As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
No one will deny that taking a flight with a toddler is tough. When you have two of them, it can seem brutal. In our experience, those early toddler days were the toughest BY FAR. I was curious, so I did a little survey, below, and it seems that we were NOT ALONE in this experience.
Don’t get me wrong, actually traveling with toddlers can be pretty amazing. Toddlers are amazing creatures, and excellent travel companions because everything is so new to them. No one can get excited about seeing a pineapple plant or a pile of rocks, or riding on a bus like a toddler can. Plus the toddler years are an excellent time for them to be traveling. Their brains are developing unbelievably fast in the toddler years. Travel during that period gives them a huge opportunity to learn flexibility, tolerance, and an appreciation for culture and cultural differences.
But the actually GETTING THERE part? It’s rough. For us, peak flight difficulty was right at 18 months, and flying with two 18-month-old toddlers was a true test of patience for me. They are strong and never stop trying for what they want. Isn’t it funny how seemingly good qualities, like perseverance and a passion for what they want, can feel so impossible to handle when your twins are embodying it? My boys were literally climbing the seats, and pulling away from me as hard as they could at that age. We have learned some great tips and tricks to ease the process a bit, but flying with twin toddlers is no vacation (ba dum tss).
1. Travel Light (ish)
Travel light (ish): Of course this tip is on every travel tip list ever in the history of the world, but it’s really easy to get carried away when traveling with twin toddlers. And trust me, I have not figured out how to vacation with twin toddlers with just a 30L backpack or anything even CLOSE to that. If you figure that out, PLEASE tell me your secrets! Twin toddlers need a lot of stuff! But bring it all and you’ll be hating yourself as you sweat through the airport with half your house and two rowdy toddlers. Bring as little as you can to make the trip a little less insane.
- Most hotels, and many vacation rentals have pack ’n plays. Call ahead and you can often secure a second pack ’n play.
- Another travel-friendly sleep option is making sure there is an extra bed for your kiddos, then use inflatable bumpers- we love these ones. They work great, fold up super small for travel, and are quick and easy to inflate
- Buy diapers at your destination whenever possible. We use cloth diapers at home, but for us, it’s just not worth packing cloth diapers, dealing with the laundry situation, etc. Sometimes we pack overnight diapers because we have a good system to prevent leaks, but foer the most part, we can get by with any old diaper for the short term
- Don’t go nuts on toys and books for your trip. You’ll likely be too busy to enjoy those toys anyway.
- For more packing tips and tips for once you reach your destination tips, click here.
2. Avoid Early Flights
If you can, avoid getting your toddler up super early for a flight. Many kids won’t be able to fall back asleep, and they may not be able to nap well either, so you’ll end up with cranky, overtired toddlers. When there are two of them, it’s just too much to handle for me. Instead, choose slightly later flights, even if that means keeping them out past bedtime. In my experience, kids can better handle staying out later than they can handle getting up super early. Or, maybe they’ll just fall asleep somewhere randomly. Either way, you’ll be better off taking a slightly later flight.
3. Free Your Hands
Check everything you can. We check both car seats and all luggage, except for our stroller, and 2 small backpacks full of activities for the kids. Choose backpacks that are comfortable and not oversized (because it’s VERY easy to fill the space, if you have it, so limit yourself). Toddlers can be so wild and when you have two of them, it’s going to be a little bit crazy. So if you lighten your load, and you’ll end up happier plus you’ll be able to give your kids more freedom at the airport.
4. Bring your Stroller
Bringing a stroller is a huge question for us every single time. But when you have twins, we err on the side of bringing it. There can be a LOT of walking at the airport, and mixed with the crowds, it gets pretty overwhelming for little guys. Plus, travel days might mean naps at unexpected times. Even if you feel confident your twins can manage the walk, flight delays or gate switches might change that, and you’ll end up carrying them both miles through the airport, giving you a serious backache.
Another thing to consider is that you often spend a lot of time near busy roads or parking lots on travel days. For my kids, at the end of a long travel day, focus is low and I end up with a death grip on hands to keep them from running out into traffic. No one likes that, so I prefer keeping them safety buckled in the stroller for those tough times.
5. Burn off Energy at the Airport
You’ll have to get to the airport early no matter what, so use that time to your advantage. Since we usually have our kids in the stroller for longer/boring walks in the airport, we make sure we find a good, somewhat quiet corner of the airport where they can run free a little bit. We often make a racetrack on the carpet using small cars, or make a little game with patterns in the floor to get them jumping and moving. I make sure they walk to and from the bathroom for their last diaper change, and try to keep them as active as I possibly can for those last few minutes.
