts on Flying Solo With Two Kids
My kids have each traveled enough that I wasn’t too worried about how our first time flying as a trio without another adult pair of hands to help would go, but you never know for sure until you do it. Not having a stroller in the airport worked out fine, but was a bit of a concern at first. I decided not to fly with a car seat on this shorter flight since we had access to one in Kansas, but if we had been lugging a car seat for the toddler it would have been more of a logistical challenge. It was also very helpful that my older daughter is now old enough to lend a brief hand with the two-year-old when needed.
It’s a great feeling to do something without help, and I’m proud of our trio for working together for a totally successful evening of travel. If you have a similar trip planned in the near future, I’ll cross my fingers that you have an equally smooth flight and I’m here to help brainstorm how to make that happen.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.