Flying with Twins: 4 Key Takeaways
First, a fact: Traveling with twin babies is bonkers. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or one of those starry-eyed parents you should generally avoid. Still, it's totally doable. And totally worth it, if for nothing else than the badge of honor. It just requires strategic planning coupled with Olympic levels of both inner and outer strength. Here are some essential lessons from our first cross-country flight with five-month-old boys.
By Jennifer Pollock
Gear up for the airport
Take a moment to size up the sheer wonder that is the amount of crap you just piled on top of that airport cart—and then welcome yourself to the world of traveling with twins. Navigating the airport without a Sherpa is a feat within itself, so saddle up with the appropriate gear. We bought a cheap umbrella stroller and loaded the boys into it out of the car. Then we strapped our carseats to our backs (next time we'll be investing in more ergonomic car seat bags—perhaps these) and made our way to the check-in counter like wild-eyed snails—my husband pushing the cart, me pushing the boys. We checked everything (our car seats were free to check on United, which is the case with many airlines) except for our diaper backpacks (one like this is key), our Ergo carriers, and the umbrella stroller.
We carried the babies in the Ergos through security (TSA PreCheck or CLEAR are vital for your sanity, and unlike Global Entry, children don’t have to register when traveling with a guardian), and then put them back in the umbrella stroller for easier terminal navigation. Pre-trip, a twin mom told me to “wear a diaper” because you won’t be able to go the bathroom. Cool cool. The umbrella stroller, which we gate-checked, was a dignity-saving alternative.
Sit in aisle seats in the back of the plane
Here’s an inconvenient truth: AA rules say you can't have two lap babies in the same row. So, thinking both boys would enjoy airplane views, my husband and I booked back-to-back window seats on our flight out. Turns out five-month-old babies do not care about the topography of middle America. And crawling over two sleeping passengers to go change a diaper is sheer hell. The poor woman in seat B was spit-up collateral damage during one of these attempts. On the return trip, we secured aisle seats, across from each other, in the very last row. This is a much better twin baby zone. You can pass stuff back and forth across the aisle, get up easily, and retreat to the back of the plane to bounce a crier (and/or sing “Baby Beluga” for the 500th time) without driving people mad—or as mad.
Pre-plan the logistics of feeding
So you know you'll feed them on the takeoff and landing (to help with their ears), and maybe once or twice during the flight. But how are you going to make the bottles? (Our babies were on formula). Where are you going to get the hot water? How are you going to get the water the right temperature? (To flight attendants and Starbucks employees, "warm," means scalding hot). Who is going to make the bottles if you are both holding a baby? These are the things to plan out ahead of time.
After a total disaster on the flight out, we came up with a different game plane for the return flight, which worked well. 1) Buy a big Thermos. 2) Fill it with hot water at a Starbucks near your gate 3) Mix it with bottled water to make it the right temperature. 4) Store the Thermos away in your backpack for later use. 5) Right before you board the plane, make one round of bottles for the takeoff. 6) For in-flight bottles, have one person hold both babies while the other makes the bottles (at hyper-speed) with that perfect-temperature Thermos water. 7) Take many deep breaths.
Make your backpack easy for rummaging
One of the more popular pieces of advice about traveling with babies is "bring enough toys to entertain them!" That's sound, except when you only have one hand for finding what you want out of your backpack. I bought a ludicrous amount of toys, and they all ended up strewn across the plane floor (RIP Sophie) as I frantically tried to locate a burp cloth (RIP shirt). For twins, I'd recommend bringing just a few (non-squeaky) toys they both love and deploying your smartphone for emergency entertainment. My little narcissists, at least, love to look at videos of themselves.
This was just our first rodeo—but, with a sense of humor, it was manageable enough. And thanks to parental amnesia, we're already planning our next trip.
Jennifer Pollock is a freelance writer who lives in Oakland, California. She and I met in a previous life as interns at Fast Company magazine, when our biggest concern was not filling bottles at the airport but buying cocktails on near-minimum wage in NYC. When she agreed to write this post—or was it a therapeutic journal entry?—I jumped at the chance. Look for more on her twin adventures soon.