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This year, after experiencing a not-so-relaxing trip with moveable toddlers, we decided we wouldn’t take any trips or vacations as a family until after the kids are at least two, save quick trips to the burbs to PawPaw Jimmy’s swimming pool or special occasion visits to San Antonio, both less than the maximum three hour drive limit. We’ve simply learned that unless we are staying at Grandma Gloria’s in San Antonio, it is not worth it to attempt to stay overnight anywhere other than our own home. And even then, we have to weigh carefully if the amount of work to pack, plan, and drive is even worth it.
So when Jennifer had the opportunity to go fishing in South Louisiana a few weeks ago, we decided she should go. Alone. She went. Fished for three days. Had a great time doing something she loves. Brought a whole bunch of fish back, most of which we gave to my co-workers, a bag of speckled trout which we kept for a fish fry for when the weather cools off.
Jennifer thought I should take my own trip, too. And hello? I agreed. First chance was Las Vegas for my sister’s 30th birthday, but the airlines wanted too much money for a flight on too little notice. So, no. A few days later, my sister told me she was headed to New York City on business and since I had never been, and had always wanted to go, can I crash in your hotel room, and by the way before you say “no”, I just want you to know I’ve already booked my non-refundable plane ticket.
Also. My dad was going to be there. Random! And my sister’s husband. And my sister’s husband’s bromance from DC. But I hardly saw any of them. We each had different agendas and very different paces. Quite honestly, it was the perfect way for me to discover New York City, unbound by anyone else’s preferences or agenda, my nomadic self free to roam and get lost and be fine with it all. I hadn’t felt that adventurous since trying to hitchhike from Gunnison to Creede, Colorado back when I was a granola college student.
Safari – preloaded browser on the iPhone. What was the name of that restaurant? That store? I could search on Safari, get an address or phone number, and geolocate.
Open Table – a great resource for restaurant reservations, available both on desktop and as an iPhone app. With foodie friends having recommended dining locations, I was able to make reservations using OpenTable while on the go.
Maps –GPS locator with Google maps rocked. And in New York City, the actual names of museums and buildings show up if you drill down far enough. If there was somewhere I wanted to get to, I could enter the address, click on “directions”, and it would show me how to get there from where I was. Or I could just click on “locate” and it would tell me where I was. Because all those buildings in Manhattan? They kinda start to look the same.
CityTransit ($2.99)– Per the iTunes store, City Transit is a comprehensive guide to the New York City subway system. And it’s the only subway system guide that includes the official MTA licensed maps, line data, and GPS station finder and live service advisories. It freakin’ rocked and I didn’t have to carry a paper map all looking like a tourist.
Compass – While the GPS locator service didn’t work underground, the Compass did. And with all the multiple levels of the subway system, or how 55th street hits 5th avenue and you forget which way was south, the Compass was a nice thing to have.
TweetDeck – Live tweets and picture posts during my trip. And how my sister kept up with my activities while she was trapped in meetings discussing derivatives.
Facebook – mobile app for updating status and posting pictures.
That’s all I needed to navigate New York City. And here’s how it turned out:
08.19.09. HOU-BWI-LGA, arriving at 3:30. South Street Seaport. Taxi to Hilton Millenium. Walk around WTC site. Battery Park. Wave to Statue of Liberty. Subway to Times Square.
Pick up New York City Pass at Planet Hollywood. People watch in Times Square. Dinner at Two Times Square with the crew. Marginal food, but nice views. Walk to Grand Central Station. Subway back to hotel. 08.20.09. 8:30a out the door. Subway north to Rockefeller Center. Walk around NBC Studios. GE Building. Top of the Rock observation tower. Pictures of Empire State Building and Central Park.
