How We Fly Across The World with Twin Toddlers

En route to Israel

During the past 30 days, our 18-month-old twins have spent 55 hours in flight, spanning 3 big trips; 28 hours from Saigon to Boston, 11 hours from Boston to Tel Aviv, and 15 hours from Tel Aviv to Saigon. In seven weeks, we will do it all over again. Are we crazy?  Maybe. But, candidly, this seemingly crazy travel was far smoother than we could have ever expected.

On our first 28-hour flight, we planned to fly with our nanny, so I had hoped that the ratio of 3 adults to 2 babies would work in our favor. Nonetheless, I was still intimidated by the prospect of spending 28 hours with my rambunctious girls on the plane.  Then hours before the flight, our nanny fell victim to an unrelenting stomach bug and my husband was suffering from complications provoked by an earlier jelly fish attack. Despite the unforeseen challenges, the kids slept for almost the entire duration of the flight and the crew was very helpful.

What follows is a breakdown of how we prepared, as well as a few tips and tricks.

Logistics:

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We purchased one extra seat for the twins and reserved one bassinet. The girls are a little big for the bassinet, but it works out really well when they fall asleep (we can’t put them in until they are sleeping).  We always try to book the bulkhead, two aisle seats, and two children’s meals, and almost always gate check our stroller so that we can use it until we step onto the plane. We also always book night flights and try to ensure the kids sleep well the night before and take a good nap the day of.  We want them to be tired when we get on the plane but not cranky.

Tips:

The key is finding the just right balance where you have everything you need without feeling weighed down. Words we live by: Less is more.  Here’s what we typically bring on our flights and how we prepare:

  • We feed the kids a good dinner before the flight, but pack plenty of (non-messy) snacks for the plane, including:
    • Peanut butter sandwiches (for the parents, too!)
    • Pouches
    • Crackers
    • Sliced cucumber
    • Whole avocados
    • Granola bars
    • Cookies
    • Goldfish
    • Rolls
  • For clothes, we put them in onesies with socks and shoes, not the footie PJ’s. We want them to walk around before the flight (get all of their energy out – in fact, the gate is a great place to fun around because there’s not too much trouble they can get in) and don’t want the bottom of their onesies to get too dirty. We also bring their sleep sacks and put them on about 1 hour into the flight. In addition, we bring only 2 changes of clothes (for each baby).  One in case they get their PJ’s dirty, and an outfit to change them into shortly before landing so we can attempt to make them look clean and refreshed (ha).File May 01, 12 12 10 PM
  • We pack about 8 diapers for the two kids and 2 packs of wipes.
  • We pack each child a small toy bag – each has the same toys because god forbid one kid had a toy that the other doesn’t.
  • We pack two blankets and two swaddles that we can use on the seats/floor/wherever
  • We always bring our handy Monkey Mat
  • 2 carriers, Ergo (all position 360) and Becco (Gemini)
  • Lots of books (though airplane magazines work great)File May 01, 12 12 47 PM

When you get on the plane:

  • Always pre-board
  • We usually bring our double stroller the gate and wear the babies in a carrier onto the plane.
  • Once you get on board, have someone hold your baby and get organized. You want to have the essentials under your feet and the rest in the overhead compartment. I plan this out before when I’m packing the carryons. I put the essentials in the diaper bag and then have a second bag with back up supplies that I put in the overhead compartment.File May 01, 12 12 23 PM
  • I always put a blanket on the seat where my kids will be, just to help keep some of the germs away.
  • Wipe down the area around your seat, the belt, the buttons, the arm rest and the tray table.
  • Don’t be too worried about the people around you – it’s quite loud on the plane and even if your child cries the whole time, you’ll never see them again!
  • Have milk, water or snacks handy for takeoff and landing, as this will help with the pressure on their little ears.
  • Bring 2 or 3 plastic shopping bags for trash and/or to put dirty clothes in.
  • Buy bottled water before boarding but also bring a water bottle and have the flight attendants fill it up – staying hydrated is important.
  • Utilize tissues (for ripping and playing), cups and airplane magazines.

Most importantly, try and relax and don’t let your anxiety get the best of you.  The most exciting adventures happen when you step out of your comfort zone and explore the world around you.