6. Purchase nice car seat and stroller bags
Since you’ll be checking your car seats, and you’ll have to gate check your stroller for basically any domestic flight, and many international (since double strollers are SO huge), make sure you have a good bag that will provide some padding and protection from drops, rips, and tears.
When it comes to double strollers, it’s hard to find a decent lightweight one, so our travel stroller is a bit pricier and we’d hate to see it destroyed, so we make sure it’s protected. I know lots of people have strong opinions on checking car seats, but checking is what works best for our family. We use a cheaper, lightweight set, and put them in a nicely padded, quality car seat bag – we love this one, and we have always gotten away stuffing our kids favorite blanket, toddler pillow, and a lovey for a little extra padding (and saving some precious suitcase space).
7. Make sure you tickets allow seat selection
Seems like a no brainer, but as airlines change their policies and rates, it can be confusing. Some airlines now offer a cheaper ticket class that doesn’t allow seat selection, and your assignment is given after check in, even for small children. I don’t have any idea how it is possible for a toddler or young child to not sit with their parent or caregiver. But to me, it’s really not worth the hassle and the risk. Get seat assignments. For parents of twins, seating is important, so you’ll want to be able to figure things out ahead of time.
8. Choose window seats, or 3 seats in a row
When traveling with twins under the age of two, you won’t HAVE to buy a seat for each child. But you can only have one lap baby per row, because of availability of air masks. We loved purchasing 3 seats for the 4 of us (my husband, myself and our twins). For most planes, that’ll give you the whole section of seats, so no one else is sitting RIGHT next to you, and allows you to easily pass your twins between you.
However, as your twins approach toddlerhood, I’d recommend buying them each their own seat. Even at 18 months old, toddlers are big to be sitting on your lap in a tiny airplane seat, and they are STRONG, so holding them in place is going to be hard work the entire flight. Giving them their own space helps everyone feel more comfortable and relaxed.
If you purchase a seat for each of them, and assuming you are traveling with a second adult, I recommend getting window and middle seats, one set right in front of the other. The window seat is coveted for my kids, and a young toddler simply cannot understand why they can’t climb into the lap of whoever is sitting there to play with the window shade. That could get awkward pretty fast. Just make sure you have the window seat. Sure you’ll have to ask the person next to you, in the aisle seat, to move a few times to allow you to get up, but overall, window-center seat combo is the easiest.
If traveling alone with twins, choose flights on planes with a 3 seat per side/row if at all possible, then buy each child a seat. It’s a lot to handle, but bring your patience, and you can do it!
9. Bring one backpack of fun/supplies per child
Assuming you are traveling with your twins, it’s easier for each adult to handle all of the needs of one child. You can switch as needed, but make sure each adult has everything needed to care for one child, including extra clothes, diapers, toys, snacks, etc. That way, you won’t be constantly interrupting the other caregiver to ask for something, frustrating the twin with that caregiver.
Bring plenty of extra diapers and wipes in a small diaper pod with a changing pad and a handle so you can hang it on the bathroom door. You’ll want to ONLY take what you need to the bathroom for diaper changes since airplane changing stations are certainly NOT toddler sized.
With toddlers, blowouts are less likely so complete outfit changes are a bit more rare. But come prepared for water or food spills, sticky messes, etc., and don’t forget about weather differences between your area of departure and destination. Since we live in the Pacific NW, we are usually going from cooler weather to warmer, and so I like to dress them in a tee with a long sleeve over the top, and some comfy pants, and either wear or pack socks for the flight. Then I pack shorts I can change them into at the end of the flight and take off the long sleeve shirt and socks. Getting them changed before they get cranky about the heat really helps keep stress levels low for everyone.
10. Bring snacks, snacks, and more snacks, including some that can function as a meal
For a toddler, snacking is a great distraction tool! Heck- honestly, its a great distraction tool for me too! Bring snacks that are fun, some that are healthy, and some that are kind of emergency distraction tools- we like to use mini M&Ms given one at a time, or lollipops for near meltdown moments because they last a little while, and are SUPER exciting. Fruit snacks or fruit leather are great as well.
Most toddlers struggle to eat a good meal even on the best days. On travel days, it’s next to impossible. Plus, a good meal isn’t always available. No one wants a couple of toddlers in meltdown mode because they are starving and there is nothing available to fill their tummies. So include snacks that have protein and any other nutrients you can squeeze in there, and are filling enough to work as a meal.