Sit in Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Taxi to lunch at Balthazar in SoHo. Excellent food. Have the skillet macaroni. Meet dad at a pub for a drink. Chinatown. Little Italy. Part ways with dad. Vintage European threads for the kids. Subway to hotel. Shower. Change. Taxi to dinner at Nobu Japanese on my own. Excellent food. Have the black cod appetizer. Chat up a model and her handsome hedge fund owner. Taxi to pub in Union Station to meet sister. Taxi back to hotel around 11:00p. 08.21.09. Subway north. Brunch at Carnegie Deli. Walk up 7th Avenue to Central Park. Through Central Park to Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mini Masters Board Books for the kids. Walk back through Central Park to the Upper West Side. Meet best friend from elementary school for drinks at 2:00. Catch up on the last 25 years.
Tour the neighborhood after the thunderstorm. More drinks at The Blue Donkey. Wait for the motley crew to meet us. Dinner at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in the Upper West Side. Subway to hotel around midnight. 08.22.09. Breakfast at Embassy Suites. Pack up.
LGA-BWI-HOU flights. Two hours of delays. Home in time to see my sweet babies before they went to sleep.
Want to see more photos from my trip? Click here.
Last weekend we took our third birthday trip to San Antonio this year, this time in celebration of my nephew Xavier’s very first birthday. Monkey cupcakes, two bouncers, a piñata, a water table, individually labeled lunch sacks for kids, yummy food, family, friends, and fellowship. My brother and sister-in-law can throw a party, you hear me?
The sweltering heat helped in that it assured a solid afternoon nap for Mateo and Harper (and Mommy and Matou!). That evening, we ordered takeout burgers and congregated at Grandma Yoyi’s house and watched all five nieces and nephews play together. Mateo was up until 8:00 p.m. hanging out with his night owl cousins, but despite the activity, Harper was all “EXCUSE ME! IT’S 6:30 AND I HAVE GOT TO GO TO BED!”
Two weekends ago, in a flash of courage and insanity, I drove the kids to San Antonio for their cousin Sara’s first birthday party. Alone. This after a week of contemplating whether or not to it, and my sister saying “I would never drive with both kids alone, but I hope you will.” Jennifer had to work that weekend and was then off to another city
for some solitude and vacation time to play in a golf tournament. So I figured I could venture out for a less-than-twenty-eight-hours-seven-of-those-spent-in-a-car trip, or stay at home. If it was great, then great, If it was horrible, well, blogging is cheaper than therapy.
My sister and her husband had Just. That. Week. finished putting in a beautiful flagstone patio, and leveling off the backyard playground, the location where one colorful butterfly piñata, caught in the web of fifteen or more children, would meet its fate.
It was incredibly hot, but the only people who seemed to notice were the parents assigned to chase their kids around outside. Mateo and Harper’s gift to Sara was a big hit, though I’m not sure the other guests necessarily came prepared for wardrobe changes. Ooops. I’m putting that one down in the Cool Tia column.
Other than driving alone with 14 month olds for up to four hours one way, I was concerned with how they might respond to more-people-per-square-foot than you’d find surrounding the ice cream truck in summer, but neither cried. Harper, the – of late – more shy of the two, stayed a little closer to me and grandma. But gosh darn it was she cute in her pink Converse All-Stars.
And Mateo the ham basked in all the attention like a little pig rolling around in the mud. He was most intrigued by the big kids, seen here coming out of the room where they convened.
The party was fun, except for the part where I had to chase down Mateo after he escaped from an opening in the gate leading to the woods behind my sister’s house. Were any other kids doing that? NO.
And add to the milestones, I kept the kids out until after 6:00 p.m. – SHOCKER! – before heading back to my mom’s house. My sweet mom who got up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to make us homemade tortillas for egg and sausage tacos. Then again, she shut the garage door before I was out of the driveway, and was probably back in bed before I got to the end of the street.
Oh, the drive? Let’s just say DVDs are of no interest to the kids (though thanks two moms from my neighborhood group for letting us borrow the DVD player and Planet Earth DVDs). And that snack traps filled with baby trail mix attached to the carseats with toy links are no guarantee when you have a kid who can unlink those links. While mom is in the front seat driving seventy. The last hour of both legs of the trip were nothing short of horrible, but I am so glad we went.