One Week in Laos with Infant Twins

We had a wonderful week in Laos with our 13 month old twins!  We traveled from Ho Chi Minh to Luang Prabang (via Bangkok).  We were originally supposed to travel to Laos the following week, but with all of the flooding in Central Vietnam, we switched it last minute (like the day before).

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Twin B is not wearing pants because she had a little accident. Note to self: bring extra pants!

The flights with the babies were very easy, as each leg was only around 1 hour.  However, we had a 2 hour layover so the entire travel felt a bit long, but manageable.  Upon landing in Luang Prabang, we could see the gorgeous mountains and greenery.  We booked our guest house literally as we landed at the airport (we saw some great reviews on Travelfish), and chose to stay at Villa Saynam, a stone throw away from the main street with the night market.  At the airport, we got our visas on arrival ($30/person) and packed into a van taxi.

Our guest house was nice – clean, basic, with a wonderful staff. We chose a room on the second floor, as we heard they were nicer.  The only problem was that they didn’t have any baby cribs; we brought one Baby Bjourn travel crib but figured wherever we stayed would have at least one… we were wrong!  We got creative and ended up putting a mattress on the floor, next to the bed and moving the bed over so that the floor mattress was protected on three sides. Then, we put the second crib in front of the mattress so essentially we made a crib (or a baby jail).

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Our makeshift crib. I think one twin was jealous that the other got all the space!

The staff at our guest house was amazing with our kids — in fact, everyone was amazing with our kids!  Each morning they had omelets and fruit waiting for the girls and would take them out of our arms and play with them while we ate.

Some highlights included:

FULL DAY HIKE / KUANG SI WATERFALLS

Yes, we took the twins on a FULL DAY hike! We wore them in their carriers and they actually got a 2 hour nap on us.  We had to drive one hour in the back of a tuk tuk on a very bumpy road. The girls enjoyed the ride so much that they fell fast asleep.  In addition to trekking to the waterfall (which at times I was in tears because I was so scared that I was going to fall), we loved having lunch at a remote butterfly garden.

We got to jump into the falls – not with the kids of course.

WALKING THROUGH THE NIGHT MARKET

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Twins eating at Utopia Cafe – a must visit.

EATING EATING EATING… AND MORE EATING

Favorite restaurants included: Secret Pizza (10 minutes outside town, only open Tuesday and Friday – AMAZING), Dyen Sabai Restaurant (across from Bamboo bridge – amazing Lao food, our favorite!), Coconut Garden, and Blue Lagoon (fine dining – everyone’s favorite).

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Twins A & B enjoying a front row seat on the bike

BIKING AROUND TOWN & OUTSKIRTS

The thing to do in Luang Prabang is to rent bicycles and explore.  We got two bikes with baby seats and put the kiddos in the seats. The only set back was that there were no helmets (and this made me very nervous).  After a few hours, we decided to put on our carriers and wore them in front of us. It felt safer and the girls liked it more because they had a front row seat!  Seeing the town via bicycle is super fun and a great way to see everything.

BOTANICAL GARDENS

We spent half a day at the beautiful Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens. To get there, we took a 15 minute boat ride from town, across the river. The kids loved it!  We had the stroller (not recommended) and we had to carry it down about 200 steps to the river, then 200 steps up to the gardens.  The gardens themselves were very interested and we really enjoyed walking around.  Our highlight was probably sitting at the cafe and experiencing a tea tasting, as well as their delicious food.  The kids liked their smoothies. Admission is $25/person.

CROSSING THE BAMBOO BRIDGE

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    VISITING VILLAGES

     

    we did this on our own by paying someone on a boat to take us across, then we walked around.

    MONKS & TEMPLES

    So. Many. Temples (well, not as many as in Bagan, Myanmar).

We loved travelling to Luang Prabang with our kids!  We can’t wait to go back. Now, back to Vietnam…

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Flying on JAL with infants

Here’s our honest review of flying on Japan Airlines (JAL) with infants

Reservations:

  • They were extremely helpful. Besides having to wait on hold for upwards of 10-15 minutes, they fulfilled all of our requests (bulk head, bassinets, kids meals).
  • They charge 10% of the fair for each lap infant. Includes a checked bag and a kids meal.

Pre-Flight:

  • They were very nice at check in.
  • We checked our stroller at the gate about 30 minutes prior to boarding. They provided a plastic bag for it.

