Almost exactly one year ago, Chris and I set off on our first post-baby flight with Brooke and Bailey in tow (remember?). It was…miserable. Just re-reading the story brought back so many emotions of the stress, anxiety, and turmoil of the day.

So I’m so, so, so glad that our most recent travel experience was such a pleasant one!

I haven’t mentioned here, but my little sister is preggers!!! I wanted to fly back to Austin for her baby shower(s), but was so scared to go alone since I knew Chris would not be able to go with me and I’d be wrangling two 16-month olds. I cannot say THANK YOU enough to our incredibly supportive family, because not 1, not 2, but THREE adults totally rearranged their schedules (and spent the $$ on flights) to come help me with the girls. First, Chris’ Mom and Nana came out to Tucson for a short trip. They flew in on Sunday and we all left together (Chris’ Mom, Nana, me, Brooke, and Bailey) on Tuesday to head back to Austin. Then after I spent 9 days in town, my mom flew back with us (me, my Mom, Brooke and Bailey) and stayed from Friday through Sunday for a brief visit before she flew back alone. Talk about a huge undertaking!

So how is it traveling with two 16-month olds???

Much, much easier than traveling with two 4-month olds!!!

This time around, we flew in/out of Tucson (instead of driving up to Phoenix). This meant we did NOT have a direct flight, but we also had the luxury of flying through a small airport, so there was much less hustle and bustle than in Phoenix. We didn’t have to deal with parking far away and taking a tram, didn’t have to fight long lines and big crowds, etc etc etc.

Additionally, I think the girls have been on a much better schedule. Our last time flying they absolutely refused to eat the entire time (like, 9+ hours of traveling). This time they ate like champs – bites from our sandwiches in the airport, bottles of milk on the plane, snacks like goldfish and crackers – no problems there! I also learned a fantastic tip that any other traveling parent could benefit from! On our first flight the girls needed to have a bottle (side note: I know they’re getting pretty old to still eat from bottles, but since they were preemies our pediatrician isn’t too concerned. We’re going to work on weaning them soon, but there’s a time & a place, and a long flight is NOT the place!!). I asked the flight attendant if there was any way to heat up bottles and she said, “no.” So then I asked if she could give me a couple of cups of hot water to put the bottles in. She came back with the tiniest cups known to man. The cold bottles ended up cooling the water instead of having the water heat the milk. Fail! So I tried to give them cold milk and they were NOT happy campers. I will note, this was the ONLY time they fussed on the entire trip! Another flight attendant (not from our section), quickly came to our rescue! The sweet woman brought us little cups with lids that she had put pretzels in. She was giving them to us as rattles for playing because she thought it would entertain the babies (side note:  It did! Great idea!) But, I explained that the real problem was that they were hungry and did NOT like cold milk. I asked if she could bring more hot water and she said she had a better idea. I was very confused when she asked me to give her my barf bag (from the seat back pocket). She scurried off and came back with the giant bag full of hot water!!! GENIUS! Both bottles fit in without problem and the water was so hot that the bottles warmed up within seconds!! Because the barf bags are lined (to avoid leaks!), they were the PERFECT receptacle for hot water!! And they were large enough for the water to actually warm the bottles and to do it FAST! Pass this little gem along to parent friends – it was a life saver!!!

Other reasons why this trip was easier –

  • We knew what to expect. I remembered the absolute cluster that was “airport security.” We knew we would need to get babies out of the stroller, put all our things (including stroller & car seats) on the scanner, and walk through the metal-detector thing holding babies. Because of this knowledge, we were able to hurriedly “prepare” before getting to the front of the line so things went smoothly.

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  • The girls can walk! At four months they couldn’t even sit upright on their own, so we literally had to hold them 100% of the time at the airport. This time we could let them walk around. Letting them explore made it fun for them (and bonus – got a lot of their energy out before the flight!)

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  • We had more adults than kids! Although on the way home it was only 2 adults, on the way to Austin we had 3 adults. I swear, having more adults than children made things SO much easier! We could split up tasks (think: one adult per child plus one adult buying food; OR one adult per child plus one adult guarding luggage, etc.). We were able to rotate between watching babies, taking bathroom brakes, eating food, reading/sleeping, etc. Plus, if a baby got bored and became fussy she could just be passed to the “free” adult and things are just somehow magically better!

