Planning a long flight with toddler or infant twins? If you’re like me you’re more than a little terrified at being in a limited space with other people and your tiny humans. Yeah, I’m still a little terrified each time but these tips are how we’ve survived going all over the globe with our babies and toddlers and kept most of our sanity.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links on this page but each product is something that we use a majority of the time we fly and that we purchased without influence.
When your packing for a long flight it’s easy to want to pack your entire house just in case it’s the one thing that keeps them happy. Often with international layovers you will need to go through additional security and walk longer distances than domestically. That weight can add up especially if you end up carrying one or more kids. Be very careful with what and how you pack your carry ons.
We organize our carry on’s by using Packing Cubes or ziplock bags. We have one with the essentials that we need on take-off: CARES, a few snacks, distracting toys, headphones, a diaper, and kindles if they fit. This allows us to easily pull that bag out and have everything we need for take off if we don’t have enough time to get organized. We use a small packing cube for any liquids so that they can be easily pulled out in security. One with the majority of our food, bibs, and toddler utensils. This makes meals easier and prevents meltdowns while your searching for a fork. We generally fly with a few OTC infant medicines just in case and those go into the take off bag or liquids bag.
Keep your carry on organized. Before landing, spend the extra time to put away everything where you can find it again for the next flight. When I’m exhausted and the kids are cranky I just want to shove it all in at the last second and then my next flight is even worse because everything goes missing. We often fly with a Packable Travel Backpack clipped to our backpack. We usually acquire a few extra things and it’s impossible to get it all back in. This is really useful for layovers where you need to go through security again. We put all of our electronics and our liquids cube into the backpack at the end of the flight so that we can just dump it into bins quickly.
The biggest question you’re probably asking yourself is “How am I going to keep them happy for this long?!?” Multipurpose toys like stroller toys work the best for babies and young toddlers. We’ve had success with crinkle books and stacking toys. Another favorite for our two and three-year-olds are a stack of post it notes. They pull them apart and surprisingly make less mess than I expect. If you have older toddlers, you can bring some crayons and let them color on each before tearing it off. We buy basic sets of duplo legos to bring on flights. I expect to lose a few but so far we’ve been able to keep up with all of them since they’re bigger than standard legos. Bristle blocks are an even bigger alternative but can take up more room than their worth for bigger kids.
Of course, the holy grail of our toys are the Kindle Fire (consider the twin pack if you need two or more). If we have a shorter flight first, we try to hold off as long as possible and entertain them with other toys first. Be sure to double check that the content is downloaded and you have charging cords. Our favorite headphones are the CozyPhones, which also work with in-flight entertainment systems. We organize these toys by putting them into their Skip Hop Backpack. These also come with leashes which are great for the airport but also removable if that’s not for you. They’re the perfect size for younger toddlers and Skip Hop makes a bigger backpack once these are outgrown.
Meal service on the plane is incredibly hard with infant and toddler twins, especially if you have lap babies. You’ll likely have to keep multiple meals balanced on the adults tray tables with the babies or toddlers doing their best to knock them over. We immediately consolidate the kids tray onto one. It ends up pretty stacked but handling two trays is infinitely easier than 3 trays. We put the empty tray on the floor under a child with anything we won’t eat or want to save for later. It minimizes what they can knock over and what you need to manage. Due to timezone differences, the meals on the plane may not match up with when your kids are hungry. This often poses a challenge for us so we bring a wide variety of snacks and just keep them munching. We always attempt to feed them the airline meal if it doesn’t interrupt sleep.
Bring snacks for the adults. Due to all the juggling if you are out numbered, its hard to eat your own meal. If you or your kids have any dietary restrictions be sure to select your meal well before the day of your flight. They will only load the amount of meals requested. We’ve had very good luck and safe meals for our son with Celiac Disease.
Seat Choice and Lap Baby/Bassinet seats
Seat choice is much harder on international flights than US flights. Twenty-four hours before the flight you are relatively locked into what you’ve chosen and you hope you picked correctly. I can tolerate anything for 2-3 hours but not so much for 10-12 hours. There are many more plane configurations internationally than in the US. I can’t possibly cover them all but I can cover a few key points to think about while making your selection.
