How To Travel Solo With A Toddler

Don’t. Haha, just kidding. I mean kind of. If you have the opportunity to travel with someone who can give you a lending hand, I would definitely choose that over traveling solo with a toddler. However, sometimes it is just unavoidable. For me, that was this trip.

We both survived therefore this post is coming at you from sunny Florida!! With long afternoon naps holding me hostage and a beautiful ocean view, it’s the perfect opportunity to churn out some content.

So to catch you up… my family always goes to Marco Island, Florida in November. Unfortunately, it’s my husband’s busy season for work. He had to stay back. Because I am super comfortable traveling here and it’s a relatively short flight from Chicago, I decided to take my 16 month old daughter by myself and meet up with the rest of my family.

Getting to the Airport

My biggest concern was getting to the airport in Chicago with a toddler. The toddler carseat was really throwing me for a loop. Traveling with the infant carseat was such a breeze!

I thought about driving my car to the airport and parking it there, but then how do you get from the lot to the airport. Another car or bus. It seemed like a lot of work + paying for the daily parking rate. I was unclear if she would need to be in a carseat in the car or bus transferring us to the airport and decided not to explore this further.

I thought about having a friend or family member drive us to the airport. This is such an imposing thing to ask for early morning flights, not to mention we are traveling on weekdays. Would they drive our car or would we put the carseat in their car? Again, I just didn’t think this would be a good option.

Someone suggested I try Uber carseat option. Weirdly, it is not available in Chicago! I only found that to be an option in NYC.

This lead me to consider just taking an Uber and holding her on my lap, forgoing the carseat altogether. I googled the laws to see if carseats are just strongly suggested or if it is an actual law. As of Jan 1, 2019, the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act was amended to require children under 2 be secured in a rear-facing carseat and all children under 8 must be properly secured in an appropriate carseat. The only way around this is if the child is over 40 lbs and the backseat of the vehicle has a lap belt only. Not sure what kind of car only has a lap belt, but ok. Clearly this isn’t an option.

After all of this research, I decided I needed to invest in a travel carseat and that we would just take Uber. I was not about to lug around my huge Graco carseat that I just installed in our car. It is way too heavy and bulky.

Travel Carseat

Baby sitting in carseat kissing baby doll

I decided to purchase the Cosco Scenera from Walmart. You guys, it’s awesome. No-frills, super light-weight, stylish… I’m kind of obsessed! Who would have thought that I would be so into a $45 carseat after just dropping almost $400 on the Graco 4ever.

The Cosco Scenera can be installed rear-facing or forward-facing. It is also airline approved. I used it rear-facing in the Uber and our rental car, but had it forward-facing on the plane.

One thing to note about using it on the plane is that you may have to ask for a seatbelt extender. Before we had the extender, I couldn’t figure out how to tighten the seat properly without the seatbelt clasp being right under her back. How terrible would that have been for her to fly like that! I asked for help and the flight attendant brought me an extender. It worked perfectly.

The Airport

Ok, so backtracking a little bit… once we arrived to the airport in the Uber, our driver kindly carried both of my suitcases and the travel stroller to the curbside skycap. In the meantime, I removed the carseat from the car and connected it to this carseat cart.

From this point, I was carrying the travel stroller like a tote bag, I had the diaper bag on my back, and was pulling Brighton strapped into her carseat attached to the cart. It was quite seamless to be honest.

Getting Through Security

Ok, why is this part so awful? I feel like security is terrible with or without a kid. But with a kid? Ugh. When we made it to the conveyer belt, TSA rushed me to an open spot. I pulled out my computer, the iPad, and the baby monitor and before I could even continue putting things in the excessively large bin, they pulled it away from me and off it went through the scanner.

Then, I put the travel stroller in the bin and they make me take it out of it’s thin cover. I don’t understand why they make you do this, but ok. I put it back up there and off it goes.

I took off my coat, purse, diaper bag, and both of our shoes and placed it all in a bin before I removed Brighton from her carseat. At that point, I unclipped the carseat from the cart. When I placed the carseat on the conveyer, the TSA agent said “carseats won’t fit through this scanner, so you’ll have to take it over there to that conveyer belt.” My jaw dropped.

Literally all my belongings are now split between 4 different bins that they kept taking from me and now I have to wait in another line to scan the stupid carseat. My advice to you is to ask right away if the line you are in can scan carseats and then take ALL of your stuff to that line. I digress.

While I was waiting in line, another TSA agent said she’d deal with my carseat and meet me on the other side. I walked through the scanner holding Brighton – it was super quick. Then, I had to start putting all my belongings back together. Not gonna lie, this was a challenge. Now I have no where to put Brighton, my stuff is taking up the entire back half of the conveyer belt, and people are getting pissed at me. Brighton walks like a little drunk person, so she kept falling. It was chaos.

Once our life was put back together, it was easy street from there.

The Airplane

I gate checked the stroller even though it fits in the overhead bin. I just personally didn’t want to deal with it. I easily rolled Brighton on the plane in her carseat cart. The carseat is light enough to just pickup with her in it. Once she was in her seat, I quickly folded up the cart and placed it in the overhead bin.

I feel like the airplane ride was pretty uneventful. As I stated earlier, you might need to request a seat extender for the carseat lap belt. The carseat fit perfectly in the seat and Brighton loved being in it. For a busy toddler, she never tried to get out of it.

Having lots of snacks on hand, a pre-loaded iPad, and some favorite toys made our journey successful. I also purchased milk at the airport and packed her sippy cups. We use two different styles – one for milk and one for water.

I tried to keep her routine consistent. She drinks milk every day at 8:45/9 am at home on normal days. Even though I woke her up at 6 am, I literally did not feed her or give her any milk until our normal time. This worked out perfect for us as it was pretty much the same time as our takeoff.

I slow fed her Cheerios. I don’t buy Cheerios normally. It was a novelty for her and the fact that I gave her one or two at a time entertained her for a really long time. I also brought Goldfish crackers.

Don’t let this picture fool you. She slept for exactly 2 minutes and then we started descending which made her ears pop.

Baby sleeping in carseat

Destination Arrival

I was extremely anxious about managing my luggage once we landed. How on earth was I going to manage two suitcases, a travel stroller, the carseat, diaper bag, my purse, coat, and child?! I think someone was watching over me (thanks, dad!) because I was approached by a skycap who works for the airport. She asked me if I needed help with my luggage to which I immediately said yes.

This woman grabbed my bags off the conveyer belt, loaded everything on a nice cart, pushed said cart, and loaded it all into my rental car. Furthermore, she helped me with Brighton while I installed the carseat.

If you aren’t approached by someone who works for the airport, see if you can find a worker to help you. I’m not sure I could have made it to the rental car without the help of someone else.

Ok, I think that’s everything you need to know!! If you have any questions, I am happy to try and answer them for you. Just leave me a comment below.

XO, Lauren

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