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  • We didn’t have full flights. Since these are still “lap babies” we have the advantage of cheaper airfare (free for babies), but the disadvantage that we can not sit together on full flights. There are 4 oxygen masks per row and if there are 3 adults + 2 babies (= 5 people), we have to split up! On our first flight we had to split up (Monica & I across the aisle from each other, each with a baby; Betty a few rows behind), but on the second flight we got 2 full rows practically to ourselves! The babies LOVED all the space and we were able to have ample room for “pass the baby” games! Also – we discovered that the girls were highly entertained by looking out the window!

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  • We had a short layover. On the way to Austin our layover was only 30 minutes. I was worried about this, but it ended up being PERFECT! We got off one flight and literally walked right over to board our next flight. On the return trip we had a 2 hour layover, which I thought I would prefer since we’d have time to grab some food, let the girls run around, and use the restroom. But it definitely made the day drag on for what felt like an extra 5 hours. Shorter layover = better! At least for us!

If I were offering any additional tips I would say

(1) Check as much luggage as possible! You have a LOT of crap when traveling with babies (we had 2 carseats, a huge double stroller, giant diaper bag, laptop bag, etc.) We flew Southwest where bags are free so I checked my bags and it was so nice not having to worry about them while we were busy juggling everything else.

(2) Ditch the purses and use a backpack. We split up baby items since we knew there was a good chance we would have to sit apart. We packed all the necessary baby items in BOTH a backpack and in the diaper bag (e.g., bib, pacifiers, spare clothes, diapers, wipes, book, toys, sippy cup, bottle of milk). That way if we were split up both baby-holding adults would have everything they needed. In addition to baby stuff, I used the diaper bag for my own personal items:  water bottle (purchased after passing through security), magazine, wallet, and phone. You don’t need a lot (for yourself) when traveling with kids because they will occupy all your time. For example, don’t bother bringing an iPad to watch tv. Nevermind the ipod to listen to music or podcasts. Don’t bother with the e-book. It will never happen. Don’t waste your time and energy preparing all that stuff you’ll never use.  Stash the stuff in a backpack because then its one less thing to carry (as you’ll likely be carrying a baby a great deal of the time). As a side note, I DID bring a purse on the trip, but I put it in the checked bag (emptied out). I had all the essentials I would need in the diaper bag.

(3) Mentally prepare yourself. I swear, this is the biggest one! Our first time flying (a year ago), we had NO idea what to expect. Getting through security is 50% of the battle. Everyone is in a rush, stressed out, and mad to be stuck behind the family traveling with two babies. But since I knew what would be happening this time around, it was so much easier. I warned people behind us to go to other lines (if they were in a hurry), and I knew to plan enough time to be stuck in security for awhile (since they also have to specially-check baby sippy cups and bottles for bomb residue…its a whole other process that can take from 2 minutes to 10+ minutes depending on the speediness of the airport security workers).

(4) Don’t worry about others. This is easier said than done, I know. But when we flew last time when I was only 4 months post-partum, my hormones still had yet to fully stabilize. Maybe it was because I was breastfeeding, or just normal new-mom stuff – I have no idea. But I do know that I really, really worried about what others were thinking about us. When the babies had a meltdown in the airport I was freaking out inside. The stress was high. It led to some near-tears at several points throughout the trip. This time around we (luckily) didn’t have any baby meltdowns, but even if there were…..who cares? Seriously – just about everyone who has been a parent has been in the situation before. Obviously its not ideal, but oh well. You’ll live. The guy next to you will live. Do what you can, but if your baby won’t stop crying despite your best efforts, you cant beat yourself up. You’re still a good mom. Still a good person. And you’ll live to see another day (and so will the person giving you the stink eye). In the big scheme of things – who cares?!

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All-in-all I was so proud of our girls! Our return trip to Tucson was a little bit harder than the way to Austin (because of the longer layover and the fact that we did not have more adults than babies). But, you know what? It was still good! Much, much better than last year! If Chris weren’t so deathly afraid of flying, I swear it’d be the only way we’d travel. But, unfortunately, we’ll be back in the car soon. We’re going back to visit again (as a full family, including Dad!) for Christmas. So we’ll be making the 14 hour car trip. Again. Lord help us all!

 

 

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