Across the aisle or back to back?
This question really depends on your children’s ages and plane configuration. If you have car seats keep in mind that they must not impede another adult exiting the plane including you. When you are back to back it is much easier to pass things back and forth but harder to talk. If you have a plane with only 2 seats by the window it is sometimes easier to sit across the aisle since you can easily talk and switch places with a baby on either side. In our case this means two on my side in the middle and one in the window next to my husband. When we flew with an extra adult, we chose to do three sets of seats back to back so that no one was outnumbered in the center sets of three. Think about what scenarios you are likely to encounter and what configuration works best for you.
Bassinet seats or in your lap?
Many international flights have bassinet seats. Some airlines even have glorious double bassinets (two bassinets on the same part of the bulkhead letting parents sit next to each other). If you plan on flying with a lap infant, you may want to consider these seats. The biggest consideration when deciding if you want to sit in these seats is the size of that airlines bassinets. British Airways have amazing jumper like seats that hold children up to around 27 pounds but most only accommodate babies to the size of an average 9 month old. If you have the option to purchase a seat and bring a car seat it’s generally a better option than the bassinet. A bassinet can’t be used during taxi, takeoff, landing, or turbulence where a car seat can be used during the entirety of the flight.
The bassinets are great but plan ahead to not have underseat storage since it’s a bulkhead seat. We use packing cubes or ziplocks to put the essentials under our seats and hope the person behind us doesn’t notice. They’re still way nicer than holding the baby the entire flight especially on British Airways who has the bigger baby jumper bassinets (check your airlines weight limits before choosing those seats, it’s different on each one).
If your child is too big for a bassinet but you don’t want to bring a car seat, the CARES Harness is a great option. While it might not be comfortable for the entire flight, they are easy to put on and take very small. These are also fantastic to fly with if you think there might be extra seats for your lap baby. As long as your baby meets the requirements, you often will be allowed to use it if there’s an empty seat next to you. One of the few perks of flying with twins: if there are plenty of extra seats, the person next to you will often move so there’s a good chance. Choose seats towards the back to increase the odds.
Planning Sleep and Jet Lag
This isn’t typically your first question about the actual flight with little ones but I find addressing jet lag before reaching our destination to help. The lack of sleep occasionally surprises new flyers if they’re flying during typical baby sleep times.
One of the hardest things for us is planning bedtimes. Pack a day or two early and get a good night’s rest before the flight. Don’t plan on getting any sleep yourself the whole time and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you do. What’s has worked well for us is to alternate between longer naps and shorter awake periods without actually going to sleep for the night. For the cycles, we’ve been doing half the flight awake and half the night asleep. With pediatrician approval we bring benedryl for the kids. We attempt to plan around meal times and have them fall asleep in the middle of the long flights but timing doesn’t always work out. Just be aware that handing out meals could wake them up. Don’t underestimate your kids ability to stay awake. While flying west in summer my kids stayed awake all but 45 minutes of our 30 hour journey. The sun was up for the entirety of our flights and they refused to sleep.
Look up the kids areas in advance. Many international airports have these zones and most US airports are starting to add them. Knowing where they are in advance saves valuable time that your kids could be burning off energy. While looking up the play area’s also look for food nearby that you think your children might eat. If your nursing or pumping, most airports offer a comfortable private space for you. Be prepared for how you could get your children through the layover without a stroller. A lot of airlines and airports, have started checking them all the way through to your destination. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than no plan if you do.
Lastly, just breathe. You CAN do this. Continually remind yourself that you’re a super hero for flying so far with twin infants or toddlers. Remind yourself that the plane lands regardless of how the flight goes and that you WILL get there. I take it hour by hour and tell myself I just have to get through this short period. Then I watch the duration clock and have a little celebration each time we drop down another hour. It sounds dumb but it helps me mentally keep it together when it gets tough.
Be sure to check out our flying with twins guide here for even more tips.
PS. Thanks JoJo for tagging along for the trip many of these photos were taken on. After a particularly bad set of flights home, I documented most of our trip back to catalog what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t think she’d even agree to fly home with us after how badly the first flight went. The pictures where my children appear older are from more recent transatlantic trips home.