As some of you know, we recently undertook the exciting adventure of air travel with our 16 month old twins. Nick and I are no strangers to flying. Not being a MN native, my family and friends are spread out all over the county, so we’ve hopped many a flight, footloose and fancy free with everything we’ve needed neatly packed away in rolling carry-ons. We’ve been known to cut it pretty close to departure time getting to the airport, belly up to the bar pre-flight, and paper-rock-scissors it for who gets the window seat. And if you’re facebook friends with Nick, you probably know how the rest of the flight goes. If you’re not, here’s a little flashback to our 2011 Christmas card:
We were just CrAzY.
We’re not naive, however. We knew flying with babies would be different. What we didn’t expect was the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we would suffer for weeks after the experience. Every time we sat down to attempt a written account of the event for the girls’ blog, we’d break out in a cold sweat and start having flashbacks. So 3 weeks later, we’ve decided it’s time to just do it. Hell, there could be other twin parents out there getting ready to fly somewhere for the holidays. They MUST KNOW THE TRUTH! WE HAVE TO PREPARE THEM!
As part of our responsibility to the Twin World, we’ve identified 5 stages of Traveling with Twins, which we will share with you here and now.
Stage 1: Preparation
Ha! We already have you fooled with Stage 1. It’s a trick! There is little you can do to fully prepare for the experience of flying with 16 month olds. Our preparation started months before, when we started waking up from nightmares about entire plane-fuls of passengers leaning over their seats and giving us stink eyes as N & B kicked seat backs, tried to play peekaboo incessantly with unwilling row-mates, and flicked puffs into people’s hair. After several brainstorming sessions, we came up with a goody bag idea that would hopefully start off the flight on a lighter note, or maybe even garner some sympathy?? Who hasn’t walked onto a plane, seen a little kid/baby sitting within a 10 foot radius and instantly started dreading the next 3 hours? But if someone handed you a bag full of chocolate, could you really be mad?
Goody bags, done (oh, and we had extra special goody bags for the flight attendants). Next step was packing. We had lists, we had packing apps, we had piles all over the house. We kept having to remind ourselves that there were stores in Tucson. Since our carry-ons were now 2 babies, we actually had to *gasp* CHECK bags. We did each carry a backpack, strategically packed with battle gear: sanitation supplies at the ready for hosing down every surface a child could possibly touch, lick or chew (you’d be surprised what this includes), food–LOTS of food. Favorite foods. Easy foods. Not-too-messy foods. Entertainment supplies packed in order of L.O.D. (level of desperation): simple toys first–wrapped in tissue paper for extended enjoyment, all the way down to iPads–i.e. last resort–at the bottom. We won’t tell you how quickly the iPads came out. But lest we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll share this adorable pic of babies “helping” pack. At this point, it seems impossible that this trip could be anything but a joyous jaunt at 35,000 feet with strangers ooh-ing and ahh-ing over our cute, well-behaved girls. Amiright??
Stage 2: The Airport
Remember when you used to hop a cab to the airport? Or ask a friend to drive you? Well try and logisticate your airport drop off now that there are 4 of you, and half of that foursome has to be strapped into car seats that have to be attached to car seat bases, that have to be attached to the seat of the car. So that pretty much narrows down your choice of airport transfer vehicles to your twin friends’ vans/full cab pick-ups. Oh, and tack on an extra 45 minutes just to schlep your shit into said vehicle (small humans included) and bungee your massive double stroller down to the bed of the truck. Luckily, we could just freeload off of the twin carseats that were already installed in our neighbors’ truck (score!), so we didn’t have to install carseats and then uninstall them upon airport arrival.
My twin mom underground information feed (i.e. my Moms of Multiples Facebook group) clued me into the family security line at MSP. This little hidden gem definitely saved us an hour’s worth of hell. Every other line was wrapped around itself 13 times with lane ropes; Thanksgiving Traveler Cattle being corralled into the terminal, stripped down to their underwear, liquid bags in hand. NOT OUR HERD! Nope–we wheeled our baby calves right down to the family line, got to LEAVE OUR CLOTHES, BELTS, SHOES, ETC on, and DIDN’T HAVE TO REMOVE OUR LIQUIDS. It was a dream. Except for the part where we had to take the girls out of the stroller (which they love) and then put them back in 30 seconds later (which they HATE). That little scream-fest should have tipped off the poor, unsuspecting Delta employees that we were about to bring 2 little human shit bombs onto the aircraft.
Yeah, we have babies now, but we weren’t about to give up our airport tradition. We bellied up to the bar (ok…it was a booth with 2 high chairs this time), and dutifully ordered bloodies (seeing as how it was before noon…we’re not total alcoholics, you know). Nora was really excited and ordered Nick “The Weekender” bloody Mary, because she read that it came loaded with snacks.
