Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flying With Twin Toddlers

Flying with my husband and our 18-month old twins.
 As promised, here is the "Flying with Toddlers" post, however, it comes with a little disclaimer: This is a really long post, but hopefully it's informative for those of you about travel with toddlers, or better yet, with twin toddlers like we have.  Don't judge me for how I went about things in my travels.  I'm still learning, and I will be for a long, long time.

I'm not claiming to be an expert in this area, but I've recently been on two 3-hour flights with my husband and our very busy, very active 18 month old twin boys.  I did a lot of research before the trip, and I learned a lot while traveling with them.  First and foremost, nothing about traveling with toddlers is predictable.  You just have to accept that.  The only way to handle the unpredictability is to be prepared for anything and everything.   We were VERY prepared, perhaps OVER prepared, however this didn't stop my husband and I from stressing over the actual flight and how the boys would behave.

Shoot for at least a 1:1 adult to toddler ratio.  Hopefully you aren't the only adult flying with twin toddlers, and if you are, good luck. I've read that it's been done, but you won't catch me doing it.  Not with my two monkeys!

Booking the flight:
If your toddlers are under 2 years of age, they can fly free as lap babies.  Only one baby per lap.  You can opt to purchase a seat for the toddler (offered by most airlines at a discounted rate, and preferred, as it's the safest way to travel), however you must use an FAA approved car seat.  How do you know if you have one of these?  The label on the carseat should read something along the lines of: Approved for use in motor vehicles and aircrafts.  Call me a terrible parent, but not only was I not going to pay for 2 extra seats on the flight, I definitely wasn't going to lug two car seats through the airport on top of everything else we had to carry.  If you have money to spend, they sell carseats with a luggage-type handle and on wheels for easy airport travel.   I didn't have $400+ to drop on two.  **If you have lap babies, remember to bring birth certificates to verify their age.

Packing the Carry-On:
Now is NOT the time to catch up on all the celebrity gossip in People or InStyle.   First, you won't have room for your fave magazines, second, you won't be able to read; you'll be way too busy entertaining your children and keeping them contained in your seating area.  Only bring what is absolutely necessary for you (wallet, keys, meds) and utilize all of the remaining space in your carry-on for things your child will need/want.  First, you will need diapers and wipes.  Pack enough to cover you in case the flight is late or gets diverted (for whatever reason) and you get stuck somewhere overnight.  Hey, it happens.  Next, a change of clothes (everything - comfortable outfit, onesies, socks, slippers or shoes) for each child.   One of my little guys had a MAJOR BLOWOUT at the tail end of one of our flights and he was stripped, scrubbed and re-clothed with a fresh outfit, socks included.  All in that tiny airplane bathroom.  There should be a club for moms who have accomplished this task.

You'll definitely need some snacks and cups for the kiddies, so don't forget to cram those into the carry-on bag.  When all else fails, Cheerios and Goldfish usually end up saving the day.  (Cheerios and Fruit Loops work great for older kids.  Bring along some string and have them make necklaces for the flight attendants ;)  Activities are great (such as the necklace stringing, coloring, reading, flashcards, etc) if you're kids can stay focused, but mine don't at this age.  We resorted to toys.  Lots of toys.  Go to the store and spend some cash.   I spent about $30 on toys/electronics/stickers/stampers between the local dollar stores and the Target $1 bins.   You want to hide all of these goodies from the kids (and if you have multiples, you must know by now that you must have two of everything, unless you want to become an instant referee.  I'm perfectly happy with just being a mom and a ringleader.  Don't need to add Ref to my titles just yet.)  Slowly, as the flight goes on, introduce new toys to them, but only when they tire of the one they currently have.

Andrew playing with a buckle-clip thingee.

Wesley stringing beads.
The Airport and The Flight: Making it through TSA will be the most difficult part of your day, that is, if they behave on the flight.  Not only do your shoes and accessories have to come off, but so do your children's.  Haven't you heard of the Baby Shoe Bomber?  No?  Well, apparently, TSA thinks it a possibility.  ...and don't think it'll be easy with the kids strapped into a stroller. Nope.  They have to come out of the stroller, and the stroller needs to be collapsed and put through the x-ray, all with one hand while your other hand is busy attempting to contain your barefoot children.  Piece-of-cake, right?  If someone offers to help you, TAKE THEM UP ON IT!  The more adults, the better!

Let your kids walk/run as much as possible before the flight.  You want to wear them out.   Maybe you will be lucky enough to find a play area in the airport you are in.  We found a vacant gate with a ramp - the boys loved running up and down it.  Board when they let families board, and try to get a seat in the bulkhead (first row), or do what we did and go all the way to the back of the plane.   After you are seated, pray, pray and pray some more that it is NOT a full flight.  If it is, there can only be one lap child per row, as there are only 4 oxygen masks that will fall from above in the event of an emergency (one for each paying passenger, and one extra for a lap child).  If the flight isn't full, you can rest assured that nobody will want that third seat in your row.   My hubs and I sat at either end of our row, and after take-off, the boys took turns rotating from our laps to the seat in between us.  It was enough room to make the trip more bearable.

