It started out of necessity — our son didn’t want to miss a baseball banquet, so he and I flew out a day later than my husband and daughter for a family reunion. Then it happened again: For a budget-friendly trip to Spain, we cobbled together miles from different frequent flier accounts and credit card reward programs, and to make it all work, we had to split up and fly on different airlines.
We soon realised that flying separately — each of us taking one kid — led to better travel experiences for everyone. Now it’s the only way we fly. When it comes to crowded cabins, unexpected delays and security lines, I’m convinced that one-on-one defence really is the best approach.
For those with two-parent families, here’s why you might consider splitting up, too.
It’s easier to manage differing temperaments
My husband boards the moment he can, while I like to wait as long as possible to enter the pressurised metal tube. Our son likes to play cards on the plane, while his sister wants to settle in with her tablet. Balancing travel styles can get complicated, but by splitting up, each family member gets his or her own way more often.
No one gives up control
People often assume we split up when we fly because of an irrational fear of the plane going down and making our kids orphans. That’s not it. (I don’t know any couples who won’t travel by car together, yet car accidents are thousands of times more common than air fatalities.) I joke that we split up to avoid orphaning our kids by our own hands.
According to one travel blogger, fights among travelling spouses are incredibly common. Facing that stress separately lets both my husband and I feel more in control. We can each parent our own way without having to discuss, justify or apologise for snap decisions.
More attention means better focus
Travelling separately allows us to give the child we’re with our undivided attention. My daughter used to get anxious when flying. Instead of quelling her fears, I often ended up making things worse. My husband, having experienced similar worries himself, was able to give her plenty of attention and taught her some coping skills to get past the fear.
Focusing on one kid has other benefits, too. The one-on-one time can give you the opportunity to have deeper conversations. I have a great memory of sitting on a bench and waiting for an airport shuttle as my son and I reminisced about his grandfather, who had passed away the year before.
Smaller means more flexibility
When my daughter and I missed a connecting flight last summer, we were able to get the last two standby seats on the next flight. That wouldn’t have been possible if the entire family were travelling together.
There are, of course, a few limitations with this hack: When travelling with babies or toddlers, or children with special needs, it’s often easier to travel with another adult. Also, arriving and departing at different times can mean more Uber or taxi fees.
We try to minimise this by using public transportation when possible. In Spain, for instance, even after a 24-hour trek that involved changing carriers and airports, my son and I had enough energy to find a bus to the city centre.
What we saw when we stepped off the bus: two beautiful, smiling faces waiting for us. There were hugs all around, and since our “advance team” had already checked us in, they grabbed our bags and led the way as we all walked excitedly to the hotel, talking nonstop about our separate journeys and our adventure to come, the one we would take together.