Since I heavily leaned on the expertise of a few fellow Moms of Multiples who were seasoned (international) travelers, I thought I'd share my own experience - in case any of you think about taking your babies on a trip. (If so - think again! Just kidding! Well, not really ... but I know sometimes it just can't be avoided).
- Check-in: Chances are, your airline will not allow you to sit next to your spouse if you each have a child on your lap. Most airplanes are only equipped with one extra oxygen mask per row, which means only one lap child is allowed. The ideal place to sit is in bulk head across the aisle from one another. Otherwise, ask to be seated right behind one another. One time we were both in bulk head but on the opposite window seats and that was NOT ideal! As much fun as window seats are, you'll want to forgo those for the forseeable future since you will be getting up. A LOT. Don't forget to tell them that you will be gate-checking your stroller. (You'll need an extra tag for it). Also: Call your airline ahead of time and ask if your free infants get any baggage allowance. It wasn't until my 2nd phone call with American Airlines that I found out that each of the girls got to check a 40lbs suitcase for free!
- Security: Ask if there's a security check-point that is more family-friendly than others. Often they'll let you cut to the front of the line of they see you're traveling with babies. Wear your babies in an Ergo-/Baby Bjorn-type carrier through security, especially if your baby can't stand on her own yet. You'll have a heck of a time folding the stroller or buckeling your belt if you each have a baby in your arms. Airport security is really good about letting you carry on ample amount of baby formula/breastmilk/baby food. I brought a little mini cooler with a bottle of premixed formula, some breastmilk, several jars of baby food and baby yogurt. I simply opened it up before sending it through the X-ray machine. They ran some test on it on the other end (without opening anything) and it was no problem at all.
- If you have extra time to kill at the airport, find out if they have a family center, children's exhibit or playground. The toddler-friendly play area in Chicago was our lifesaver, and I would have never known to ask for it. Some airports now also have rooms for nursing mothers.
- Be sure you arrive early at your gate and check in with the gate agents. Airlines don't always announce pre-boarding for families, but they will always allow it. If you are on an international flight, ask if they have bassinets on the plane that you can use. Most planes only have one these days, and you want to make sure you get it since you'll have two (or more) babies and one might always be sleeping. Again, wear your babies down the gate and onto the plane, otherwise you'll have a hard time managing all your carry-ons. We each had a back-pack, by the way, and I had the big diaper bag and Bjorn had a small rolling suitcase. So in a pinch, we could have carried all of our carry-ons and the babies at the same time.
- Stroller: Some have suggested that two single umbrella strollers are easier to handle in an airport than a double stroller, but I disagree. That way, only one of us was pushing a stroller and the other person had their hands free or could deal with the carry-ons. Plus, there was more storage space under the stroller for jackest, the baby carriers, etc. And even our simple Graco Duoglider provided some decent room for naps.
- For the plane: You want plenty of toddler-friendly snacks. I brought a small country's worth of supplies in Puffs, Cheerios, Yogurt Melts, and Mum Mums. One of the girls' favorite thing to do right now is to sit on the floor and feed themselves, so whenever I could (like while we were waiting for everybody else to board), I'd throw a blanket and some Cheerios on the floor between my legs and let them get busy. Since you don't know how closely you'll be sitting to your spouse, make sure you each have a fully packed diaper bag. You'll want extra outfits for each baby and for yourself since you WILL get puked or spilled on. A portable DVD player is a must. As a matter of fact, if you can swing it, bring two. Knowing friends gave us one right before our trip and we might have not survived if it hadn't been for the endless loop of Baby Einstein and the bottom-less bag of Cheerios. Bring a few favorite toys and a couple of new ones. Wear things your baby can play with. Seriously. Chewing on a zipper or playing with a bracelet can give you 10 minutes of sanity. Save bottles for take-off and landing, when the pressure in the ears needs to be neutralize. Pre-treat with Tylenol or Motrin (check with your doctor).
- For yourself: Eat before you board. Bring snacks or a sandwich you can easily eat with one hand. Our plan was to get one baby sleeping in the bassinet and then take turns eating while the other person held the 2nd baby. It didn’t work out so well and neither of ate for 10+ hours. Since you’ll need every square inch of room in your carry-on for baby-related items, you’ll be glad to know that there’s no need to even bring on a magazine for yourself. You won’t have time. I packed my iPod and used it for maybe 15 minutes.
-Jet-lag: Baby jet-lag really is the worst. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about. Sure, we tried to keep the girls awake during day hours and get them outside as much as possible, but when they cry within 5 minutes of waking because they're so tired and fall asleep even on the shortest car or stroller rides, there’s only so much you can do. If you will be in the new timezone for less than 2 weeks, I would seriously consider keeping your baby on your old time – even if that means shifting your activities to nighttime. Otherwise, the rule is to adjust a baby's bed time by an hour each day - and it's worked pretty well for us. So the first night they went to bed around 3 am (which would have been their normal bed time back home - 8pm) ... The next night we put them down at 2am and so on. After about a week, they were doing to bed at 10pm and that's where we've kept it for the remainder of the trip to make adjusting in the opposite direction easier again.