Part I: PLANNING & PACKING
Part II: THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
Part III: YOUR FINAL DESTINATION
This is Part I of a Three Part Series on Traveling By Airplane With Twin Infants, though it also somewhat applies to traveling with singletons, or pets that aren’t housebroken, or antelope and bulls. Without purporting to be experts, I offer below just how we managed a successful four-day jaunt with 9 ½ month old twins, all the stuff that follows them like Pig Pen’s cloud of dust, and our own luggage (which means we can no longer have a suitcase JUST FOR JENNIFER’S SHOES AND BELTS). I will first disclaim that it WAS a short sixty-minute flight each way and that we haven’t re-invented the wheel; many suggestions and tips came from Those Who Have Gone Before Us.
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I don’t care if you are a Type B personality, or if you are a closeted Type A who likes to make fun of Type A’s, get your planning hat on. This is the BEST way to ensure you have the necessary objects in the car or the plane or at your final destination. Even if, for example, you are buying all the diapers and food There, you still better know WHEN that will be. Does it interfere with a nap or meal? A Mardi Gras parade? If so, then you best be packing enough to get you to through a half day or until you can get to the store. Yes, you can just go with the flow, but unless you enjoy tantrums (jacking with a meal or nap) or succumbing to wardrobe malfunctions (blowout diaper on the plane), it won’t kill you to pre-plan. And I’m really only talking to people who have something less than multiple infants because parents of multiples KNOW they have to plan, even if they weren’t pre-child planners. Planning doesn’t aspire to assume everything is covered; it just gives you more time to deal with the unexpected.
Each adult needs a ticket. Duh. Since the child(ren) cannot be crated, you need to decide if they will be lapchildren (unticketed infants) or if you’ll buy 1-2 seat. I’m not going to go into the reasons to buy seats or not to buy seats because that would be an entire post itself; but, I will offer some practical points: If you buy one extra seat, that assures an entire row of three seats for your family (assuming you are traveling with two adults). Had I been traveling alone with the twins, I would have purchased two seats for the ease/convenience, but more specifically, because I could lock them into their carseats and don earplugs, if necessary. If you are flying with two adults and twins, and want to purchase a ticket for each child, then you’ll be separated, at a minimum, by the aisle. You can ask the airline about “infant ticket pricing”, but when I called it was either MORE than the webfare or only 85% of the adult ticket price. And, sorry, but I wasn’t spending $600 to fly four of us one hour.
PACKING FOR THE GOAL
At work, some of the bigger things I do require “workpapers”. Workpapers describe what needs to be done, and in what order, so that essentially, someone with similar training can follow the work flow and replicate the activity. This is also called COVERING YOUR ASS. And in home-life, this translates to creating Checklists, which means that – since packing starts up to a week before departure – the nanny, or your significant other, or you can work from the list, all contributing to the final product and still be sure nothing got left out.
You have, essentially, three options. The Carry-On(s), Gate Check, and Luggage Check. That’s it.
Two syllables: BACKPACKS. Backpacks allow you to be hands-free, an advantage one should never overlook. You’ll want at least one carry-on BACKPACK, but one per child works best.
As for organizing what goes in which pack, you can go (A) Functional - the most likely needed stuff in one bag (Feeding, Entertaining (see below)), the least likely needed stuff in the other (Clothing, Gear/Other (see below)) to go in the overhead bin. Or you can go (B) Oh Shit We’re Not Sitting Together – equal amounts of all (Clothing, Diapering, Feeding, Entertaining) in each bag.
Uh-oh shirt for each adult. You just never know if you’ll be pooped or thrown up on.
Diaper, pants, shirt (onesie), socks in a gallon ziplock bag for each kid. Or if you’re feeling daredevilish, just take one ziplock with a gender-neutral outfit (just be sure you’re sitting close to one another in the plane). If someone has an accident, you’ve got a grab-ready wardrobe change.
Changing Pad - We changed the kids at the gate, on the floor, on a changing pad. At that point, for us, going to bathroom was too much trouble. As a bonus, I think the shock of it (to the seated would-be passengers) kept a nice buffer around us. And those extra waiting seats are great for cruising.
Desitin – or whatever you use
Wipes – we put ¼ container or so into a ziplock. Those slim wipe containers that are marketed for travel hardly hold enough wipes for one poopie diaper, much less multiples.
Plastic bag – for dirties (diapers and/or clothes).
Water/Thermos– we keep warmish water in a Bullet Bottle we got from REI. It holds up to 1 Liter (four 8-oz bottles worth!), though we have some friends with one kid who liked the idea but bought a smaller half-liter one. You could take a bottle of water, or buy one at the airport. Or whatever. Just have what fluids you need. The TSA has relaxed its rules about carrying-on liquids and powders, but you have to declare it at the Security Checkpoint, and you have to have a visible baby(ies) to prove its use. Here’s a link to the TSA’s “Traveling With Children” page.
Divided Formula Container – each slot enough for a bottle. Ignore if you bring your own boobs.
Mini-Thermos with water- we do cups/straws instead of traditional sippy cups, but the point here is to have something they can have fluids from. We use the Foogo Thermos when we’re on the go.
Bottles – one for each kid.
Bib or Burp Cloths – or whatever kind of bib you use; just something to wipe up spills or food wetness or snot.
Formula Mixer Thingy – we use this one or, if you prefer, just shake your bottle once made.