Near sunset on Saturday, I snapped the above photo of Jennifer fishing off the dock trying to catch bass with no-MSG/no-nitrate hot dogs.
The kids didn’t care for them either.
What the photo doesn’t communicate is the sound of the portobello and yellow onions, and the lime and rosemary marinated ribs I had sizzling on the patio grill. Or the hum of tiny fans defeated and resigned to simply move hot air around from one space to the other on the deck.
In the three hours leading up to this veil of relaxation, however, there was much tripping and falling and tears and redirecting attention. Babyhood is full of firsts, and this was our first overnight trip away from home or grandma’s with walking toddlers. And one does not appreciate the conveniences of a babyproofed home until one stays in a home that isn’t. Mateo was constantly drawn to the cabinets that had household cleaners and bug killers. At least he was kind enough to bring me the stainless steel spray bottle from who knows which room. Harper was fond of the cabinets with pyrex glassware, and of hanging on and rattling the wrought iron console table. The one with fifteen photo frames and two lamps on it.
It was quickly culminating into An Early Bedtime but from 7:15 to 10:00, Harper woke up screaming no less than six times, be it the unfamiliar shadows, or her brother’s rhythmically thumping his foot to fall asleep, or who knows what. Each time, we had to go in and hold her, and she’d fall asleep and then we’d put her down and then she’d wake up screaming shortly thereafter. The kids and I have colds, so I started to think Ear Infection, but no, I think it was being overtired combined with a new environment. She’s our more sensitive sleeper.
Somewhere between cleaning up the kitchen and showers, Jennifer and I had decided we were headed back home after breakfast the next morning. Our plans had been to stay at our friend’s lakehouse through Sunday afternoon, maybe take a dip in the lake, and generally relax with our children. BUT WHO WERE WE KIDDING?
We were home by 10:30 a.m., less than twenty hours after we had left.
Thank you to all who have expressed your condolences in comments and calls both public and private. I write this blog as an outlet for the jibberish in my head and as a tool to share photos of the kids. It is a joy to come to know you, even if only through this medium. It’s not that I forget I have readers, it’s just that I’m stood still by the compassion that can be shown from folks whom I only know through the internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
It’s a tough week emotionally. The first reason, obviously, is the death of my grandfather on Sunday. Jennifer and I had organized everything the night before because Sunday was going to be a big day with church plus leaving the kids in the church nursery, plus going out to her parents’, plus managing naps away from home, plus trying to get them to eat surrounded by too many strangers at Easter lunch, plus getting home in time for bedtime routine. So when the kids went down for their morning nap, I went ahead and packed up the car, including my cell phone. Which is why I didn’t answer any of the 5 calls that came in within a span of two hours- all from my mother. It wasn’t until 10:30 that I began listening to the first voice mail when the phone rang again and it was my mom telling me that my grandfather had passed away at 9:26 a.m. As I’m listening, my left brain was throwing punches at my right brain saying “don’t cry. stay strong. you’re not wearing smudgeproof eyeliner.” And this was one moment when I was grateful for Jennifer’s Starbucks addiction because right there in the glove box was a napkin for me to dab with.
Jen offered to go home, but I didn’t really see the reason, so we kept driving. We had gone early to give ourselves time with the kids IN the nursery before going to service. They haven’t been too keen on staying with anyone besides our nanny, Matou, or Mommy. And I can tell you Jennifer and I often wonder where we rank in their preference. All that planning, however, didn’t help. They were on to us, and we had to leave them crying. It gave me a cover to do the same.
Easter service was nice. There was a huge thunderstorm that passed through, causing the lights to flicker and the copper roof to crackle and pop. The music and sermon were beautiful, but I cried intermittently, uncontrollably, and unpredictably with my now falling-apart Starbucks napkin constantly at my face. People around us probably thought “awww, she’s so moved by Easter, look how much she loves Jesus,” but in reality it was hard to focus on the joy when every other word in Easter service is DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, TOMB, DYING, DEATH, DYING.
