Now we can say,
“We traveled with our twins!”
When I heard that my friends and coworkers had taken their babies to Mexico or Hawaii, I asked, bewilderingly, “how did you do it?!”. It might have been just me but I was very nervous about the idea of being away from home, where I know where things are for the babies…
So we waited until our boys were one year old to travel to my hometown, Japan.
I gathered all the information I could. I received great suggestions after inquiring with parents in our local multiple birth club, and I also asked my Japanese mom friends who have traveled to Japan a few times with their babies.
I thought I would share my take-home experience, what I learned, and some tips I thought were useful. This will probably help me remind myself for the next time we go to Japan, hopefully in a year-or-so.
8 Tips for travelling abroad with babies
1 ) Pack a variety of toys and snacks & don’t forget snacks for the parents!
We took compact books, mini cars, link rings, stuffies, rubber animals, a tablet with videos and baby apps pre-loaded, etc.
For snacks and emergency food, we packed those puree food pouches, baby rice crackers (like Baby Mum-mums), bananas, apple juice, lots of extra formula powder, and energy bars for the adults. (When you have a baby on your lap who wants to touch whatever they can reach, it is not so easy to have a proper meal on the plane)
All the airport securities were fine with liquid as long as they can tell it was for the babies. For the water in their sippy cups, they made me drink it to prove it was nothing suspicious. And also they put the sippy cup in a special machine to test it and it was all good.
2 ) Pick a kind and kids friendly airline
From friends’ experience, we were advised to use JAL (Japan Airlines) when traveling with small children. Were we ever glad that we chose them. As soon as we boarded on the plane, they gave us a plastic bag full of snacks (a banana, several crackers, and a muffin) and a bag of diapers for each baby.
Also, during the flight, they came to give the boys toys (mini JAL planes and wooden truck toy) and also gave us a food tray for each baby (rice with veggies and chicken).
All the flight attendants were very understanding and very helpful. They asked us when and how we would like our food ready too. Because we had our boys on our lap, we had to alternate who can eat, while the other parent watched the two boys; they were very accommodating in that respect.
When the airlines charge 10% for babies under 2 years old anyways, it is nice to get some kind of gift like diapers, toys and baby meal. I know that Air Canada charges the same for the babies that age for international flights, but from what they told me, they don’t provide any supplies for the babies.
Also, for the domestic flights in Japan, the airlines don’t allow passengers to use their own strollers after the security check, but Japan Airlines provides us nice strollers to push the boys to the gate. (the picture below)
3 ) Can’t be a perfect parent when your sanity is important
What I mean by it is that when you are travelling, be prepared to throw your ‘rules and routine’ out the window and relax… I am usually a clean freak when it comes to baby things, and I know the airports and airplanes are filthy, but I had to just ignore the fact that they touched everything. If I wiped everything or if I didn’t let them sit on the ground, I would end up becoming hyper-vigilant an exhaust far too quickly. Whatever makes your kids happy and whatever makes the situation easier is the key.
At the airport, they were so bored when we had to wait for hours at the gate. They didn’t want to sit in either the strollers or the chairs, so we let them play… one time they wanted to climb up some stairs over and over. (using their hands!!) But that kept them happy and burnt off some energy.
4 ) Pack extra everything
Diapers, baby wipes, formula, snacks, toys, extra clothes, blankets, etc etc… Our carry-on backpacks were FULL. To tell the truth, we ended up not using a lot of the things we packed, but preparation leads to a lower parental blood-pressure. On the way back from Japan, we actually ran out of the diapers and we looked for diapers at the ferry terminal we were at and we could not find any… they ended up wearing very full diapers home that night…
Anyways, my husband and I each carried a backpack. My husband took a big camping backpack and it was great because we were able to fit lots of stuff inside and had strings to tie the baby carriers or jackets on it. Mine was a diaper bag backpack (Skip Hop Forma Backpack), which has lots of compartments that allows you to organize baby stuff well.
5 ) Make good use of kids’ play areas
At some airports, we found children’s play areas. It’s boring for little kids to just ride in the strollers, so it’s good to get them out and let them run around where it’s safe.
Our boys loved playing with new toys at new playgrounds! And it allowed them to spend some energy; they fell asleep in the strollers or on us afterwards.
If there is no play area, still let them play! We found that trying to force them to sit nicely was more torture for them and they fussed more, so we let them walk around with us and climb the stairs in the airport, and we walked them a few times in the isle on the plane.
6 ) Plan extra time in between flights
Most international airports are very big and you are required to walk a pretty far distance to get to your gate. So we made sure we checked in before the two hour mandatory check-in time, so we could discuss about what to do with our strollers, where and when to give them to the airline staff, etc. And we took much longer at the security check (they check everything including yourself, your stuff, any liquid for babies, babies, strollers, etc.) and also when you get off the plane and enter a destination country, ‘Immigration’ takes extra long when you have children. For immigration documents to enter Japan, you will need to fill out a form for EACH person. We did not know that and we were stopped and we had to fill out 4 documents before we could enter the lineup.
7 ) Take lightweight and small stroller
Since the boys were born, we have been using City Select Baby Jogger stroller with a second seat, and it has been wonderful. However, when it comes to travelling, we decided to opt for a more portable, streamlined stroller. Our Baby Jogger stroller with two seats attached won’t fold small enough for portability. At the airport, we wanted to use our stroller until we get to the gate (they usually allow this only if the stroller can be folded small), and we wanted to make sure they fit in the vehicle we use in Japan.
After some thoughts, we decided to get TWO individual lightweight umbrella strollers (We bought two Bily umbrella strollers at Superstore) with stroller connectors. This option allowed us to push the strollers together as double in larger areas, but when we went through tighter places like customs and immigration where the lineups and isles were very narrow, we could easily take the strollers apart and push them separately through there.
8 ) Offer food/drink at the take off & landing
Everyone who I have talked to who has taken their children on the plane has informed this to me before I went on the trip. And it worked. Small children don’t know how to release the pressure in their ears at the take off and landing, so they suggest you to nurse them or offer them a bottle. In our case, we prepared bottles, but some times, they wouldn’t take them, so we just gave them baby crackers to chew on and that allowed them to pop their ears naturally, or maybe it merely distracted them, but they didn’t seem to be bothered. This is such a small detail but very important since nobody wants a fussy miserable baby!
My Travel Must-have Items:
- Formula Dispenser (when you have a baby on your lap in your small Economy Class seat, it is very difficult to measure the formula powder with a scoop, but with the dispenser, it made it much easier for us to make bottles quickly)
- Good baby carriers with nice support on the shoulders and hip (We own Ergo Cool Air and Ergo Original. Be “Hands Free” with Ergobaby, Free Shipping!) – these were strapped to the outside of my husband’s backpack when not in-use
- Umbrella Stroller
- Stroller Connector (if you have more than one child who sits in a stroller)
- Disinfectant wipes (I prefer the ones you can use on their hands too)
- Thermos sippy cups (It keeps the water or whatever you put in it last longer)
- Good pair of walking shoes for you and your babies
I hope these tips will lend help to some parents who may be taking a trip somewhere. The thought of travelling with babies is a bit overwhelming but you will get to the destination eventually and it will all be fun!
Thanks for reading.
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