10 Tips for Flying with Toddlers

02 December 2012

The twins and I just had a very wonderful thanksgiving vacation with my family in CT. We're back home now and I've added "flying alone with toddler twins" to my list of twin parenting laurels. I confess that I was dreading the experience and was prepared for the worst. It actually went a lot better than I expected (I need to trust my girls more!).

Interestingly, it was a year ago that I wrote my post on flying with infant twins. Well, I can tell you that flying with toddler twins is a different ball game. Here are the lessons I learnt
  1. Choose gear that will allow you to navigate the airport "hands-free". This will depend on the age of the kids and if they need a double stroller, leash, car seats etc.  My girls had just turned 2 the day before we flew so they both had their own seats on the plane and needed carseats for the flight. My solution was to hook our two cosco scenera carseats to a double umbrella stroller, leaving my hands free. I chose to travel with the cosco scenera seats because they are lightweight and have a slim profile compared to the Britax Marathons we use on a daily basis. Tip: If using a car seat, ensure its FAA/CAA approved, will fit into the plane seats and that you know how to do a seat belt install. I didn't but luckily the stewardess did.
  2. Flight booking: When booking the flight, check the seat configuration of the plane to determine what seats will work best for your situation. Our plane has 2 seats on each side of the aisle so I went with keeping all 3 of us on the same row so that the girls could always see me. With older twins, it's worth considering seating them behind each other so instead of having 2 kids kicking the seats of random strangers, you have just 1. Tip: Airlines have a safety policy to ensure that car seats are not positioned between any passenger and the aisle. That means that on a full flight, all kids in car seats have to be seated by the window. First time I flew with the girls, the cabin crew did not enforce this rule, but they have on every other flight since then.
  3. Speaking of kicking, to make the impact less on the helpless passengers seated in front of the girls, I took off their shoes once we boarded.
  4. Speaking of clothing, dress kids in layers and their favorite clothes if possible - just another thing to keep them cheerful. Sugar and Spice currently have a thing for pockets so I dressed them up in sweat-shirts with 2 pockets. They were happy to be able to keep their hands in their pockets
  5. Airline rules on travelling with children - every airline has them. Check on the website before travelling to save yourself the heartache of being kicked off the flight. Some interesting Air Canada rules I discovered were (1) car seats are not allowed in first class (2) There is a size limit on the strollers that can be gate-checked. Most full-size double strollers cannot meet the criteria set out; only umbrella strollers can (3) For infants under 2, the child to adult ratio must be 1:1. That means even if you buy seats for twins but are travelling alone with them, you can be bounced off the flight. This rule almost tripped me up
  6. Pack a diaper bag with the sole intention of keeping the kids happy for the duration of the flight. This is a separate post for tomorrow
  7. Pack as light as possible. If the destination is within North America; plan on buying things like diapers and food at the destination. I was able to travel with just one suitcase for the 3 of us by doing this
  8. Rent your vehicle from the rental company closest to the terminal. This could save you from trying to navigate the shuttle bus with babies, suitcases and carseats. This information is usually available on the airport's webpage
  9. Don't be ashamed to milk the "twin mystique" cow. Dress them alike and cutely (may not work for BG twins. LOL!). Then hopefully random strangers can be bowled over by your cute twins and help you with your luggage (or they can glare at you for what they anticipate will be a horrible flight with 2 screaming children).
  10. Be prepared for anything. Expect the worst and hope for the best. I had security put me on the fast lane on one leg of the trip and give me a full body search on the other end. I had strangers ignore me as I struggled to move with the twins, stroller and suitcase; and I had a random stranger help carry my suitcase from the rental car station all the way to the check in desk.
Twins Rock! That was the best lesson of this trip. 

The service manager on our flight back to Calgary was a twin. As we prepared to board the plane and she observed me struggling with the carseats and double stroller, she stretched out her hands to Spice and became our angel. She spent over 10 minutes playing with Spice to keep her calm mid-flight, she got the crew to help carry our double stroller up the stairs because there were no elevators nearby, she helped carry our luggage all the way to immigration. Not because it was part of her job, but because she's a twin and I guess twinses are one big happy family. She was like a big sister-angel and her actions warmed my heart and made travelling alone with twins a sweet, poignant experience for me. I hope and pray that my girls will always find the favor of an angel to help them through situations that can otherwise be challenging.

Other Travel Essentials Worth Having

  1. CARES Child Airplane Travel Harness to turn the airplane seatbelts into 5-point harness for kids
  2. Gate Check Bag for Car Seats
  3. Stroller Travel Bag for gate-checked strollers

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