My grandfather was something else, I tell you. Always laughing or making a joke. He would say “call me on my cell phone because I don’t know where I’ll be.” I know people half his age that complain about cell phones and how they don’t know how to use them. He was on the golf course as often as possible (though I think the one in Small Town, Texas doubles as a cow pasture half a year and desert the other). There are so many stories, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I shouldn’t right now, since I still don’t have the smudge-proof stuff. He was diagnosed only a couple months ago, but succumbed quickly. The cancer itself was treatable, but when combined with diabetes, old age, and chemotherapy, it became too much for his body. Honestly, I think he would have lived longer without treatment. My grandfather has always been about quality AND quantity. He loved his full head of hair, loved to paint and draw, loved golf. And once treatment began, he lost the ability to do those things. Cancer is cruel like that. It was then that I knew it wouldn’t be long.
Though I would love for Jennifer and the kids to be with me, it would be a logistical nightmare: driving would take an entire day (it’s a 6 hour drive from here without kids/diaper changes/feedings). If we flew, we’d be broke. The rosary will occur during bedtime. The funeral will occur during a nap. And if there is one thing I am inflexible about, it’s their sleep because it will make or break the rest of the day and usually half of the next. Jennifer could fly out with me and we’d still be broke, and be broker because we’d have to pay for overnight care for the twins. So, yeah, the smartest thing is for me to go alone. And by the time this post gets published, I’ll be in the air.
I will be flying out on Wednesday after a half-day of work, arriving in one city, and hitching a ride to Small Town, Texas in time for the wake and the rosary. The mass and burial will be on Thursday, April 16. After the reception, I’ll hitch a ride back to San Antonio and catch a flight back home, arriving at 8:30 p.m on the 16th. It’s too short a trip when I consider how I feel I’m failing my mom by not being there for her longer. The appearance that I’m just rushing in for the services, check in with the extended family, hugs, kisses, tears, and head back home. But it’s the best I can do what with the responsibility of my children and family and that increasingly unstable job situation. I hate it when my best isn’t good enough.
And while I’m thinking about it, write a will. It is the single most important document you’ll ever have. And it is the most selfless gift you can give to those you’ll leave behind. In all his greatness, my grandfather was exceptionally stubborn and he refused to write one. I am lovingly pissed off about that. Assets freeze, everything has to go through probate, loved ones have to simultaneously mourn while scrambling for funds for burial. Sadness and pain often manifests itself in the form of survivors bickering over tangible objects. It’s just plain unnecessary. When you don’t write a will, the state and the courts effectively decide what goes where. The family has almost no say. So bow up, people.
April 16 is also MATEO AND HARPER’S FIRST BIRTHDAY.
And I won’t see them AT ALL that day due to travel.
That’s the other emotionally difficult thing this week. It’ll be harder on me than it is on them. And I know I’m being all sentimental about it and that they won’t remember it and all that. But I will, and it leaves me a little bit nauseated. You wouldn’t think you could have the wind knocked out of you when your chest is already hollow feeling, but it can.
Around March some time, I began thinking about the kids’ birthday and the post I would write. And as I got to thinking about it, I’d get to crying. Why, one might ask? I’ll be able to explain it better sometime in the next. . .Never.
In memory of my grandfather, I’ve set the post to publish at approximately the same time as my grandfather’s burial, which is approximately the same time as their birth a year prior – their birthday forever shared with the great-grandfather they never got to meet.
Oh, but the stories we’ll tell.
A couple weeks ago, my niece E! turned two. It seems that it was just yesterday that I was posting her birth announcement, and now here she is all toddler and talky talky talky. To celebrate, my sister arranged for a birthday party at a place called Fiesta Farms in San Antonio. There, there were three covered areas and a barn, each packed with a party of of cuñados and primos and abuelos and hermanos and a couple white people scattered about.
And let me just say, albeit a bit windy and chilly, it was a spectacular place for a party for kids in the 2-5 age range. The farm was basically a bit of a petting zoo and safari all within walking distance for the toddle crowd. There were pony rides and chicken feedings and staring down llamas and cuddling bunnies.
