Saturday, July 17, 2010

flying with infant twins... alone.

Ok, boring title, I know. Forgive me as my creative brain seems to be taking a summer ciesta. Jerk. The twins and I flew back from Alaska, reunited with the other hellions children, and are now making the looooooooong @$$ trip back to the East Coast. Awesome. I have officially scarred W for life. Every time he gets in the car he asks if it is going to be a 1 movie drive, or a 2 sleeps drive. Either way he hates it and demands compensation for me ruining his life. A trip into town makes him freak the freak out, espeically if I don't have an arsenol of snacks and things for him to do. Hunny Pie, it's only a 25 minute drive, pretty sure you can survive without a DVD. Now stop kicking your sister before I PULL THIS CAR OVER. I swear...

ANYWAY. Onto the point of this post, I promise. Flying with twins. Yes. Ok, so the key is to be uber organized. Like, more organized than you think you need to be, and over prepare. And then think about how you are going to do what you are going to do before you do it. And then take those scenarios, and blow them out of the water and then run your mind's eye through how you are going to handle your baby's diaper exploding while the other one projectile vomits onto the person next to you while you spill the bottle you prepared 4 seconds ago to calm the poopy butt baby down. What are you going to do when you are all covered in vomit and poop and formula that smells like rotten white cheddar cheese? What are you going to do...? Cry. Pretty much just cry.

Ok, I swear there is a point to this. So really, how do you do this? First, plan your flights for their nap times. If they are napping 2x a day, plan the first flight for their first nap time and then take a layover until their second nap time. Or take a red eye. Chances are good they will fall asleep during takeoff because of the white noise and g-forces and maybe, just MAYBE, you might be able to read a magazine for the first time since before they were born. Maybe.

Second, the diaper bag. Pack only the essentials. Everything else can be improvised. Daytime flights can be a bit more tricky because you have to pack more food, if they are eating solids, but if your kids don't have huge food issues like mine do, that won't be as hard as I make it out to be. So here's what I would pack for a 10 hour day of travel, if I were you:
  • 8 diapers per baby
  • 1 pack of wipes
  • Changing pad
  • 2 bottles (I like the Playtex Drop Ins for travel because you only need 2 bottles and then can pack the extra liners and extra nipples-- takes up a lot less room)
  • Formula
  • Change of clothes for each baby
  • Bows to match those change of clothes so people don't ask if they are boys (optional)
  • An extra shirt for you
  • Baby crackers
  • Baby food in squeeze containers or plastic containers (if applicable)
  • Bibs
  • Spoons (if needed)
  • Gas drops (or gripe water-- you'll have to pour it into a 3oz container for the flight though)
  • Infant Tylenol
  • A magazine for you
  • A cliff bar or 2 and some candy
  • DumDum suckers for the babies (sometimes desperation beats out "good mommyhood")
  • Your wallet
  • Cell phone
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • A flask (kidding... kinda)
  • Ziploc bags, of all sizes (more on that later)
  • A sling
Yes, all of that fits in one bag, and fits nicely if you pack it right. Be sure to have all of your liquids put together and on top of all of your other crap so you can pull it out easily to go through security.

Getting ahead of myself. Ok, so you unload the car, and go to check in. Take someone with you for this. It is almost impossible to pull all of your luggage on one of those carts while pushing a double stroller. Don't ask me how I know. When you check in, suck it up and pay the oversize baggage fees, or have a REALLY good sob story that will cause the ticket agent to wave not only the oversize fees but also the fee for an entire bag... not that I've done that... ever...

Your bags are now checked in and it is time to go through security. You are SO going to rock this and look good doing it. You're wearing slip on shoes, don't have anything in your pockets and you have the pacifier clipped to the baby's shirt because once that binkie is in that bin, you can't get it back until they "clear" you. So here's how you do security:
  1. Put the car seats upsidedown on the x-ray belt
  2. Take off your shoes and put them in a bin
  3. Take the liquids out of your bag and put them in a bin
  4. Put all of the blankets and "loose" items in another bin
  5. Put your bag in a bin
  6. Send it aaaaaaaall down the roller things into the x-ray machine.  
  7. Push the stroller near the x-ray so the TSA agent can come and get it
  8. Pick up your babies, one in each arm, and walk through the metal detector
Here's where you can get creative. You can either wait for the stroller to be done getting swabbed by the TSA agent while holding the babies or you can ask (very nicely) if they will put the carseats on the ground for you so you can put the babies in them and you can collect your things.

