This post was originally published when my twin daughters were 2 and a half on my personal blog.
My twin daughters, aged 2, and I flew to Oregon and back, just the three of us, and the whole process was remarkably easy. Sure, we had a few hiccups, but I’d be happy to repeat the experience.
I think a number of things contributed to our positive experience.
Southwest Airlines: The flight attendants on Southwest were just wonderful. On every leg of the journey, they helped me carry the car seats on and off the airplane. They were gentle with the girls, and praised them for being so obedient.
The first leg of the journey home was particularly noteworthy. The flight attendant, Laura, was an identical twin herself and has a 20-month-old and an 11-year-old. Whenever she wasn’t busy helping other passengers, she was chatting with the girls, keeping them entertained. She installed the car seats for me, told me about her relationship with her siblings, discussed parenting philosophies with me, and was just all around wonderful. Another attendant, whose name I didn’t get, walked us all the way out to the gate to wait for our next flight. This all went far beyond the call of duty, in my book.
GoGo Kidz Travelmate: This handy wheeled contraption attaches to the back of your child’s car seat, turning it into a stroller.
The wheels snap off easily, and you don’t have to remove the back to install the seat in the airplane (although the manufacturers don’t recommend that). The security folks at the airport did take the Travelmates off the car seats, but they also reattached them for me. The Travelmates did away with need for a stroller and made it extraordinarily easy to transport the car seats through the airport, whether or not they contained children. Even my husband was impressed with them, and he usually laughs at my affinity for gadgets. The only downside is that there is not convenient place to store the wheels and the bar they attach to when they are removed. Fortunately, I was able to stick them in the overhead baggage compartment.
Car seats in the airplane: I never considered leaving the car seats at home or checking them, but once we got settled in our seats, I realized some benefits in addition to general safety. Since M and J are used to sitting in their car seats during our long commute, they knew exactly where to tuck their toys and sippy cups so that they would stay put. It gave them a great measure of comfort to be sitting side by side in their familiar seats. They almost thought it was a treat that I was able to interact with them and hold their hands, since my rule when I’m driving is that I can’t help them pick up toys or give them more snacks until we come to a stop.
Lollipops: I invested in a couple of packages of ring pops and brought a couple of extra lollipops along. Sucking on this candy helped little toddler ears adjust to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing, and kept both girls entertained.
Rolling backpacks: I bought the girls Disney princess backpacks that they could roll through the airport. When the kids were in the carseats, I just slung the backpacks over the Travelmate handles. I put a change of clothes in each backpack, as well as all the girls’ airplane activities and diapering supplies. The one tray table I had also fit inside the bag. I put a box of raisins in each bag for them to “discover” on the plane. I had them pack up their lovies into the front pocket of their backpack when we arrived at the airport, and put an empty sippy cup in a side pocket of the bag.
Stickers and notebooks: I handed M and J each a sheet of stickers and a plain notebook. They were given a clear admonition that stickers were not to be stuck anywhere but the pages of the notebook. This was all it took to keep J and M entertained for half an hour at a time. The smaller the stickers, the better, since it made it more of a challenge to peel the stickers from the sheet. J made up a matching game involving her stickers, matching them by colour and object.
Mini magnadoodles: These weren’t quite the hit the stickers were, but were good for 15 minutes of entertainment at a time. I ended up doing most of the scribbling, and the girls practiced identifying the letters I wrote out for them.
Lovies: Usually, the girls’ lovies, whom they call “Bee”, are limited to naptime and bedtime. For the course of the trip, however, I allowed free access to their Bees, which I think made them a lot braver and more comfortable in the airplane than they otherwise might have been. I did insist that Bees be packed up in the girls’ backpacks when we were in airports, because if we lost one, it would be the end of the world. They were handmade by my friend Suzanne; I can’t exactly run to the store for a replacement.
Movies: I took my laptop on the plane in lieu of a DVD player. I hadn’t tested my computer’s DVD playing abilities and discovered myself to be without sound. Mel and Jess didn’t mind, or even notice, in part because the first movie I put on was The Snowman, which has no dialogue. The movies gave them something to do, but I think we had enough other activities that we could have done without.
Star Kids Travel Trays: I had high hopes for these snack trays, but I only received one in time for the trip. Since the last thing I wanted was an argument over unfair treatment, I didn’t pull out the one tray table I had except on one leg of the trip, when Jess was allowed to hold the laptop on her lap. I think the tray table could have been very useful if the girls weren’t already accustomed to keeping themselves entertained in their car seats. The airplane tray tables don’t fit flat over our Britax Marathons, so if the girls had been using open cups, some sort of tray table would have been a must.
Books: I packed a couple of very small board books in the girls’ bags. Although they usually love books, they weren’t too interested in them during our flights. They only provided about 5 minutes of distraction between sticker adventures.
Washable crayons: I’m glad I had them along, but the kids didn’t even get around to pulling these out.
On the way there, M kept dropping things on the floor when she was done with them instead of handing them to me, meaning that I had to crawl on the floor in front of the seats to pick up her toys and trash. By the time we headed back to Texas, she’d seen her sister praised enough for handing me her things that she realized it would be a good idea to copy her. (Subsequent to this trip, it occurred to me that tying toys and the like to my diaper bag with ribbon would greatly simplify life, although there’s a strangulation hazard concern.)
Both girls threw brief tantrums on the way home, but they’d been woken at 4:30 am Pacific time and can be forgiven. Still, when one of them threw a full-on lying-on-the-floor drumming-her-heels tantrum at the gate in Phoenix, I wasn’t having it. I told her that if she didn’t stop screaming and stand on her feet by the time I counted to 10, she would get a spanking. Yes, I threatened a spanking in front of at least 100 hundred travelers, and was prepared to follow through. Perhaps someone would have called CPS on me. We’ll never know. I got to six, and she was good as gold.
There was at least one proponent of my flavour of discipline among the onlookers. From far back in the boarding line, I heard a man say, “She only had to get to six. Wow!”
Have you travelled alone with multiples? What worked for you?