Flight Pro’s:

  • Airline is very clean and modern. We flew on the Dreamliner. Seats seemed spacious for coach.
  • Flight attendants were very pleasant. They set up the bassinets shortly after takeoff. Provided pillows and blankets.
  • They come around with a kids toy from the airline –  nice touch!

Flight Cons:

  • Kids meals were a bit unusual. Came with a banana and muffin at the beginning of the flight. The meal was some sort of chicken salad (I think). Didn’t seem too appetizing.
  • You must change your infant in the lavatory. We learned the hard way! The changing table goes over the toilet and is actually clean and okay. (Ok this isn’t really a con, but so much easier to change your baby on your lap!).
  • Flight attendants were VERY awkward with the babies making noise during “quiet” time. They turn the lights off about 2 hours after takeoff (even though it was only 3pm Boston time). It’s hard to get a young kid to go to sleep at that time. Every time my kids made a peep, they stood over us. What are we supposed to do?!? They also asked, numerous times, that we get up and go to the lavatory area, as to not disturb other passengers.  I should add that the flight attendants on the Tokyo-HCM flight were much better with the babies.
  • It’s hard to eat with a baby on your lap. Flight attendants weren’t good about bringing us food after service. Also didn’t clear quick enough – this is very challenging with a lap infant.
  • Food at the Narita airport was scarce. I was excited for Japanese food but unfortunately, didn’t get any!

All things considered, the Boston to Tokyo flight is fantastic. Non stop on a beautiful, clean airline. I wish the flight attendance were a bit more kid friendly and attentive, but overall, it was a positive experience. We will definitely fly with them again.

Taking your twins on an airplane

Whether you have an upcoming trip or you’re thinking about (or dreading) booking a trip, here is what you should know about flying with twins (and some tips and tricks).

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What you need to know:

  • You can only have 1 lap infant per passenger (a lap infant is from 0-2 years old).
  • You can’t have 2 lap infants in the same row unless there are three seats and only 2 passengers; there needs to be an oxygen mask for each passenger/lap infant. If you are in a row with three seats there are 4 oxygen masks. This means that you can’t sit next to your companion if there are 3 actual passengers in the row. Some airlines make you skip a row, so you’ll likely be sitting by yourself with only one of your babies.  If you want to sit with your companion and both babies, consider booking an extra seat
  • Checking a car seat and stroller are free – we purchased car seat bags on Amazon ($14) and check our stroller and car seats at check in, so we don’t have to drag them through the airport, but you can also check gate side if that’s easier for you. Make sure to put your car seat in a car seat bag to protect it from germs, etc.
  • A diaper bag does not count as a carry on
  • You can bring breast milk and a pump on the plane. Put the breast milk in containers less than 3.5 ounces so they don’t need to be scanned. If you put it in a bigger container, they just need to be scanned.
  • You carry your baby through the metal detector. They will scan your hands after you walk through.

Tips:

  • I prefer to check the stroller and car seats at Check-in and wear the babies in a wrap/carrier.  This way, you don’t need to take them out of the car seats at security
  • Pack two diaper bags in case you can’t sit next to your companion – this way you will each have diapers, wipes, change of clothes, etc.
  • Pay for a porter when you get to the airport – don’t waste energy or get stressed by having to carry all of your checked bags to check in.  Have $5-$10 ready and have someone help you!
  • Pack extra “stuff” in the stroller or car seat bags. I stuff them with stuff, such as shoes (mine), diapers, breast feeding pillow, etc.  They don’t weigh them or look through them.
  • Nurse the baby(babies) during take off and landing. Have a bottle or pacifier for the other baby if you can only nurse them one at a time (tandem feeding is very hard on a plane, but if you can do it, good for you!).
  • Wipe down the whole area right when you get on the plane – including the tray table, arm rests and seat belt buckles.
  • Pack an extra change of clothes and diapers for the plane!
  • I get grossed out changing the babies in the bathroom (which is what you are supposed to do). I usually change them on my lap, but you may get dirty looks from people.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP – whether it’s at the gate or on the plane. People will be happy to help.
  • If there’s a long line at security, tell them you have twins and sometimes they will expedite you through.
  • Pre-board with family boarding – trust me, you will need extra time!