Now keep in mind that I don't have a stroller that holds our infant seats, so you will have to modify what you do to accommodate for your travel system. I pushed the stroller with both babies in it and carried the car seats and diaper bag. If you can, take the infant seats on your trip, if your babies still fit in them. They are so much lighter and easier to carry than a convertible car seat. If they don't fit into the infant seats and you need to take convertible seats, consider buying a PacBack to help you get through the airport.

Anyway, after you gather all of your crap and get the babies situated back in the stroller, go to your gate and get a gate check ticket for your stroller (and extra car seat if you don't have 2 seats for the babies-- try not to ever check a car seat as luggage. Chances are it will be damaged by the time you get to your destination and/ or it may be lost. If you gate check it it is less likely to be damaged or lost and if there's an extra seat on the plane, they will sometimes let you have it for the baby, so you'd be able to use the car seat). Then let the babies out to stretch and move around. Yes, on the floor of the airport. I know, disgusting, but believe me, they will touch dirtier things by the time they are 2. Yes, they will. Make sure you are by the jetway so you can preboard first and be sure to do a round of diaper changes before you get on the plane.

When they call for preboarding, either have 1 baby in a sling and 1 still in the stroller or put both babies in the stroller. After you field all of the, "OH MY GAH! Are you flying ALONE with them?!" questions, make your way down the jetway with confidence and class. You've got this! Once at the bottom, if only one baby has a seat put that baby in the car seat, the other in the sling, if not already in there, and then collapse the stroller. Typically at this point the flight attendants will either be standing at the entrance of the plane, taking bets on how long you are going to last or they will be jumping at the chance to help you because they KNOW there is no way you are going to be able to do all of this by yourself. And they are right. It simply isn't possible to get both babies plus a car seat or 2 plus a diaper bag on the plane and to your seats by yourself. You're good, but you aren't that good.

Now, when you booked your flight you had a few decisions to make besides when you were going to leave and come back. Do you bite the bullet and get a seat for each baby or do you go the cheaper route and only buy 1 ticket for 1 baby and have the other baby be a lap baby. My recommendation is to buy 2 tickets. Not only is it safer for both babies to be in car seats, but if both of them are in seats they are more likely to fall asleep and it will make it so you have an extra place to put the "extra" baby if needed. It just makes life easier, really. It is possible to do just 1 purchased seat for a baby but it will be a challenge and not the best flight you are ever going to take.

Then you have to make the "where do I sit" decision. Now, there are really 3 options: the front of the plane, no, not first class, you aren't THAT classy! I mean after row 6, the middle of the plane and the back of the plane.

Pros for the front of the plane:
  • you don't have to walk as far when you are boarding and exiting. It is hard to get those infant seats down the aisle! 
  • the bulkhead will provide extra room
Cons for the front of the plane:
  • you are really far away from the bathroom because you aren't cool enough to use the first class bathroom
  • people will gawk and make a lot of comments while you are sitting there waiting for the rest of the flight to board and get off the plane
  • if you are in the bulkhead you can't put your bag under the seat so you have to put it in the overhead bin which can really suck when you need something out of it but can't get out of your seat
Pros for the middle of the plane:
  • ?????
  • uuuuuuuuuuummmm
  • you don't have to wait as long for drinks as you would if you were in the back of the plane?
Cons for the middle of the plane:
  • you are still pretty far from the bathroom
  • still have gawkers
  • you get stuck when you get up while the flight attendants are doing the drink service and you have to get back to your seat
Pros for the back of the plane:
  • the bathroom is RIGHT THERE
  • the flight attendants are RIGHT THERE and almost always willing to hold a baby while you change the other baby's diaper
  • the galley is RIGHT THERE if you need water for a bottle
  • there aren't many people to judge you if you have to change a diaper in your seat, with the baby on your lap. Not that I've ever done that either... ever... 
Cons for the back of the plane:
  • the bathroom is RIGHT THERE and people LOOOOOOOVE to talk to you while they are waiting to pee. 
  • it takes forever to walk to your seat and chances are good your baby might have whiplash from being banged against every other seat on your way there. 
  • you will finally get your complimentary beverage approximately 2.5 minutes before the Captain asks the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing. 
Once you get to your seat, you are going to buckle the car seats in, get the crying baby out to appease her, ask the flight attendants for water for the bottles, prepare their bottles for take off and pull out your magazine and a snack so you don't have to rummage around your bag later if a baby is asleep in your arms. And then you are going to promise all of the people who are glaring at you and your crying baby that they will not in fact cry for the entire flight. And then you'll wonder why you are trying to satisfy all of these people and realize they can just bite you. Who cares if your baby is crying? BABIES CRY. Oh wait, getting off topic again...

