When my preemie twins were discharged from NICU, our insurance company whisked us home to our country of residence (Canada), via air ambulance. Not knowing what to expect — and despite the turbulence of a hormonal and emotional sort — I was pleasantly surprised to board what was essentially a private jet.
Three medics accompanied the three of us; they tended to the twins’ every need. I was relegated to the back of the (very small) plane, while, up front, my babies were strapped into their car seats and hooked up to oxygen. “Sleep,” the medics urged me — but frankly, I was relishing the experience too much to relinquish it.
Since then, travel with my twins, nearly 3, has never quite been the same. Over the course of multiple cross-country flights, however, we learned quite a few tricks for making the process as painless as possible.
Below are the top hacks we gleaned when traveling with two babies — but they’re also applicable to one, of course.
1. Find the Family Line at security
Seek it out, and if the airport has one (not all do) use it! In this line, the security agents understand it might take three days to get your carry-ons, diaper bags, snacks, shoes, and blankies in and out of the plastic bins, and you won’t feel guilty about delaying the people behind you, since they’re in the same boat. Plus, all in, the line is usually shorter and you’ll get through security faster.
2. Keep milk / formula / water bottles together in one bag
Pack all baby-related liquids (water is permitted) in one gallon-size zip-top bag, usually tucked into a cooler bag for extra insulation and spill-protection. The security agents love this: I hand over the bag and off they go to their scanning machine. It’s then a breeze to pack back up and drop everything straight into the diaper bag or under the stroller. On our most recent trip, we further learned that the actual liquid inside non-transparent bottles (think insulated sippy cups, stainless steel bottles) needs to be physically tested, so be prepared for a litmus-paper type test on your kids’ beverage if the bottle isn’t clear. Pro tip: A frozen water bottle does not need testing and does double-duty as an icepack and drink for later.
3. Pack extra zip-top bags, of various sizes
They are great for wet clothes, leaky bottles, loose crayons, you name it. And a few empty plastic grocery bags stuffed in a diaper bag pocket are handy for dirty diapers and general garbage collection.
4. Bring the baby carrier
Baby carriers are our required airport accouterments. By keeping our babies safe and secure — but our hands free for everything else — this has changed our travel experience entirely.
5. Choose your carry-on bag wisely
Yes, you’ll probably be checking luggage —gone are the days of traveling light. But be strategic in selecting your carry-on: cross-body bags are super-efficient (phone, wallet, passports and snacks are a breeze to grab one-handed) and backpacks are easier to maneuver down the aisle than a rollerboard. (Pro tip: Don baby carrier first, then backpack.)
6. Baby wipes are your best friend
Baby wipes can do almost everything: in addition to their intended duty, they clean sticky hands, they collect spills, they spot clean and shine smudged faces. But, when flying, their first use onboard is for wiping down all surfaces: trays, armrests, screens. It’s not a perfect disinfectant, but it’s something.
7. Come prepared to wash bottles
One scheduled hour-long flight turned into nearly five as we sat impatiently on the tarmac before takeoff. We ran precariously low on baby supplies during the ordeal — always pack much more than you think necessary — but upon landing, I was able to refill clean bottles, thanks to the brush and vial of dishwashing soap that I had stashed in the diaper bag.
8. Keep yourself nourished
It is nearly impossible to eat most foods with a squirming baby or jumping toddler on your lap. Pack easy-to-eat, healthful foods (protein bars, nuts, puree packs) to keep you energized, and place them within easy access before takeoff.
9. Pack a full change of clothes for everyone on the trip
You never know who will be sitting under or next to the baby when the unthinkable happens. So far, we’ve been lucky and never had to pull out fresh gear, but I like to think of it as Murphy’s Law.
Safe and happy travels!