Being a stay-at-home mom or dad with a working spouse and family out of town can feel isolating at times, especially if you don’t have a large support group nearby. You want to spend time with your loved ones, and while the thought of getting on an airplane with your twins may sound like the last thing you could possibly do—or want to do—think again. These handy tips will make the task of traveling alone with twins less daunting, more manageable, and, with a little practice, perhaps even (almost) effortless!
- Book a non-stop flight, if possible. When traveling with twins, try to avoid the hassle of connecting. Book ahead of time to get the best deal. Scheduling around nap time could work to your benefit for infants, but toddlers will most likely be too excited to sleep (right up until the time the airplane lands at your destination, of course!).
- Double strollers and car seats. I recommend a double stroller frame for your infants because it is easy to take the infant car seats in and out of the frame, and you can gate-check the stroller. For toddlers, use your regular double stroller and gate-check it.Narrow car seats are ideal for airplane seats (I have Sunshine Kids Radian 65 car seats, which are 17 inches wide, about 2 inches narrower than regular car seats).When your twins get a little bigger (approximately 22 pounds), you can purchase a Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES)—a one-pound, four-point harness that wraps around the airplane seat and latches into the seatbelts, keeping your toddler buckled safely in his/her seat (www.kidsflysafe.com). At $79 these harnesses are a little pricey, but worth every penny. At this point, you can check your cumbersome car seats with no fee attached! You could also look on Craig’s list for harnesses that are pre-owned (sounds better than “used,” doesn’t it?).Most airlines provide complementary plastic bags for your car seats, but some do charge a small fee for each bag.
- Stroller hooks. Invest in sturdy hooks for your double stroller. You can attach your diaper bag and/or carry-on to the hooks, leaving your hands free for more important things! I recommend “Hook ‘n Stroll” (only $9) because these two hooks hold 11 pounds and they swivel. Buy two sets so you can carry a 22-pound bag! Just remember to take the bag(s) off before removing your twins from the stroller so no one falls backward!
- What to pack in your carry on. Dress yourself and your twins in dark clothing to hide stains of spilled whatever! Pack an extra set of clothes for your twins and an extra shirt for yourself, along with extra wipes and diapers.You have to do what it takes to keep your twins as quiet as possible on the airplane. Download a movie on your tablet, smartphone, iPad, etc.; pack a portable DVD player (purchase kid-size headphones); or pay to use the in-flight TV (check ahead of time to see if this is available on your flight). You should also pack new toys, “mess free” coloring pads and markers, washable crayons, stickers—and snacks, snacks, snacks! Suckers work well in emergencies.Pack empty, spill-proof bottles and fill them up with water/juice/milk once you are through security. Carry an insulated bag to keep pumped breast milk/formula, sandwiches, and fruit. If you are using formula, you can fill up extra bottles with formula and ask the flight attendant for warm water.
- Check in and pay for luggage online. Even though you are checking in online, you will still need to go to the inside counter since you are traveling with small children (the “already checked-in” line is usually shorter and will save you time). Parents flying solo with twins must always sit in the aisle seat when there is a three-person row. If it is a smaller airplane, you may have the last row, where there are usually four seats across.
- Assistance! Ask your spouse, family member, or friend to take you to the airport and help you.
- Curb-side check-in for all pieces of luggage. Pull up to your terminal departure area, find your airline, and use the curb-side check-in service. The person with you can watch the twins in the car while you take the luggage to be checked. The few dollars you spend on the tip will be well worth it, because you can then park the car and only have to deal with getting your twins in the stroller and managing your carry on(s) and the car seats (I know…only??).
- Gate pass. Obtain a gate pass from the inside ticket counter so your helper can assist you through security and be with you until you board the aircraft. Your helper will have to show his/her driver’s license to get the gate pass.
Ask the person meeting you at your destination to assist you at the airport. This person will be waiting for you at the end of the walkway at your gate (not at baggage claim).
- Getting through security. This is where your helper will come in quite handy. You will have to take your twins out of the stroller and carry them through security. Your stroller will go through the scanner (if it fits). If your stroller is too wide, security will ask you to take it through one of the larger doors (usually where wheelchairs go through).
Make sure you notify security that you have milk/formula for your twins before sending it through the scanner. No other liquids over 3 ounces are permitted to go through (even food that is liquid like applesauce). If you have baby food jars, security might open all of them for testing.
- Potty time. Use super absorbent “overnight” diapers for the trip. Make sure to change your twins’ diapers and/or take them to the potty right before boarding the airplane. Even if your toddlers are potty-trained, they are probably wearing diapers/pull-ups for sleeping, so put one on them for the airplane ride just in case.
- Medicine. If your infants/toddlers are teething, giving them acetaminophen or ibuprofen 20 minutes before boarding will be helpful, and the acetaminophen will make them drowsy! Some people recommend giving your kids “Uncle Ben” (Benadryl) before boarding, but this could backfire and cause unwanted excitability. Also, do you really want to drug your kids when they aren’t sick? Wait—don’t answer that.
- Before boarding. If you arrive early (and since you have assistance), let your twins walk/run around for a while to burn off some energy before boarding the airplane. You should be able to pre-board since you have small children.
- Gate-checking your stroller. You will need a tag for your stroller, so make sure to go to the gate check-in and ask for this before you board. Keep your twins in the stroller until you reach the point where you are about to board the plane. At that time, you will need to take them out, collapse the stroller, and leave it.
- Boarding assistance. Ask for a flight attendant’s help while boarding the airplane. After your twins are out of their stroller, you will need extra hands to watch them and time to secure the infant seats/car seats/CARES to the seatbelts.
- On the airplane. If you need help feeding your infants, ask the flight attendant to walk around with one while you feed the other (who doesn’t want to hold an adorable baby?). Walk your twin toddlers up/down the aisle after drinks/snacks are served. The airplane is contained so they can’t go anywhere (just watch out for that big red lever up front!). If you need to go to the bathroom, ask the flight attendant to sit in your seat and watch the twins. If you need to change one of them, again, ask the flight attendant for help.
- Cute and courteous. Above all, dress your twins in adorable outfits (it’s hard to get mad at little ones when they look so darn cute) and apologize to everyone around you ahead of time. Tell them you are traveling solo and will do everything you can to keep your twins quiet. This will go a long way and save you frustration and anxiety when they start wailing.
It’s amazing how many complimentary glasses of wine I’ve received from flight attendants over the past three years. People are more empathetic to your situation than you realize.
With a little planning, you can do this! Just focus on the fact that this is a temporary situation and you will eventually arrive at your destination! Remember, this “two” shall pass!
Roni Henderson earned her Master’s degree in Management from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a B.S.B.A. from The Ohio State University. She is currently President and Founder of $100k+ Supply Chain Jobs, LLC (100kSupplyChainJobs.com), executive search and contract recruiting for the supply chain industry. She is the proud mother to six-year-old twin boys who have passports and frequent flyer miles on four airlines.
“As a logistics professional, I always found myself streamlining operations and independently writing step-by-step policies and procedures for each of my positions. I don’t think parents of twins should reinvent the wheel, so let’s learn from each other.” –Roni Henderson