Twin Travel Tips: Flight times and seating
Before Tim and I had children, we were constantly on the go, both with careers which included international travel, as well as a shared passion for exploring new places and experiencing new cultures. When I became pregnant, we knew that our old lifestyle would inevitably have to change but hoped that we would still be able to travel to some extent… then we found out we were having twins!
At first traveling with two infants seemed nearly impossible and I was initially disappointed that our general flexibility would be so limited with two babies, not to mention that me flying solo to visit my family in the US seemed out of the question, at least for the short-term future. Despite our anxiety about flying with the twins, we didn’t waste too much time in biting the bullet and jumping on a long-haul flight with the twins from Amsterdam to Miami!... and another from Amsterdam to Chicago just 3 months later! (Okay we did hesitate a bit on that one after the first experience!)
We booked these trips while I was still pregnant, so we were clueless about how much our lives would change after the twins were born. I still have to laugh about how naive we were but in the end I’m glad that my pregnant self was so overly ambitious or else we might not have had the guts to book the trip.
Flying with twins – Flight Connections, Timing and Seating
We have been lucky enough to be able to book direct flights for each of our trips with the twins – knowing we only had to make it from Airport A to Airport B always helped us to mentally prepare for our journeys with the twins. If you are planning a first flight with your twins, I would suggest a direct flight of under 3 hours to start – you can do anything for 3 hours… right?! (Or at least that’s how I pep talk myself before each flight!)
Of course it’s not always possible to fly directly to your final destination, make sure you pick a connecting flight which allows plenty of time for any unexpected delays, feedings, diaper changes, etc. (1.5-2 hours, depending if you need to go through customs) and figure out a way for your baby to nap on the go – later I’ll also talk about why baby wearing while traveling is essential! Most airports have family bathrooms with changing tables and some kind of kids corner/play-area. You can usually look it up in advance on their website – or ask around when you land.
Timing of flights
Early morning flights are definitely our preferred time when traveling with little ones if it’s a short flight. Anything 3+ hours works well overlapping with naptime… if you find a comfortable way for them to sleep. On long haul flights you will often inevitably end up with one leg being overnight. Initially we were dreading the night flight but if you keep your kids awake in the airport and find a comfortable way for them to sleep in-flight you might, like me, actually prefer it over spending the day flights! To me, the key on travel days is avoiding extreme over-tiredness and the key to that is keep them fed and help them sleep, whenever, where ever! Try to keep their usual schedule in mind no matter where you are. Leave extra time on travel days to allow for a car nap or a stroller/carrier nap if their naptime falls before your departure time or keep them awake until you get on the plane if you plan for their nap to be mid-flight.
Picking the right seats when traveling with twins
When you travel with young children you are in fact a priority customer. Most airlines want to help you and your family be as comfortable as possible. If you are unsure about the best seating options for your family, call the airline and ask them for advice – each airline has difference policies and each airplane has different seating charts. Things to keep in mind are:
1. All airlines allow children under the age of 2 to sit on an adult’s lap. Note: Only 1 child under 2 can sit on the lap of each adult and not all airlines allow 1 adult to travel with two children under the age of 2. Make sure to check the specific policy of your preferred airline to confirm their specific policies for flying with infants. (Watch for my upcoming post about: Traveling alone with twins to learn more about flying solo with two infants!)
2. Only certain seats are equipped with more than 1 oxygen mask to accommodate infants on the lap of an adult traveler. Each airplane/airline has different seating charts and policies. Not all airplanes have rows with more than one ‘infant approved’ seat next to one another – this may require you and your travel partner to sit in different rows which are not near each other. (Keep this in mind when packing your carry-on bags!)
3. If your babies are under 8 months old, you can also request the coveted baby bassinets on long-haul flights!! Do whatever you can to guarantee those babies - for your babies! Even if they don’t sleep in them it gives you extra space for all of your random baby items which you brought with you and your little one can hang in there and play when he/she is awake. And YES you can request TWO bassinets for your twins – the first row in economy class is reserved for families with babies and you freaking deserve it – what do parents of singletons actually do with their free hands? (Side note: our babies were actually a tad on the higher side of the height restrictions for the bassinets so make sure to look this up on the airline website to see if your little one really will fit comfortably or not. If your baby can already sit up or crawl I would be cautious with the bassinet – it’s very useful but they can easily tumble out if they are more mobile.)
4. If the first row of economy isn’t available consider to sit near the back of the plane so you can stand up easily. Or consider upgrading to premium economy but keep in mind that the vibe might not be very baby friendly when sitting near frequent flyers (often business travelers).
5. Considering purchasing a third (or even 4th) seat even if your twins are under age 2 and invest in airplane approved car seats for traveling. Watch for my upcoming post about traveling with car seats on planes and why we never flew again without a carseat on board after this experience!
Economy vs Upgraded Seats and purchasing seats for your baby/toddler
On our flight to Chicago we splurged and purchased a third seat and upgraded our tickets to be able to sit in an Economy Plus row with extra legroom. At the time this seemed like an ideal solution because of all the extra space we would get with this set up and for weeks I read about the pros and cons of bringing a car seat on board. At the time it seemed like such a bulky item to bring and more of a hassle than necessary so we instead brought one of our Sleepyhead baby nests and inflatable cushions in hopes that one baby would lay there and sleep… Looking back, I think a younger, less mobile baby would have done exactly that but our two 10-month-olds who could crawl and stand were not interested in sitting at all let alone taking a nap in the beautiful make-shift bed I had created for them.
1 hour into the 9-hour flight we gave each other a look of panic wondering how the heck we would survive and immediately regretting not bringing a car seat. If you are going to purchase the extra seat, bring an airplane approved car-seat – you won’t regret being able to secure your restless baby in the seat and have a much higher chance of them sleeping during the flight! Since our flight to Chicago we have never looked back and chose to bring 1 or 2 car seats on board and have had very smooth flights all around. (Watch for my post on flying with toddlers for a list of approved seats and our other experiences purchasing additional seats for the twins).
We spent majority of the flight standing, walking and wearing both babies instead of enjoying all that extra comfort we paid for. One of the biggest disappointments of upgrading our seats was the treatment we received from the other passengers in the Economy Plus area – there was a sense of entitlement and annoyance all around us and it was unpleasant to say the least. Even though the concept seemed more comfortable for our family, I now always book either the first row of economy or near the back of the plane as the flight attendants often try to shift other passengers to allow families to have any empty seats next to them should the flight not be full. Be kind to the crew and ask them for help – they are generally very willing to make the flight as comfortable as possible for you and your family! My best advice for any trip with small kids is - try to relax and maybe even have a bit of fun amidst the chaos - the memories are always worth it!
**What are your favorite set ups for flying with two under two??**