Stage 3: Boarding the Aircraft (aka The Jetway to Hell)
This is when you’ll be glad you had that pre-flight drink. Because the reality that you’re about to be locked into a giant metal tube with your babies on your lap for 3.5 hours along with 200 other people in VERY close quarters, 7 miles above the earth, is starting to sink in. You also are remembering that your babies HATE sitting in laps (which they’ll be forced to do) and LOVE crawling around and exploring (which they will not be able to do). That, and you’re running a man-to-man defense. No extra hands. It’s also at this point that you start to rethink your feelings about your babes gettin the ol’ “bennie” treatment (drug our children when they’re not sick? we would nev…er….?). You desperately grab your backpack, making sure your liquids bag with the baby Benedryl didn’t get left at the security checkpoint. Whew. It’s still an option. But wait! They’re getting sleepy. It’s a LITTLE early for nap time…this could be bad…but hey–maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll just sleep the whole way! I mean, they ARE their mother’s daughters, right!?
No such luck. You hand off your double stroller to be thrown beneath the plane (i.e. they pry it from your death grip). Both girls are awake, and have found all the AWESOME reading material in the seat back pocket! This should be at least 30 mins of entertainment!
You give the flight attendants their gifts; they fall in love with you. You pass out your passenger goody bags, people give you sweet smiles and assure you that nothing could make them hate your children. They are SO cute. the plane begins to taxi. There is no turning back.
Stage 4: The Flight
The reading material lasted 2 minutes, then all hell broke loose. We gave them snacks at take off to help with the ear popping thing. We gave them bottles. We gave them toys. But it seemed like they left their sweetness on the ground. There are no rules at 35,000 feet when it comes to babies I guess. N & B have never been overly fussy babies–they’ve always been easily distractable during mini-tantrums. A raspberry on their belly can pull them out of a tizzy in seconds. But this was a new breed of crazy. We had no strategies for dealing with this. Arching. Screaming. Purple-faced screaming. Biting. Flailing. Clawing to get down to the ground. Grabbing the faces/scarves/reading material of neighboring passengers. Throwing anything we tried to give them. Since we now had an “in” with the flight attendants, they let us walk around the kitchen area with them. This worked for awhile, then Bryn got pissed when we wouldn’t let her grab the hot coffee pot and fling it at the wall. The INJUSTICE! More screams. We only had one weapon left in our arsenal. Yep, the girls had to get “bennied” midflight. Really it was for their own safety (or maybe it was for our own safety??). Ten minutes later, our bearcats were passed out in our arms. We both cried tears of relief/joy/disbelief. And then Nick flagged down a flight attendant, ordered, and shotgunned a beer. I, however, was afraid to move, so I sat, frozen, having to pee, for the next hour, holding my sleeping bearcat.
Little background on the family history of Benedryl reactions: I was once attacked by red ants at my parents’ house in Florida. It was Christmas Eve. I wanted to scratch my flesh off. Not wanting to miss Christmas Eve Mass with the fam, I popped a Benedryl, and off we went. The next couple hours are fuzzy, but I remember wondering why it was raining inside and how strange it was that the acolyte’s hair was on fire. I’m also told that when everyone else went up for communion, I opted to lie down in the pew and catch a few winks. The last time Nick took Benedryl, he couldn’t feel his face for 8 hours and kept asking people to slap him. In light of these reactions, we totally intended to test drive the Benedryl on the girls before the trip. But shit got busy. We forgot. After the flight to AZ, we felt like we were in the clear as far as the girls’ (non)reaction went. The flight home…different story. Being ever the wiser, we started out our return flight with the baby bennie. This time, however, it made the girls OUTRAGEOUSLY tired, BUT unable to fall asleep. Say WHAT? So now we had crabby, scream-y, flailing, etc babies who were ALSO tired out of their minds and had not napped all day?? Add some turbulence to this steaming hot pot of awesome, and now we were ordered to stay in our seats–no aisle/kitchen walking allowed. *sob*
Stage 5: Arrival
Best. Part. Ever. The end.
The peanut butter and jelly of the trip (between the 2 slices of flight disaster) was glorious. We finally got to meet my chubby little nephew, Parker Roy, in person!
There was warm weather, beautiful mountains, amazing sunsets, revitalizing hikes, injury-free turkey frying:
Lots of cousin lovin (which started out mostly as face poking and fat roll grabbing, but eventually morphed into sweet, naptime head-petting).
And there was even a bar within walking distance for Nick when I passed out at 9pm every night!
Grama and Grampa were in hog heaven with all the grandbabies, and we even got to SLEEP IN every morning while they got up with the girls. Best. Thanksgiving. Ever!
So the moral of this story is, if you’re about to haul your twins onto an airplane, there’s nothing you can do to fully prepare. Nor can you predict how your babes will behave in flight. The only thing you can truly do to make your experience awesome is make sure the peanut butter and jelly is REALLY good. Sunny destination good. Sleep in good. Family good.
Sara & Nick