Jennifer had the ingenious idea of bringing the wagon that her dad and step-mom gave our kids for Christmas. Riding in it allowed the kids to be transported without being carried, and with more freedom than a stroller. And their cousins got in on the ride, too.
Harper and Mateo got in on the fun and pony rides, too. And I’m just smitten to have shots like these to remember their babyhood.
It was a quick trip, less than 24 hours. But it was really nice to see my siblings and their families. Of course, we couldn’t leave without the obligatory photo of my mom with a tossed salad of her grandchildren. They’ve all grown in just a few months, and I can already tell things are going to get really fun as they grow up together.
Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been playing with iMovie, trying to teach myself how to make videos from still photos. I am less than pleased with the transitions, but given that I won’t get to play on the computer any evening soon, I’m posting my first attempt which contains all the photos from the Fiesta Farms party.
This is Part III of a Three Part Series on Traveling By Airplane With Twin Infants. Parts I and II can be found by clicking on the link above.
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So you made it there, congratulations. I know when we arrived intact I half hoped someone would offer me one of those Miss America sashes, some kind of runner-up award for Most Improved Traveler With Twinfants or something. But no, everyone went about their business. And I might have given myself a pat on the back, but there was the issue of using those hands to wrangle a couple kids, luggage, and my sanity.
I now introduce a few things to think about as it relates to your final destination. And keep in mind that this assumes you’ve had your shit together as it relates to the adult packing and planning, because here I only address those kid-related things to consider.
Things to consider: making your food, taking your food, purchasing food there?
We’ve been making their baby food since they started eating solids. At one myopic point, I actually wondered how I would transport frozen baby food to the location, or would I purchase fresh food there (we were staying at a friend’s home) and cook at night? And then I remembered my parenting method: Non-Extremist; and in a flash of genius (a flash brought about by friends who slapped me into reality), it occurred to me that I could – holy crap – buy jarred baby food for the three days.
A couple weeks before we left, I fed them some jarred baby food to see if they’d like it. It was heartbreaking to see them eat it up indiscriminately given all the time I had put into making their food up to that point. But guess what – that’s practice for parenting through the teen years, right? Anyway, we packed up jarred baby food in our checked luggage, wrapped it with some of that leftover stretch wrap from our last move and nestled it among our clothing. Oh, sure, I could have pre-shipped frozen food, packed up frozen food (domestic flights only), made fresh food there, or purchased jar food there, but our time was limited and I really didn’t want to spend it at a grocery store. Aunt Susu was kind enough to stop at the grocery store in advance of our trip and picked up some rice cereal and some fresh fruit for us, but for the most part, we served jarred food.
TOILETRIES / MEDS
When we travel away from home, we always take a small bag with the following items: Tylenol, teething tablets, nasal bulb, nail clippers, saline mist, Motrin, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bath gel.
Because we weren’t about to travel with a bath tub and because where we were going did not have bath tubs available, we simply took a two-foot section of drawer liner leftover from some move. It was enough of a ‘bath mat’ to provide some stability as we bathed them. However, a towel would have been fine, too.
GEAR (aka creatures of comfort, aka comforts of creatures)
How much you take, or rent, or borrow, or beg for, or steal, hinges on where you are staying (a home? A hotel? Other?) The placebo effect on us is likely stronger than the kids’ absolute need for consistency, but we wanted to offer as much consistency as possible. Which mean we needed crib-like sleeping quarters for our kids. They’ve occasionally slept in a pack-n-play, but we didn’t want to risk throwing them (or ourselves) completely off orbit, so we wanted to have the best possible sleeping arrangements for them. Through a suggestion from my local mom’s of multiples club, I found affordable crib rentals through Babysaway.com They aren’t in every city, but holy crap it was totally worth it for the two cribs ($12/day), two high chairs ($6/day), and one exersaucer ($4/day). Prices vary depending on location, but the convenience of someone delivering all that gear and having those comforts of home at our friend’s home was totally worth it.