Calm Kids:
Before the flight, I may or may not have administered a small amount of a pediatric anti-histamine to my twins, hoping it would make them a bit drowsy.  About two hours into the first flight, as the boys were literally climbing the back wall of the plane, I remember my husband asking, "When is this medicine supposed to kick in?"   "I think it already has," I said with a silly, awkward grin.  It literally did NOTHING, or so I thought.   On the flight home, we went sans drugs, and it was much more chaotic, with crying and screaming, so maybe in hindsight, the meds worked a little magic.  I still don't think I'd use them again, though.  Do what you fell you need to do.  I was desperate for a stress-free flight, and when the kids were medicated, we had an overall decent experience.
Calm You:
It doesn't take too much to get stressed out while traveling.  I start sweating at just the thought of going through TSA; carrying heavy bags, taking off belts, emptying pockets, cell phone know the feeling, right?   The best thing that I took from all my pre-flying-with-twin-toddlers research, and the most important thing that I want you to take from this post is that it will do absolutely no good if you lose your cool when things start to go downhill.  Psych yourself up before the flight to maintain a positive attitude, regardless of how your children behave and how those around you react to the childrens' behavior.  You are not the first person to fly with little ones, and you sure as heck won't be the last.  Don't let the stresses get to you once your trip is underway.  Just go with the flow.  We made a humorous disclaimer to those sitting around us before the flight.  They knew what they could be in for, so we felt as though we appropriately warned everyone the possibilities that might ensue.  As stressed and as worried as I was before the flight, I remember laughing hysterically (perhaps maniacally?) and smirking at/waving to anyone who turned around to see what all the fuss was in the back of the airplane while we experienced a massive Twinado, aka, the Double Meltdown..  There is nothing you can do about the situation beyond your over-the-top preparation. Sometimes, they just need to scream.  Let them, and comfort them the best way you know how.  If you start to cry (and I know this happens from time to time) it'll only make things more difficult.  Take it with a grain of salt, because you deserve the vacation you're trying to get to, probably more than anyone else on the airplane!!

On a side note, is it bad that, at one point,  I let my kids eat goldfish that fell on the airplane floor?  They were quiet and still, just munching away under our feet.   For a moment, I felt relief.  I know my husband did, too.  Now, I'm not one of those germ-a-phobe moms, so maybe it might be deemed as dirty and gross by some, but when needed, I don't hesitate to implement the 5 second rule (or 10 seconds, or 1 minute, or a 3 minute rule, for that matter.) 

I sure hope some of my flying experience will help you on any adventures you might attempt with your little ones!  Happy, safe and stress-free travels to all of you!


  1. thanks a lot. That help me a lot before I take a long long flight trip(20 hours flight plus transfer waiting time) with my twin boys without my husband by side. my boys are under 2 years old.

  2. Glad it helped! You flew alone with twins? You're definitely Super Momma!

  3. Hi! I Googled "flying with twins" and came here, to your post!I am taking a first flight with my twin girls who will be 20 months in October and I will DEFINITELY be reading this post again and again until then. Thanks for writing this!!!

  4. THANK YOU! As our Christmas gift ("gift") this year, my parents will be flying my husband and I and our twin boys to Hong Kong in 2013 to meet their great grandmother. Like Angela, the very first thing I did was jump on to the computer and google "flying with twins", lol. I appreciate your honesty and sharing your experience, as I too, will be re-reading this post again and again, and again. Ewan and Patrick will be 22 months old for the trip. My husband is trying to absorb the news and accept the "gift" with grace, but it isn't going very well. Do you have any tips to help me get him to come around because I 100% agree with you that it is important to maintain a positive attitude. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for stopping by my post! The way I look at it, you're not the first person to travel with toddlers, and you won't be the last (we just got a BONUS when we ended up with two, instead of one, right?!) Kids get upset, and fidget and squirm...This can all be expected, so don't panic or feel awful. Your seats cost just as much as everyone elses - the fact that your kids might choose to cry and no one else does is their perrogative, right? That being said, you can do as much as possible to prepare. I would never pass up the opportunity for my kids to meet a fmaily member who might not be around much longer, AND to let their great garndmother meet them - what a wonderful gift for everyone! I'd buy a few books about airplanes to hype up the experience and get a tiny airplane toy for them to take with them. Also, on a few later flights we've taken, I found that stacking Cheerios on pipe cleaners occupied my little guys for quite a while ;) Good luck, and I'd love to hear how the trip went!

  5. Thankyou so much I have been giggling away reading this I'm hoping my 13 mnth old twin boys will enjoy their first flight something thats been terrifying me. i have found since my little men have arrived that you can't get through the day unless you have a positive attitude, an never let a crisis get the better of you! So bring it on :)

  6. This was a great blog! My wife and I are traveling next week with our 15 month old twin boys. We are both frequent flyers but this will be a new experience for sure! Thanks for letting us know we can surviving with a little planning, a good attitude and a little bit of luck (crossing fingers for no blowouts!)

  7. Great (funny) article!! Thanks for sharing! We're flying with my twins who will be two by then and I'm afraid of what we've gotten ourselves into LOL

  8. This was awesome- thanks so much for the help!

  9. did you fly with any convertible car seats to use at your destination? and if so how did you transport them through the airport? We were wanting to possibly take our convertibles with us incase there is room on the flights. But then you are pulling those around on dollys and then also pushing a stroller?? Advice???

  10. We opted not to use carseats on the flight, and had the luxury of sending the seats down with family members that were driving. Personally, if I had to take car seats, I'd wrap them in a bag, check them, and pick them up at baggage claim to avoid checking them at plane-side and lugging them throught the airport. If kids were small enough, I'd have used slings and Moby wraps for getting through the airport with free hands.) I've been known to hang many, many things from my suitcase handle, and I think a carseat strap would hang quite nicely off of it until I got to a rental car (or was picked up).


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