a few weeks ago, i flew solo with madalena and beatrice across the country from new york city to los angeles to spend time with old girlfriends from college and their babies for a week. although we went to college here in new york city, we decided to meet in LA since it was the half way meeting point for two of us who needed to travel the furthest, as one of my girlfriends lives in australia and was also making that trek solo with her 3 month old baby (she’s amazing). the trip was a lot of fun, and beatrice and madalena did really well (i have lots of videos in this highlight on my instagram if you’d like to see), but i wanted to put all my thoughts and any tips i have into one big blog post about the travel days specifically that will hopefully help answer any of your questions for those of you interested in traveling solo with babies now or sometime in the future.
also, if you’re interested, i have written a huge blog post all about traveling with kids (why i believe it is worth it, logistics like luggage, hotel rooms and bedtimes with kids, eating out and dealing with time changes, plus international travel with little ones, etc) as well as a big post about packing with kids and also tips for finding cheap airline tickets for family travel.
flying solo with twins:
booking flights with twins
first, while the baby girls and i have traveled a fair amount during their first year, this was my first time flying without a second set of helping hands, so i called a few different airlines we normally fly to make sure i fully understood their travel policies when it comes to infants on laps, infants on flights, carseats on airplanes, etc. i know the policies vary depending on the airline, so be sure to check before booking. however, all the airlines i talked with confirmed it is absolutely possible to fly with two babies, you just cannot have two infants on lap and are required to purchase a second seat for one of the babies, so you only have one infant on your lap. the main reason for this is because of the oxygen mask situation in each row (each row of seats only has one extra oxygen mask in case of an emergency for one lap infant. it’s a reason that when we travel as a family, we have to make sure josh and i are not sitting next to each other but across the aisle from one another when we each have a baby since each group of seats on a row is only allowed one “infant in arms.”)
while i had to purchase a second ticket for one of the babies (an infant on lap ticket is usually free on domestic flights), it was well worth it to make the trip happen and also to have the extra space and wiggle room for all three of us.
a tip: i know all plane configurations are different, but i had noticed on a few flights we’d been on before this trip that some planes have just two seats next to the window and other planes with three seats even have just two seats on the last row of the airplane instead of three seats. when booking my flight, i made sure to book the last row with only the two seats in the row so it felt like we had our own private little spot and weren’t bothering a stranger who would have otherwise been stuck next to us in that third seat. i knew for my own peace of mind, i didn’t want to stress about bothering someone beside me with two babies, so having that entire row to ourselves made such a difference on both the flight there and back.
traveling with a carseat on the plane
this was my first time using a carseat on the airplane. in the past, we have always just had babies on our laps or strapped into the seat with the adult seat belt. but since i wasn’t sure how i’d manage to change one diaper while the other was on the loose, etc, i figured having a carseat and one securely strapped in during moments on the flight where i needed my hands and arms free, this could be useful. i know many people rave about using carseats on planes, but i had never bought into it because my kids aren’t used to carseats since we don’t have a car and do not use them with our city life in new york. i was nervous this plan could backfire on me on a long flight, but it was actually amazing. i swapped them back and forth in the car seat throughout the flight, and they both took a really solid nap while strapped and seated which helped me out significantly while i nursed or played with the one not napping in my lap.
the two carseats we own are very heavy (thought extremely comfortable), which is not ideal for a travel day like this, but i bought one of these travel carts before our trip and it WAS A LIFE SAVER! i was able to wheel the carseat all over the airport and eventually onto the airplane with one baby strapped in and then just placed the travel cart under the seat in front of me. i checked the other carseat at the curb along with my double stroller.
because we normally do not travel with carseats on flights, i am such a firm believer in using the double stroller all the way up until you board the flight! this is the only trip where i made an exception! i knew this wouldn’t work for this trip since my double stroller doesn’t fold down into one piece (normally my husband josh takes it apart at the gate while i board with the babies) and i was going to be wheeling one carseat anyhow. i decided to check my double stroller with my second carseat (for the rental car in LA) at the curb both times and then wear one baby in the baby carrier while wheeling the other one in the carseat. it worked out great for this scenario!
managing schedules and naps and life on a 6 hour flight
i tried to time our flights as best i could with M and B’s nap schedules so they’d be taking their longer morning nap on the flight. of course, you can’t always plan for this, because i swear the airline’s favorite thing to do is mess with you and that definitely happened on our return flight home. our first flight home from LAX to NYC got straight up canceled because of a maintenance issue and our second flight got pushed back an hour and 45 minutes but we didn’t know this until ten minutes before boarding (we also sat on the plane for another 50 minutes before taking off but that is another story). i was already bouncing one tired baby trying to keep her up just a little bit longer while standing in line to board the plane – and that’s when they announced the second delay. it was classic. but if traveling with kids has taught me anything, it’s that you just have to go with the flow and stay chill and keep your cool because if you do, the kids will also remain pretty chill and keep their own cool. i swear they sense stress better than we do! we just did several laps around LAX airport until our new boarding time and miraculously, both babies still slept a good deal on that return flight at the same time! i even got to sneak in a little bit of a movie while they napped (IT WAS AMAZING.)
i’ve found it so helpful to breastfeed or give a baby a pacifier or bottle during take off and landing as much as possible. with two, this was a little bit trickier to navigate, but i tried to time the take off and landing with one of them sleeping so it wouldn’t be as rough on their ears while i nursed the other one. we didn’t have issues, thankfully! (although we did spill an entire canister of baby puffs on the floor below us during landing, and i still have no idea how my baby managed to do this while breastfeeding at the same time! the level of skill with her feet!)