This might appear to be contrary to my Non-Extremist parenting style, but we also took with us a sound machine (something they are used to, and easily packed), my iPod and a speaker (they’re used to music during the day), and their respective woobies. Our idea was to provide as much consistency as reasonably possible, while staying flexible to the circumstance of our destination.
OUTINGS (Snack & Gear)
Packing for this is not unlike any outing that you would take from home, the only difference is you either need to pack it with you or plan to purchase there. We had a great outing doing the 5K and another outing to the French Quarter. For us, the main things in our Survival Kit were cheerios, water, light jackets, diapers, wipes, and desitin. And we had wheels in the form of their stroller and a baby carrier just in case.
That about wraps it up. I’m sure there are other things to consider, but (a) we’ve traveled by plane exactly once, and (b) if we missed it the first time around, we didn’t miss it badly enough for me to recall for this posting.
I am told that traveling with toddlers is easier (less crap to think about), but harder (they’re more mobile and verbal). So if we ever get on another plane, I’ll write another post with those lessons learned.
This is Part II of a Three Part Series on Traveling By Airplane With Twin Infants. Part I can be found by clicking on the link above.
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THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
In general, COMMUNICATION is an absolute necessity to have a stress-minimized airport experience. Communication with your adult passengers, communication with your kids, communication with security, communication with the flight crew. If you communicate your situation, your needs, your desire to make as burden-free as possible for the staff and fellow travelers, the more likely they are to be helpful, accommodating, and FORGIVING.
If at all possible, print your boarding passes BEFORE YOU LEAVE for the airport.
TRANSPORTATION TO/FROM AIRPORT
Decide faaaaarrrrr in advance how you intend to get to and from the airport. Ideally, you own two carseats per child. If this is the case, then let the kids ride in the car in one set, and have the other set in the trunk/storage area for easy transport on/off the car. This is most helpful if the carseats are attached to some kind of rolling device. And if your car has the space to hold extra carseats and luggage. Otherwise, it’ll take about 5-10 minutes to deal with the carseats. This may not seem like a long time, but with multiple children and inclement weather and mealtime approaching, every minute saved is a week longer that you get to live.
You Drive Yourselves In Your Car – If you’re going to drive yourself and there are two adults going, go directly to curbside check-in. Both adults unload everything, including the kids, and one tries to corral the kids while possibly simultaneously checking-in, while the other adult goes and parks the car and enjoys five quiet minutes. Catch a skycap QUICKLY and TIP WELL.
Someone Else Drives You In Your Car – This, to me, is the ideal situation. You get dropped at curbside check-in, three adults help unload everything, one adult leaves with your car, and two adults remain to wrangle kids and check stuff in. This option offers the most hands resulting in the most efficient drop-off/check-in experience.
Someone Else Drives You In Their Car - Are you sure you can’t let them drive your car? Because it would be a lot easier. If not, this option isn’t too different than “Someone Else Drives You In Your Car” except you may or may not have storage issues based on the number of car seats and the number of luggage pieces.
LEAVING WITH ENOUGH TIME
This goes without saying, but it is still one of our biggest challenges. How early? Here’s a rough estimate of things you might want to consider and then tweak according to your own commute situation.
In our case, that was (30 * 1.5) + 0 + 0 + 10 + (10 * 4) = half an hour earlier than we used to leave for the airport.
GETTING THROUGH SECURITY AND TO YOUR GATE
Speaking of security, don’t wear a belt or lace-up shoes. It’s just easier not to wear this stuff when you have to remove the items to go through the gate. If at all possible, for kids that can’t walk, just keep them in socks and put those cute Robeez in the carry-on bag because you’ll have to remove their shoes, too.
At this point, we had checked our luggage and we were left with one double-stroller, two car seats on rollers with a baby in each, and two back packs. Some people will choose to luggage-check the carseats (because they have lapchildren) and just transport the kids in a simple stroller through the airport. Others luggage-check the carseats and do not take a stroller. If you do that, at least take a baby carrier (we have an Ergo), though you will most likely have to remove it to go through security.