11. Bring toys that allow wiggly fingers, but not wiggly entire bodies
Toddlers are so active, so they need something that will at least allow thing to wiggle their little fingers. Look for toys that take some concentration and last more than a couple of minutes, and that don’t require their entire body to move as a part of play. A good rule of thumb is one new (or not recently played with) toy per hour of flight time. Honestly, that’s not enough. But you can’t bring everything, so that is our reasonable compromise. Here are a few of our favorite travel toys:
- Little wind-up toys: They are small, fairly cheap, and actually provide quite a few minutes of giggles
- Small cars or monster trucks to play with at the airport, or on the tray table. We like Hot Wheels because they are not self propelled, so they won’t be flying quite as far in the plane.
- Sticker books. We love the National Geographic ones because they are inexpensive and have over 1000 stickers so they last FOREVER.
- Wikki Stix but not too many. These are super fun to stick together and build with, but if you bring a lot, they’ll just want to mash them together.
- WaterWow books are reusable, mess free, and just require a little water. They are easy to use for little guys, and tons of fun.
- Tablet loaded up with some toddlers games and shows. We recommend iPads and we love
- Daniel Tiger Explore app
- Bugs and Buttons app
- Sago Mini Farm, and really ALL Sago Mini games
- Episodes of Wild Krats, Daniel Tiger, Octonauts, Little Baby Bum, and Dave and Ava.
- Our special map made specifically for the trip- read more about these homemade, toddler-friendly maps, along with other toddler travel tips here.
12. Get enough sleep the night before, and grab a coffee!
It’s no secret- flying with twin toddlers is hard work. So prioritize getting enough sleep. Don’t choose an insanely early or late flight, if you can avoid it, and show up ready to work. My twins VERY RARELY sleep on airplanes. So they end up bored, a little bit tired, and wanting ALL MY ATTENTION. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but 3, 6, 8 hours of 100% attention is exhausting! And sometimes, they just can’t- their focus is completely gone and they start acting out. So I need to have enough patience to handle whatever they throw at me (perhaps literally) because if I lose it, it’ll only make everything worse.
Tons of toddlers who are not mine sleep GREAT on airplanes. They take extra naps, and sleep from the moment the plane takes off until after it lands. Probably that will be you. But, my take is that it’s better to be prepared for the worse- cranky toddlers who will not nap, and then be pleasantly surprised if things are easier.
13. Don't worry about judgement
When traveling with toddlers, especially toddler twins, there are bound to be a few people out there that give you the look. You know the one- where they are clearly annoyed that you exist and somehow thing you are entitled to purchase 4 (or 3 or 2) tickets on the same flight as them with your children. Don’t even worry about them. Seriously. Don’t give it one moment’s thought. I bet you are a good parent, and I bet you’ll do your best to care for your children during the flight, and there is nothing more anyone could ask of you.
Also, we travel quite a bit, and MOST people we encounter are kind and understanding. If you are stressing before you even leave, don’t. I’m a pretty good worrier, but after having so many positive interactions with people telling us we are doing a great job, or noticing how hard we work during the flight, I feel pretty confident while traveling. And you should too! You’ve got it.
14. Skip the line at car rental agencies
Car rental lines are often obscenely long and slow. When you have two burnt-out toddlers, its a recipe for disaster. Use Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold or Budget Fastbreak to skip the counter and go directly to your car (often your name is on the board with slot number). If you are using a shuttle, have it set up ahead of time. Do whatever you can to get et out of the airport as fast as you can. After a day of traveling, your twins are going to be just done. Hurry the process of exiting the process along so you can hopefully delay any meltdowns.
15. Take a break as soon as you can
If you have to drive more than a few minutes before you reach your ultimate destination, give you twins a little break. Maybe you can stop by a park. Maybe you can find somewhere safe to run crazy in the airport. But find a way to give them a 30 minute or so break before you ask them to keep holding still and being patient. It’s a lot to ask of them and make sure you don’t forget how hard it is for them.
Flying with twin toddlers is not easy. But it’s not impossible either. With a bit of preparation, and a lot of patience, you’ll be just fine. Perhaps you’ll even enjoy all this mandatory play time with your twins. And if it sucks, it’s only a few hours- or quite a few hours. Whatever it is, its a limited amount of time, and then you’ll be whereever your going, and it’ll be great!
Let us know- what works for you? What doesn’t?