If you think flying cross country with two babies would put you in your grave early, you need to read on! This uber Traveling Mom says all it takes is proper planning, some luck, and a few strategies. Follow these tips and the experience of flying with babies (not one, but two!) can be both fun and rewarding. Really.
Flying with Babies
Back in May, after giving birth to baby #2 merely weeks prior, I did the unthinkable – I took a cross country flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Orange County, California, with not only one, but two lap babies. As a very seasoned traveler, I knew I had an upper hand in preparing as much as I possibly could, but I’ll be honest; I was absolutely terrified of the idea of traveling on a 6-hour flight to California with two infants.
My son was 15 months old at the time, and let’s just say he’s one of those “Energizer toddlers,” nicely put. In addition to flying with a demanding toddler, we added a colicky baby to the mix and hoped for the best.
Fortunately for myself (and all surrounding passengers), the experience was absolutely ideal! Though I should really be thanking the universe for a streak of sheer luck, I do credit at least some of the experience to proper planning.
From my experience, I’m happy to pass along 10 tips to other parents who are planning on taking a trip with two lap infants (or even one).
1. Schedule Accordingly
I can’t stress this enough. It’s in everyone’s best interest to choose flights that complement child(ren)’s natural sleep schedules… better yet, pick a late evening or red-eye flight, so it’s more likely that they’ll conk out for the majority of the flight. In my scenario, I strategically booked a 7pm flight with that exact idea in mind.
2. Less is More
Even on solo trips, I’ve always taken pride in being a light traveler; and luckily I’ve learned to do so with the babies too. Get this: I was able to pack everything for myself and two kids in one carry-on bag, and I decided it was best to pick up diapers and wipes at my destination to maximize suitcase space.
As far as baby gear, all I brought along was my double stroller and Ergo carrier. I don’t see a need to travel with bulky pack-n-plays, bouncy seats, etc. I also decided it was worth it to pay the additional $13 per day to have a rental car with a carseat in it rather than bring ours along. Lastly, I even chose to check my carry on bag so that I could “carry on” as little as possible (my hands were full already!).
3. Pray for an Empty Middle Seat
Since this was a semi last-minute trip, I knew I’d have a slim chance getting seated in a row with an empty middle seat. In fact, it was a full flight, so that idea was totally out the window before I even boarded. However, on the way back, I strategically booked an aisle and window seat for myself and my mother-in-law so we’d have a chance at an empty seat between us (it worked). I literally stalked the seat map on my United app every 10 minutes until the doors closed to see if the seat was still empty.
Empty middles work out wonderfully because not only do you have more space, you also have a place to lay one child horizontally when they fall asleep. Many families traveling on airlines with free seating (think Southwest, which is an awesome airline for family travel) really get an upper hand with this strategy because you can simply pick any row and pray that no one wants to sit in the middle of two infants… let’s be realistic here – I doubt there will be passengers lined up to sit next to you.
4. Do as Much as You Can Before Boarding
This is imperative. Feed them, change them into comfortable “bedtime clothes”, ensure diapers are fresh and dry, and most importantly, tire them out! I always let my child run around the airport and “make noise” for 30-45 minutes before boarding. I’d rather him laugh, play, and scream at the gate and then pass out in flight. Even better if he has a tantrum too (kidding… OK, maybe not).
5. Have a System in Place
Once you board, have all “necessities” within easy reach. I always keep the diaper bag well stocked and under my seat with plenty of diapers, snacks, bottles, change of clothes for each kid, etc. It’s important to have somewhat of a system in place so that you’re not frantically fiddling through bags looking for something if one or both babies suddenly start screaming or fussing.
If you’re traveling with someone else, designate who is responsible for what. Perhaps one adult takes care of a specific kid for the entire duration of the flight, or maybe consider assigning “duties” such as one person being responsible for diaper changes and the other responsible for feeding, etc.
6. Wear One
Baby carriers are a gift from the gods when you’re traveling with 2 under 2. There’s nothing like snuggling a small baby on your chest for the whole flight while still having your hands free. Babies love it too. Snuggly feeling + soothing airplane noise = one content baby.
7. Accept Help from Other Passengers
I generally find that most people are willing to help in any way that they can. Can’t fold the stroller at the gate before check in because you’re holding a baby? Allow the person behind you to give you a hand. Can’t reach something
you dropped your kid threw in the middle of the aisle? Ask your seat mate to get it for you. This also goes for loading bags in overhead bins and help with deplane-ing, etc. People are good, and it’s perfectly OK to accept any help.
When I was pregnant, I always said I’d never be one of those parents who lets her child get entertainment from a tablet or mobile device. It’s safe to say that cute idea went out the window somewhere around my son’s one-week birthday. Keep your phone or iPad well stocked with lots of kid-friendly apps! My phone has a whole folder of its own dedicated to infant/toddler entertainment. Nursery Rhymes, Giggle Gang, Story Time… I’ve got them all, and they’re always saving grace at moment’s notice.
9. Make the Ordinary Fun
“Hey Aiden, look how cool this is! You can put your bottle in this lovely blue paper bag that’s in front of you!” Yes, I’m talking about the barf bag. I think my child killed a good 30-minutes of the flight simply putting his bottle in and out of a bag over and over again. There’s also this game I love: “Hey Aiden, look at this magazine! You can make confetti!”. There goes another 30 minutes of ripping up this old issue of People magazine (yes, I clean up). Occupied toddlers=quiet passengers. This is a case of when ordinary becomes extraordinary, so get creative.
10. Get Comfortable
Once everyone is settled and you’re up in the air, make sure everyone is comfortable. Put your seat back, lay your child across your lap when they’re sound asleep… lastly, put those beverage vouchers to good use – you’ve earned it.
With my son, we waited until he was 4 months old to “earn his wings.“ This time around, I have no regrets taking my newborn on her first flight. I am so glad I decided to go through with flying with both kids. It was certainly a challenge, but I did it and it wasn’t as dreadful as I expected. In fact, traveling with the 2 babies has become the norm in our family; I’ll leave off with this – both of my kids have taken more flights than my age. 😉
Any other tips that have worked for you and your family that you’d like to share?