when they weren’t napping, i tried to keep them as entertained as possible by bringing a few toys onto the flight they hadn’t seen before so they’d be new and special. honestly, they loved playing with the pretzel bag the most! i also brought some extra snacks and didn’t bust out the sweeter snacks until the last hour of the flight and fed them to them one by one. it helped draw out our time in the air and they loved it.
because my babies love to touch (and also lick!) literally everything right now, i made sure to wipe down as many surfaces as i could the minute we got to our seats with some antibacterial wet wipes. i don’t know how much that helps, but i know they don’t clean the planes as frequently or as well as we’d like, so this is a little step that goes a long way for your own peace of mind if for nothing else. if anything, just look at the travel day as a great immune booster for your kiddos! ;)
i tried to keep my bags for the plane as minimal as possible so i wasn’t carrying much, but i packed however many diapers and changes of clothing i thought i might need and then i doubled that number. i went through it all! it’s amazing how that works.
managing your own stress and those of the people around you on your flight
if traveling with kids has taught me anything over the years, it’s that you can’t really plan, so staying flexible is key. flights will get delayed, babies won’t feel well, karen from nebraska is going to let you know she doesn’t like your baby before you even take off. (insert rolling your eyes here because COME ON.) but it is all going to be okay, and you are going to make it! the biggest thing i try to remind myself is that the only thing i really have control over is myself on a travel day. and if i do my best to remain as calm and cool and collected as i can, chances are my babies will feel that energy and it’ll rub off on them a little bit. (not always guaranteed, but pretty close! – and this applies for like, everything?! i swear my kids just do better whenever and wherever i’m chill.)
we were fortunate on both flights to have incredible flight attendants who offered to hold one baby while i changed the other and checked in on us frequently. but even if not, i don’t think there is anything wrong with asking a flight attendant for a little bit of help if needed. if you need someone to hold one baby while you change the other, or help you get your carseat strapped in, or whatever it might be, asking a flight attendant to help is all you need to do. and all it takes is just asking. i don’t think i’ve ever met someone who isn’t willing to help when you ask them nicely.
we were also fortunate to have the people sitting around us on both flights be pleasant and kind which goes such a long way. while i know this helps my own nerves to have kind and understanding people beside us, i know this isn’t always the case and there really isn’t much you can do about it. one time, i had someone get on a flight and see me with a baby sitting in a seat next to their seat and before they even sat down started cursing at me how angry and frustrated they were to have to sit near me and the baby. at the time, i felt very embarrassed and hurt and i let a couple quiet tears out because i didn’t know what to do and i didn’t take being attacked in person very well back in the day – but i don’t have time for that crap anymore. we all have to get somewhere, and we all were babies once upon a time. i think if you are doing everything in your power as a caregiver to keep your baby happy and calm and not a bother to those sitting around you, there’s not much else you can do. and also, it WILL END! the flight might feel like an eternity, but it will have to come down from the sky at some point and you will be exiting the plane eventually. it will end! i promise!
while there isn’t much you can do if an adult near you is having a rough moment and wants to be rude to you on a plane, i do think it’s always nice to try to say hello before the flight takes off. if you can talk with the people around you, get to know their names and ask them a few questions, i do think it helps everyone (including yourself) remain a little more polite once you are all up in the air because it helps humanize everyone, including yourself. if you do end up in a moment of panic up in the air with a baby that is not happy, being able to say, “i’m so sorry, karen” to the woman sitting in front of you can hopefully help her know you really are sorry because you’re thinking of her too, and knowing this is affecting her just as much as it’s affecting you. but chances are you won’t ever have to get there because your baby will be just fine and the flight will go great!
other logistics and things worth noting
i asked a friend to meet me at baggage claim in LA to help me navigate getting both the carseats, my stroller, my suitcase and my baby girls over to the car rental place since it’s a shuttle ride away at LAX. that helped me so much!
be sure the airline prints a boarding pass for your infant in arms. sometimes they don’t, but you need a separate boarding pass for them for security and boarding the plane. they will print one for you at the ticket counter if you aren’t able to get one printed beforehand.
bring treats for yourself as little rewards for successful milestones along the way! nothing felt as good as seeing 30 minutes remaining on my countdown screen and breaking into that final cookie on board.
you are capable of more than you think, and you can totally absolutely do this. while people have been very gracious with their comments while passing me at the airport, flying with two babies does not make me superwoman at all, maybe it makes me a little bit crazy, but not superwoman. this is something anyone can do if they needed to, it just takes getting into the right mindset. i’m not anymore a better mother than any other mother because i did this, and that is what is most important to note. i have also had many years of experience flying with my three other kids when they were little as well, so i’ve had practice and experience. but even on my first flight solo with eleanor when she was only 6 months old, i remember thinking to myself, stay calm. and i have to tell you, it really does make a difference. (i know this because i have not always remained calm.)
p.s. just a reminder for those of you who might be interested, i wrote a huge blog post about traveling with kids (why i believe it is worth it, logistics like luggage, hotel rooms and bedtimes with kids, eating out and dealing with time changes, plus international travel with little ones, etc) and another big post about packing with kids and another on tips for finding cheap airline tickets for family travel.