Single Mama: Tricks for Traveling Solo

My two travel rules? Go with the flow and pack snacks!

Here Lucy is at 16 months at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Travel has always been my passion — and I hope it becomes Lucy’s as well. After all, she was conceived on what was supposed to be a trip around the world! I realized early in my pregnancy that it was essential to my own sense of self that I keep exploring the world, even with a very dependent plus one in tow.

Since Lucy was born, we’ve been on a bunch of trips — we’ve visited family in Oregon and California, she tagged along on a Colorado business trip, we took two trips to Ireland and we even spent an entire month in Costa Rica this past winter. Luckily, she’s always been pretty easygoing as far as schedules are concerned, and what I’ve learned is that the things that make travel fun for us — a chilled-out routine, eating “fun” foods that aren’t in our normal diet, and not worrying about a schedule — can be just as fun for a kid. I try not to stress and for the most part, things have worked great (there was the time she threw up on me on a bus in Ireland without either of us having a change of clothes, but that’s another story!) Here, some of the things I’ve learned as essentials when you’re traveling solo with a child.

Relax. How your child behaves in a plane, I’ve found, is a lot like how they behave in a restaurant. I was so nervous before my first flight with Lucy (to Denver when she was four months old) that I literally sat in a local cafe for four hours to replicate the experience. You don’t need to do that! But prep the same way you would for a longish dinner in terms of toys, iPad, and snacks.

Pack Lightly. They sell diapers everywhere! If you’re visiting family, plan to use their washing machine. I only pack a few outfits for both of us, knowing we’ll likely do a quick load of laundry mid-trip. I also bring an oversize backpack instead of a suitcase, the hands-free option is essential for me.

Enlist Counter Help. I’ve always told the airline counter I’m traveling solo with a lap child, I’ve found some airlines (thank you, Aer Lingus!) to be especially helpful in doing whatever they can to accomodate me with an empty seat. I don’t expect them too, but it’s nice to have when it’s offered.

Bring Your Own Car Seat. I hate lugging that thing, but it’s been essential on so many trips and I’ve been glad to have it instead of relying on a rental. I ordered a lightweight, inexpensive one I keep for travel so I don’t have to constantly uninstall the one in my regular car.

Enlist The Three S’s (Snacks, Stickers, Screentime) All food habits go out the window once we’re in the air. I’ll buy a snack box for Lucy; she takes over an hour to eat it. Stickers are our go-to option and we’ve never had to rely on screen time. I don’t mind screens and she uses them regularly, but I’ve never gotten it together to download movies or Elmo prior to departure. And it’s been fine! Honestly, the excitement of the plane makes her conk out pretty quickly.


Anna Davies lives in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City with her two-year-old daughter, Lucy. Anna is a writer who has written for The New York Times, The New York Post, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle and others. She's also written thirteen young adult novels, including ghostwriting five Gossip Girl novels (shhh!) Prior to Jersey City, Anna lived in Brooklyn for ten years and is a Northern NJ native. She loves going on adventures with Lucy; follow along @babybackpacker on Instagram.