Travelling with one parent

Simple steps to get you through a solo flight with your kids

How to fly with only one parent

It’s quite a reality – particularly in the expat world – that a single parent will frequently be travelling solo with the kids. This certainly adds to the challenges of long-distance travel, not least of which you only have two hands!

More so than ever you will want to be well prepared before you fly, have your travel documents easily to hand and to pack as light and practical as possible.   Here are some other practical considerations for flying solo;

  • Allow more time than usual, for everything!
  • Take advantage of pre-boarding calls when travelling alone as it gives you more time to spread out and get organized before the plane fills up
  • If travelling with a budget airline, you may need to pay an assigned seating fee to ensure you are all seated together
  • Keep your hands as free as possible; use back packs for carry-on luggage and keep it light
  • Even if you are using a stroller at departure, you may not be able to collect it immediately after disembarking the flight so a sling will come in very handy
  • For slightly older children also consider using reins to keep them near you
  • Do alert the flight crew on boarding that you are travelling alone; they are normally quite sympathetic to your cause and will go out of their way to help you; unless you have an amazing bladder, there will be times where you have to leave one child behind while you use the bathroom, or where you need trays to be cleared promptly so you can maneuver about
  • Most airlines will have restrictions on travelling with infants (those under 2 years old) if there is only one adult. You can only have one infant on your lap using an infant ticket;  if you have another child under 2, you may be allowed to book a child’s seat and bring an approved car seat for the second infant, however, this would be at each airline’s discretion – see our family-friendly airline reviews for more details on which airlines allow you to do this.  Remember if using this strategy you have to get that car seat, plus two infants, plus carry on, from check-in to the plane – we explain travelling with multiple children in more detail here.
  • Try to sit where children can see out the window and no direct access to the aisle (this may depend on your party size and seating configuration of the plane)
  • When you get to the luggage carousel, don’t be afraid to ask for/pay for help from a porter, it will be money well spent
  • Arranging to be picked up by friends/family or a pre-ordered driving service at your destination will save fights with taxi queues. Also, try to have things like local currency cash on you before arrival so there is nothing to wait around for at the airport or extra stops to make before your ultimate destination
  • If you are really nervous about solo travel, some airlines also offer assisted services during stopovers and arrival (at an additional cost) that may put your mind at ease, at the very least give you an extra pair of hands

Other things to consider

  • Be clear on the legality of one parent flying with children internationally.  Depending on your country of origin and destination, and even stop over countries, laws may differ and you could be challenged on whether you have permission to fly without both parents present
  • If you have any concerns about this, it may be worth having a permission letter with you, signed by the other parent and notarized
  • The same would apply if you are sending children to fly with someone who is not their legal guardian (e.g. a grandparent, or teacher on a school trip)
  • If there are any custody issues you may also wish to bring with you legal custody documents, or if the other parent is deceased, a copy of the death certificate

Have you read our latest post on flying solo? What about flying with 2 (or more) kids?

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