DECLARE YOUR POWDERS AND LIQUIDS. It’s my understanding that they will want to see your water and formula powder, but since our items were in the backpacks that were going through x-ray, and since there was a long-ass line behind us, they didn’t even flinch or ask or sort through the bags. Declare it anyway.
Some (Most? All?) convertible carseats will not fit through the xray machine. (Although I think most infant carseats will). Request that they be “wanded” by security. Since we took our very large Double BOB Revolution that was going to have to be wanded anyway, they might as well wand the carseats, too.
We took of our backpacks, put them in the bins, along with our shoes. Took the babies out of the carseats. Security then directed us to leave the carseats and stroller and pass through the gate with baby in hand. Jennifer beeped so she and Harper had an extra special wanding while I passed BACK through the gate, as directed by security, and helped get the stroller and carseats through the area. Where they wanded and powder-checked and whatever they do with that Star Trek box near the back.
While the carseats and stroller were given a twice-over, Jennifer and Harper were cleared and we all approached the bins, picked up the backpacks, sat down and put everybody’s shoes on. By the time we were done with that, the carseats and stroller were ready, so we put the kids back into the carseats attached to the Travelmate’s, tossed the backpacks into the stroller, and one of us pushed both babies, while the other pushed the stroller and backpacks.
And we leisurely strolled to the gate, a bit overwhelmed by what had just happened, and stunned that it went relatively smoothly.
THE WAIT AT THE GATE
Depending on when you arrived at the airport, how long security took, and the number of unexpected circumstances blown your way, you may or may not have a lot of time before boarding. We had about 30 minutes.
If you are gate checking any items, go to the counter, SMILE, and ask for some gate check tags. While they’re tapping endlessly onto their keyboards, chat them up about whether or not the flight is full, and if not could you get on before everyone else so you can be sure to sit in the same row, and your inexperience in flying with infants and how you want to do things right and pretty much make them feel like they know everything. Not only are you doing this to butter them up to avoid situations like this, but because every airline and possibly every crew will respond differently so you shouldn’t assume how things went with one flight will work for another. Take their lead and be respectful and adjust your plans and gear accordingly.
Once we had gate-check tags and knew what the process was for this crew and for this flight, we had about 15 minutes. This was just enough time for me to go ahead and make their bottles (shielding this process from their view because HEAVEN FORBID they see a bottle that isn’t immediately going into their little suckers that close to naptime!). Jennifer kept them entertained with the couple rattle toys and the There-Are-Few-Better-Inventions-Than-Cheerios. After the bottles were made – and hidden in the bag – we changed their diapers right there on the floor at the gate. Five minutes left.
TO PRE-BOARD OR NOT TO PRE-BOARD?
Do you have assigned seating? Then you might be better off waiting. Unassigned seating (like Southwest Airlines)? Then you better have printed your Boarding Pass from home 24 hours before so that you can be in the first group. Then, it’s like trying to get the best seat on a roller coaster, everybody rushing, vying for position. Just consider that once you’re on the plane, it’s still a good 15 minutes or so before you take-off. So when to board becomes a game-time decision based on whether or not your seats are assigned, the demeanor of your children, and the number of adults traveling with you.
How you get from the waiting area to the plane depends on the amount and type of gear you are gate-checking and carrying on. For us, and given the size of our stroller, we put the kids in the stroller and the other of us rolled the empty carseats down. This allowed for the least amount of bending and unbuckling and keeping others waiting. Even if we had had no carseats, I still would have rather strolled than carried because it saves your arms for a few minutes.
BOARD ALL AT ONCE OR BIT BY BIT?
Again, it depends on (un)assigned seating and demeanors and number of adults traveling with you.
All At Once – On our flight there, at the plane entrance, I began unbuckling babies while Jennifer collapsed the Travelmate handles and set the car seats along the wall. She then unbuckled the second baby and held both kids while I folded down and bungee cord strapped the double stroller. This did create a bit of a traffic jam for those waiting behind us, BUT, (a) it didn’t really take but 2 minutes max AND (b) it allowed the people who had boarded ahead of us to get a seat and therefore out of our way.
