In January I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Arizona to visit my parents. I love traveling in January for a number of reasons- 1) Because the holidays are over, it seems like less people travel in January. People are tired and broke from all the hustle and bustle of December, and spending less in the new year. 2) My birthday is in January, so its a nice treat. 3) I’d rather be anywhere but Illinois in January. For any of my locals, you know it can be brutal!
My husband on the other hand hates traveling in January. The new year marks the beginning of vacation time, and using that time up so early in the year is not something he likes to do. What’s a wife to do?? I normally would not hesitate to take a vacation without him, its not a huge deal for us, but now that we have a toddler, there are more facts to consider.
My husband and I always wanted to do a little traveling with our son, but I never thought about taking him on a trip by myself, let alone flying solo with him for his first ride in an airplane. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I tried to plan and pack for the worst case scenario, but the day of I was an absolute wreck, pacing back and forth, stomach churning.
Planning the trip, I had an absolute fantasy in my head. I didn’t want to check a bag because once we landed I wanted to get settled in as soon as possible. I looked up ways to get my son and I through the airport and considered my options. 1) He could walk- no, 2) I could push him in a stroller and wheel a suitcase and juggling a purse- nope. 3) I could carry him- hell no, 4) I could cart him (but then I’d have to buy a cart), or 5) I could use an airport carseat strap.
I really researched and weighed this decision before buying. The cart was nice, but expensive. We don’t travel much, so how much would I really use this investment? The car seat strap was less expensive and straps to your luggage, turning your luggage into the cart. The reviews for both products were good. Considering I was by myself, I opted for the car seat strap so I didnt have to lug a suitcase and a cart. In the airport it worked great!
We went through the airport with no problems. Going through the security section we were directed to the wheelchair / stroller section, which I highly recommend. I had to untether the strap, put the suitcase through the machine along with my personal items, and his car seat went to the side to be checked by hand.
Everything went surprisingly smooth! I was moving slowly, putting our stuff back together, when someone asked me if these were my shoes in their hands. I just thought they were being nice because I was moving so slowly, but then I looked up and saw them motioning me to join them at the podium. I checked the TSA website before the trip and found out food and drinks were acceptable for traveling with a toddler. Still, that motion is a little unsettling. “Whatever you need, just take it,” I thought. My son’s sippy cup of milk was about 5 oz., and thus tested for explosives etc. No big deal. We got through and halfway to the gate I realized I didn’t have my ID in my hands anymore. Gulp. That was a big deal.
We hauled ass back to the security check point, and I talked to one of the officers, who had already turned my ID into another department. Apparently I left it in a bin that got scanned. We were quickly escorted to another type of security booth, and I got my ID back with plenty of time to make it to the gate. It’s definitely not something you want to have happen, but it turned out ok.
When we got to the gate I checked my car seat and the lady at the desk told me I would need to check my suitcase as well. I had not planned on the suitcase part, so I had to adjust my plans on the fly. They would send the suitcase to the baggage claim, so I had them send the car seat there as well.
- Before we left I researched TSA restrictions, and boy have they changed over the years, in a good way! There are many perks they afford to child travelers, including allowing liquids over 3.4 oz.
- We booked through southwest, and didn’t pay for early check in- and our boarding number wasn’t that good, despite checking in right on time. Luckily they have family boarding betweem Group A & Group B. If getting the best choice of seating is important to you, spend the money! If budget is an issue and you don’t mind leaving seating options to chance, skip it.
- I planned a late flight to increase the odds of him napping. While he didn’t sleep the whole flight, he did get a decent nap in- mostly because:
- We sat in the front row- It seemed like a good idea and it was! There was a little more space for my toddler to move around. It was hard for him to get comfortable in my lap, but I packed a muslin blanket, put it on the floor and he stretched out for a decent nap.
- The bad part of sitting in the front row was that you can’t have a bag stowed under the seat in front of you. I had a swing pack purse I snuck under my jacket full of snacks and small toys. After the plane got up to altitude they allow you to have more personal items with you, but being by myself, I made do with what was in my swing pack.
- As always, plan for the worst, hope for the best!
Overall, the flight out to Arizona went better than expected. Flying by myself with a toddler was an experience, but I was fortunate to have no major melt downs in the air. My toddler fussed for maybe 10 minutes about a half hour into the flight because he didn’t get his way- it wasn’t even directly related to ear popping. After that did I bribe him to behave? Absolutely. I had a game plan of snacks and activities, including felt books from Target, playdough, figurine toys, and Melissa and Doug Water Wow books and luck was on our side.
Could I have done things differently? Yes. Because of my budget I opted to not do the early check in, and not book my toddler his own seat. Both things turned out ok on the way there, but on the way back could have been very helpful. To book an airplane ticket for a small child I recommend calling the airline and asking about reduced fairs, which is something I had not considered until it was too late on the flight coming back.
Click Here to Read Part 2- How I Joined the Mile High Mama Club