Snack in container – we took Cheerios in a take-n-toss container. Looking back, the Cheerios were a life-saver on so many occasions throughout the duration of our trip.
Meals – anything you might need as a full-on meal if you’re traveling during a real Meal Time, or if you’ll need to feed a full-on meal just before or just after a flight. No sense in wrestling with checked luggage if you don’t have to.
Plastic rings – these will come in very, very handy
1-2 toys (per child) – pick small toys or teethers that can be attached with the rings, and then attach the rings to the tray table. This will prevent you from having to bend over and find toys or ask people four rows back to do the same on your behalf. Be considerate: don’t take the loudest or biggest toys you have. Especially if you just changed their diapers in front of your seatmate while you were waiting to board.
A book – we packed a book in carry-on, but would have been fine to have checked it. Seems that Cheerios, water, a bottle, and one toy was sufficient.
Receiving blanket – this isn’t really an entertainment item, but it can be for endless games of peek-a-boo: You covering your face, covering the baby’s face, covering a magazine, covering the snoring seatmate, or to cover a sleepy or chilly kiddo.
GEAR & OTHER
Camera – totally goes without saying, at least in my household.
Video Camera – I’m just not a fan of luggage checking the good stuff. And since we have a FlipVideo, it takes up virtually zero space.
iPod & Portable Speakers – this is pretty Us-specific, (see “Comforts/Creatures” in Part III). Our kids are used to music during the day (plus, I wanted some music on the 5K run) and this Altec Lansing Ultra Portable Orbit speaker was inexpensive and had relatively great sound for the price, fits in the palm of your hand, and accomodates most mp3 players including our iPod.
wallet and ID – I rarely take a purse when I travel by plane. Packing the wallet alone makes for one less bag to deal with.
Copy of birth certificate, each child – You’ll need to “prove” your kids are under two. Even if you have their own seats, the birth certificates function as identification and are good to have handy. The seasoned traveler will have a passport for their infants. The seasoned traveler would also not be reading this post.
Boarding passes – assuming you printed at home.
We luggage checked all our (adult) luggage, and most of the kids stuff (though it doesn’t seem like it was “most” when I go back and read the Carry-On section above). Here’s what went in the regular luggage (the kid-related items) :
Home Play – a few nesting cups, two favorite toys, one car, a wooden box thingy that served as the toybox at our final destination, and two books.
Bath – head-to-toe shampoo, their rinser cup, and tub liner stuff. We were staying at a residence and the leftover shelf liner was a great non-slip surface for baths. It also dried easily.
Diapering – any wipes and diapers that you aren’t purchasing there.
Meds/Toiletries – saline mist, the evil nasal bulb, Tylenol, nail clippers, hand sanitizer, and skin moisturizer.
Feeding – spoons, divided plates, bibs, formula or boobs, water, bottles, etc.
Clothing – an outfit for each day plus a few blowout protection outfits. We were gone four days and packed four outfits plus 2 blowout protection outfits, per child. We also packed three pajamas per child. Don’t forget any jackets, socks, hats, and shoes.
Bedtime – baby monitor (we have an extra for travel), sound machine, comfort items (Harper must have her fleece woobie, and Mateo his Raffy). We also packed a spare crib sheet, just in case. And we actually needed it.
Baby Carrier – we took one Ergo baby carrier, but never used it.
Stroller accessories – we packed the weather cover for the BOB stroller and it was cold the morning of the run so we used it.
Some people luggage-check one or both of these items. We gate-checked it all because they would get tossed around less, and because they both served their purpose in getting us through the airport (see “Part II: THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE”). In addition, once you arrive at the gate, go to the check-in counter and tell the representative the number of articles you are gate-checking. They’ll get you tags and claim tickets, something you’ll want to do well before boarding (see “Part II: THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE – Leaving With Enough Time”). Be careful how much you want to gate-check, though. Airlines are getting more persnickety about the number of items per ticketed passenger, and/or the flight might be at capacity.
Stroller – We took our BOB double jogging stroller all the way to the gate and had no problems. We flew Southwest Airlines. I called ahead to be sure it wouldn’t be an issue, and that might be flight capacity and airline specific.
Car Seats – It got too dadgum heavy carrying two kids in infant carseats and since our son was pushing 20 lbs around 6 months, we went ahead and purchased convertible carseats. Convertible car seats stay in the car and can be placed both rear- and front- facing and grow with the child. We have two different kinds – two of the Britax Boulevard CS (rear-facing up to 35 lbs and forward-facing up to 65 lbs) and two Sunshine Kids Radian 80s (rear-facing up to 33 lbs and forward-facing up to 80 lbs). All our carseats weigh around 20.5-21.0 lbs each.
For the trip, we took the slimmest two – the Sunshine Kids Radian 80s. We attached the GoGo Kids Travelmate (borrowed from a friend, thanks Clare!) to the carseats and this is how we rolled them through the airport. We went ahead and left the Travelmate attached to the carseats when we gate checked them, but apparently the wheels can be removed.
We ended up traveling with two carry-on backpacks, two babies, two adults, one large golf-club canvas bag filled with our luggage, one medium size luggage item with the kids’ stuff, two carseats attached to Travelmates, and one double-stroller. The golf-club/large luggage bag and the kids’ luggage bags were checked, the double-stroller and carseats gate checked, and the babies and backpacks carried-on. The main thing was the everything had wheels.
See? Packing wasn’t so bad, right?
Click here for Part II.