Bit By Bit – On the flight back, the flight was going to be full (something I learned from the representative at the gate when I was obtaining gate-check tags) so Jennifer wheeled the empty car seats and boarded ahead of us in Group A, with the intention of getting our seats saved and then meeting us at the entrance of the plane to grab a baby once I got down there. She communicated this (SMART WOMAN!) to the flight attendant, who suggested that was not going to be a good idea, what without the contraflow lanes and all. I, of course, did not know this. So when I walked down the jetway at the back of Group A, I began unbuckling oblivious to the fact that Jennifer wouldn’t be there. HOWEVER, the flight attendant told me what was going on and said she and the pilot would hold babies while I got the stroller folded down. How sweet is that?? I would venture to say that they just wanted an excuse to hold two of the most adorable kids ever. But I digress.
So you made it this far, you’re not sweating too badly, the kids aren’t totally freaking out, and there are no delays. Congratulations. Seriously. Now the clock slows down because here you are essentially trapped in a space that barely fits your elbows with kids that could conceivably erupt at any time and you’re surrounded by strangers and other people breathing your air in an environment your kids have never been in. Oops, am I projecting?
The first thing we did was take out those couple rattle toys, string them to some plastic rings/links, and hook them to the tray table hinge. Now you don’t have to feel around the floor if the toy gets “dropped”.
Actually, that wasn’t the first thing. The FIRST first thing we did was say our respective silent little prayer of desperation for a speedy and uneventful flight.
The third first thing that we did was say to one another (within earshot of the nearby passengers) that we had all the things we needed for the kids and that they had been in good moods and things were going well and make sure you have everything you need so we don’t have to bother the people we’re sitting by. And the point of this was to purchase some goodwill for the just in case it all goes to hell situation. And because placebos really do work for lots of folks.
The first second thing (I guess actually, it was actually the fourth thing) is address that age-old directive of “all you have to do is give them something to drink or eat on the way up and on the way down.” I was really worried about their ears and all that, so we pulled the bottles out as we backed out of the terminal, at which point the kids began hyperventilating for their formula and throwing their heads back to lay down in our arms. We purposefully booked the flight near a nap time with the hopes that they’d take a bottle and sleep a bit of the flight. DIDN’T HAPPEN. Not only did sleep not happen, but baby girl sucked down her bottle BEFORE WE WERE IN THE AIR. And Mateo finished his before we reached cruising altitude. I’ll time that one better next time. Neither seemed to really be affected, though.
Then it was hold babies in laps and play and try and push Time along. An eternal 30 minutes into the flight, we began our descent. The tricky part on a short flight, however, is getting them to eat on the way down. Mateo as all “awesome, I get another bottle, this is exactly as it should be.” But Harper was all “don’t EVEN try to make me eat when I don’t wanna.” At which point my blood pressure rose a tad and I watched her like a hawk waiting for her head to explode or something worse because SHIT! What about drinking ON THE WAY DOWN? Her head stayed attached, though she did tilt it to one shoulder quite frequently. So cheerios – which make your mouth all dry and gooey – followed by some water in her cup seemed to suffice.
At last, we had arrived.
GETTING OFF THE PLANE
Pretty much work backwards from “Board All At Once Or Bit By Bit?” and “Jetwalking” and “Getting Through Security And To Your Gate”. One advantage of traveling with kids is that by the time you get them strapped into the stroller or car seats and maybe even take turns going to the bathroom, by the time you get to Baggage Claim, not only is it a clear shot to the conveyor belt, but it’s likely someone has placed your luggage next to the carousel in a ready-to-go position.
TRANSPORTATION TO YOUR FINAL DESTINATION
So much of this depends on what plans you made. Is someone picking you up? Are you renting a car? Do you need a taxi or a shuttle? Depending on the length of your flight and the amount of time to your final destination, you might want to take this time to go to the bathroom and/or change the kids’ diapers.
Up next, 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.
GEAR & OTHER
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) :
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.
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.