Taking toddlers, and twin toddlers, on holiday continues to cause anxiety and stress amongst parents. As we all know, the smallest members of the family often have the greatest needs. Take, for example, the very simple need of highchairs/travel cots/sets of kids’ cutlery. That’s not to mention access issues if you have a double buggy and the logistics of keeping two inquisitive children safe. As parents it is a huge concern when booking a holiday and we need the reassurance that when we arrive, everything will be set up, ready and comfortable for two small children, especially if abroad. However, we still don’t want to miss out on some family travel – and why should we?
The first time I went abroad was when my twin girls were 18 months. And apart from being nervous about how they would cope with everything, one of my worries was the flight. With two under two, would I survive?!
I had two young children who were used to a strict routine and only slept in their cots, two demanding children who were into everything. I questioned everything! How will they sit through a flight? What will we do with them to keep them amused? What will people think? And I think a lot of our worry comes down to that – What WILL people think? I feared that this flight was going to be the worst day of my life. So my preparations began. I made lists; lists for food, lists for the nappy bag and lists of toys. You will be pleased to hear that we went away again the following year so my first experience couldn’t have been that bad. Either that or it was a bit like childbirth; you forget the bad bits and do it again anyway!
Now I am not saying the trip was easy and yes there were bits where I thought, why am I doing this to myself? With two 18-month-olds I found the airport really challenging and wondered what an earth we were letting ourselves in for. The girls were up early, had a meltdown before breakfast and I got rather stressed (more tips on the airport another day!). On the upside, the plane journey was easier than I thought it would be and they made little fuss on board so it wasn’t all horrendous. I just had to be ready with new activities and snacks every 15 mins or so until I needed a break and gave into the Kindles!
Here are my tips for surviving a flight with two under 2…
Now children under 2 don’t have their own hand luggage allowance, so everything you want to take has to fit into the adult’s bags. Let’s presume there are two adults going. Ensure each adult has a bag, a rucksack is advisable, and make sure that they are kept by your feet on the plane – you will have everything in this to survive your flight so don’t go putting it in the overhead lockers (my husband did this and then asked me where the snacks and toys were. Hmmm!)
With two under 2, each child is generally sat on an adult’s lap (unless you buy the seat for them). Now the complicated part is that most airlines will not allow you to sit in the same row as the other adult due to the child’s air mask configuration. You can usually arrange to be sat either one behind the other, or across the aisle.
* Pack a change of clothes for the children in your hand luggage. My girls have never needed a change of clothes until we had just boarded the flight and sat down. Twin 1 and I were soaked! I am so glad I had.
* Make sure each adult has a hand luggage bag full of snacks and toys. Don’t take just one. Because if you are not sitting near each other, both of you will need activities to keep the children amused.
* I went prepared for the worst. My bags were full of mini activities for my girls.
In each bag I packed…
* Nappies, wet wipes, and a changing mat
* A change of clothes
* Snacks and meals. Pack a few goodies that maybe you wouldn’t usually allow – this is about survival, remember!
* Drinking cup
* Lollypops – these worked a treat during take-off and landing, or getting through passport control, especially as they had never had them before!
* Calpol – keep Calpol with you in case of an emergency
* Bottle of milk – for during take-off or landing. You can usually buy or order these in Boots
* An iPad, Kindle or tablet
Toys – Split between both bags
I found putting a selection in mini drawstring bags a lifesaver. You could pull one activity out at a time, and then change it without getting in a complete muddle. These activities were divided between two bags. Another good way to kill some time is to wrap up new toys to make them more exciting.
Ideas perfect for the under-2s
* Colouring books
* Post-it notes
* Tea set
* Favourite TV characters – ours were In the Night Garden!
* Scribble boards
* Aqua Doodles
* Pasta and a pot with tweezers
* Sequins – they loved throwing these over the trays and picking them up again!
* Pocket money toys from Baker Ross or similar – stretchy men, springs, mini colouring books, plastic jewellery, squeezy hedgehog heads, rubber ducks, jointed wiggly snakes, etc.
* Triangular crayons – so they don’t roll off the table!
* The Sky Baby Travel Mattress for naps. Designed to work with the airline infant belt. The twins slept for an hour and a half in these and we were all very comfortable.
Despite the difficulties of keeping your small children from doing a dance on the last nerve of every passenger on board, don’t let the possibilities of a few difficult hours on a plane stop you from taking the opportunity to get away on a well deserved holiday. Even if your children are still very young, the memories you will make and the experiences are worth it. Happily, you will probably never see your fellow air passengers again, so whatever happens, don’t stress too much when one of your babies poops and stinks the plane out or when both of your over-tired toddlers throw back-to-back tantrums because you won’t let them eat the roll or play with the wine bottle on your sleeping neighbour’s tray. Just do your best to keep them happy, smile loads at scowling passengers, and treat yourself to a big-ass glass of fizz when you get to an airport. It’ll all be over in a few hours!
If you would like more advice about going on holiday with young children, my blog Popitha; Life and Adventures with Twins has a section about travel that you may like to take a look at.