Sunday, February 2, 2014

Twin Travel Tips

Our twins are 27 months old. They were born in India. So far, we've traveled with them to the following destinations on planes:
  • Delhi - Newark - Indianapolis - 5 weeks 
  • Indianapolis - Houston - Frankfort - Delhi - 8 weeks
  • Delhi - Goa, India (and return) - 4 months
  • Delhi - Istanbul - Paris, France - 6 months
  • Paris - Newark - Indianapolis - 7 months
  • Indianapolis - Newark - Delhi - 9 months
  • Delhi - Hong Kong (and return) - 10 months
  • Delhi - Istanbul (and return) - 12 months
  • Delhi - Bangkok - Koh Chang (and return) - 13 months
  • Delhi - Goa (and return) - 16 months
  • Delhi - Newark - Indianapolis - 19 Months
  • Indianapolis - Newark - Delhi - 21 Months
  • Delhi - Istanbul - Prague (and return) - 25 Months
Over the course of those 13 trips, we've learned a thing or two about traveling with twins. Some of these tips you could probably figure out for yourself. Others may surprise you. 

1. Keep calm and carry on! You choose your attitude during your trip. Having realistic expectations for your child(ren) is helpful in maintaining a cool head. Your child will get fussy or cry at some point. The world will not end. Even if you have to take your screaming child and sit in the bathroom cabin for 30 minutes, the world will still not end.

2. Organize your packing with google docs - Chad and I keep a packing list on a google doc. We can both edit it from anywhere. So, when we're out and about and have a brain flash, we can jump on a smart phone and jot down that we have to remember to take the sleep sheep. Our list has evolved over time as the boys have grown. Things that didn't get much use during one trip get crossed off the list for the next trip.

3. Travel with a friend - This one isn't always possible, and lord knows we've made plenty of trans-Atlantic flights without anyone helping us. But this is really less about the flying than it is about having more possibilities once you arrive at your destination. During our most recent trip to Prague, we travelled with a friend who LOVES the boys. Having her there made the vacation so much better for everyone. When one of us parents needed to stay at the apartment with the boys, the other two adults could still go out and enjoy the city. Our friend even volunteered to babysit once while we ran out and got a bite to eat by ourselves.

4. Know your airline and airplane - Things you need to know include, but aren't limited to: how to book a bassinet, what counts or doesn't count as luggage, whether or not you can take your stroller through security and gate check it, what can and can't go in your diaper bag, how many kids can sit in the same row on a plane (see #5). Finding out all the details before you show up at the airport will save you from stress during your travels.

5. Carry two diaper bags - Not because you have so much stuff (which you will), but because you never know when you're going to be separated. We learned this the hard way on a return flight from Indianapolis to Delhi when our flight got cancelled and we got rerouted through Houston and Frankfort. Because of the configuration of oxygen masks on planes (see #4), we haven't always been able to sit in the same row. On most flights, we're either across the aisle from each other (one parent with one child), or in consecutive rows. On this flight, though, we were 5 rows apart and only had one diaper bag. When you're on a flight and your child needs a bottle, you definitely don't want to have to go hunting to find it.

6. Pay for upgrades to lounges - Seriously! We've had 7-9 hour layovers in Newark, Bangkok and Istanbul. In all of those places, we had access to the lounge and it made the layover easier. In the Newark Star Alliance lounge, there is a private family room with a TV and couches. The boys could lay down, have a proper nap and spread out and play. In the Istanbul airport, there is a play room, changing room (with complimentary diapers and wipes) and nap room with a legitimate crib and frequently changed bedding. In the Bangkok airport (Thai Airways Lounge), there are small rooms similar to the Newark lounge. All of these lounges are so much better than waiting in uncomfortable terminals.

7. Book apartments rather than hotels - Apartments are often bigger, have a separate room for the kids and a kitchen. If you have a place where you can cook your own food, it takes some of the stress out of always having to find a restaurant that is kid-friendly. Also, the kids always enjoy havinga bigger space where they can play. And the apartments we've found are frequently cheaper than hotels.

8.  Book an extra seat on the plane - If you can't get a bassinet, book a seat for your twins even if they're really little (or ask for one on flights that aren't full). On long flights (flights over 10 hours), if both parents have to hold a baby for the entire flight, it gets REALLY tiring -- parents of singletons, never EVER complain! When Cedric and Ezra were little, we were on a flight from Delhi to the US and the bassinets had already been booked by someone else. Luckily, we had a seat in between us where we could make a small bed for the boys (seems funny to me now to think that both of them could lay down in the same seat and have room to spare!) and give our arms a break. When they got a little older, but still could technically be lap babies, we booked them a seat on the long flight from Delhi to Newark and we were all so much more comfortable and less tired on arrival. Trust me, it's worth the money!

9. Soothe the transitions - We have been weaning the boys off of bottles. For several months now, they haven't had a bottle during the day and only have one bottle before bed. They also don't have much time in front of TVs or iPads. However, when we're traveling, all bets are off. During our trip to Prague, they must have watched Cars at least 3 times. They also had a bottle whenever they wanted. They we're super happy to sit with a bottle and a movie on the plane. And when we got home, we resumed our normal routine and the twins didn't miss a beat! (we're totally off the bottle now... but that's another post for another day) When they were just over a year old and had already transitioned to real food instead of baby food, we took along a bunch of baby food on our trip to Thailand on a whim. Turns out, that was all they were interested in eating as they didn't really care for the food on the children's menu at the resort where we stayed.

10. Plan to do less/Let them have space and time to do what they want - This is about managing your expectations (see #1). You aren't going to go see the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay and the Eiffel Tower in one day with your twins and enjoy the experience. You need to plan days that are manageable and include things like play time, visits to parks and naps. Realize that your trip isn't all about you. It's about your kids too. Once they get old enough to do things other than eat/sleep/poop, they will want to have time to play and have fun. A jam packed schedule full of adult things will not make for a happy set of twins.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Vacation: Traveling Home

A much-belated Happy New Year to all of our friends in the blogosphere. Here is one final post about our winter vacation. Ezra pretty much represents how we all felt after traveling back to India. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?