So it is time for take off now and you're getting nervous. Once that door shuts, you're committed. Put the babies back in their seats, give them their bottles, some tylenol if needed, gas meds if necessary, give them their soothie (blanket, binkie, whatever) and then PRAY HARD that your evil plan works and they do fall asleep. If they fall asleep, you're golden for at least an hour. Pat yourself on the back! But then prepare for when they wake up. Have their snacks ready if they are eating solid foods, pull a diaper or 2, the wipes and changing pad out so they are ready to go when needed, and get their toys ready to be played with.

But wait... you didn't pack any toys for them! Why did that stupid girl on that stupid blog not put any toys on that stupid diaper bag packing list?? Oh young Jedi, because you don't need them. Everything you need to entertain your babies is already on the plane. Cups, stir sticks, packets of sugar,  plastic spoons, barf bags, those really annoying papers that say "SUBSCRIBE FOR ONLY $.75 AN ISSUE" that fall out of your magazine, your cell phone, club card for Safeway, your bracelet, a baby wipe, the wrapper from your Cliff Bar, a bottle nipple... the possibilities are endless.

And then there are the ziploc bags. Why did you bring those? Not only do those provide a nice, smell proof place to put nasty clothes but they provide for entertainment too. Ask the flight attendant for some ice and a tiny bit of water and put them in one, zip it up and give it to a baby. They will have fun squishing it around. Throw some cherrios in there and let them go nuts, just make sure they don't bite through the plastic. And if that ziploc magic doesn't work, pull out the dumdums and let them lick away. No, I'm not kidding, it really works. Mother of the Year here, people. Mother of the Year.

So the flight is going relatively well but now it's time for a diaper change. Crap. Literally. You pretty much have three options: Change the baby in your lap, which I would not do if it were a poopy diaper, ask a flight attendant to come and sit with the other baby while you go to the bathroom and change the dirty one or put the clean baby in the sling and carry the dirty one to the bathroom. I typically go with option number 3, unless the clean baby is sleeping. Then I go with option number 2 (no pun intended).

After diaper changes, it's time for feeding. Again, no problem, you've prepared well. Bibs are on to minimize the mess and you feed them in their car seats... which, sorry to say, will make a mess no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Just remember, car seat covers are washable. Be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions for care and use. And be sure to make the feeding time fun. If you have ferocious eaters like I do you will have to act fast which can be tricky but smiles and songs seem to help take the edge off of the wait while the other baby gets her bite.

Once the babies are dry and fed they will either fall back asleep or want to play and by then, it's pretty much time to land. If possible, keep them both in their car seats during landing as this is prime time for injury for a lap baby. Because you are smart, you've built in a lot of extra time into your itenerary so there is no need to rush off the plane. You will always get off last. Always. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it is the practical thing to do because a) the flight attendants will help you off the plane and b) you won't have a big ol line of angry people up your butt while you try to get the stroller set up and the babies put in it.

Now make your way to the poor soul who is going to pick you up and give yourself a HUGE pat on the back because you just rocked the whole flying with twins thing. Congrats!

Ok, I know it doesn't always happen that easily but it really doesn't have to be a huge event. Just remember to be flexible, have a good attitude and don't get upset over stupid stuff and you'll be fine. The nicer and more sane you seem, the more people will be willing to accomodate you and help you out. And if anything, you'll be making memories and that always makes it worth it, right?


Imcombobulated said...

Sounds just as painful as flying alone with two special needs kids. Not that I've ever done that. Or had any fellow passengers arrested on landing.

I love ya!

DS said...

You are truely an inspiration and have set the bar entirely too high!