I travelled nearly 12 hours with 3 small children on a plane and no screens. This is what happened.

I travelled nearly 12 hours with 3 small children on a plane and no screens.  This is what happened.

Having kids doesn’t mean I don’t want to travel.  This is how we managed to travel on a plane with 3 small children for nearly 12 hours!

My recipe for a family vacation from Ohio to San Francisco, and back!

Note: this took place without screens like a smartphone, iPad or portable DVD player (I guess you can count the TV screen on the back of the seat, but it was on a continual commercial loop).

  1. 5.5 hr nonstop flight (one way)
  2. 4 year old who typically travels like a champ
  3. Twin 1 year olds (very close to turning 2, so they are mobile and not rational)
  4. 3 pieces of luggage, 2 Ergo carriers, 1 pack and play, 1 lightweight umbrella stroller, 2 incredibly bulky, awkward and heavy car seats (Diono Radians) and 1 fairly easy-to-travel car seat for the 4 year old (IMMI Go)
  5. 2 nervous parents wondering how we were going to make this happen

We needed to leave the house by 4:15am, so we were already off to a rough start (I set my alarm for 3:45am, some nights I stay up until 2am)!

Supplies for survival:

  1. Loads and loads of snacks my kids do not normally get to enjoy. In our case, fruit snacks. I splurged on the fancier brands without corn syrup (because I would rather get my kids hopped up on organic sugar than high fructose corn syrup.  OY VEY).
  2. Bread – my girls do not discriminate against any delicious carbohydrate, but I baked French baguettes (MUCH easier to make than it sounds) and packed loaves because my girls love them, they are chewy instead of crumby and my three darlings will devour a whole loaf in no time at all.
  3. Many coloring, sticker, and activity books to play with. Even though the twins do not have the attention span or interest in coloring, we would look at the pictures of Elmo and point and count everything I could think of in the books.
  4. A large repertoire of nursery rhymes and kiddie songs I can quietly sing into my daughters’ ears which involve hand motions and bouncing around like “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (I’m a one woman show when necessary).
  5. Dramamine – I’m not above giving my kids something to help them with motion sickness, relax and hopefully help them nap (drowsiness is a side effect, and I learned so is hyperactivity)!
  6. After much hesitation, an open mind accepting whatever comes our way because “it’ll be what it’ll be”
What I learned:
  1. Airport Smarte Cartes are seriously worth the $5! We had more luggage than we could handle on our own. Even with the twins in our Ergos, we could not move a foot without help. Smarte Carte was clutch.
  2. You cannot sit a family of five in a three-seat row together (because there are only four oxygen masks), so book two seats together, and get the third seat across the aisle in the same row.
  3. My girls can keep their sh*t together, but they eventually hit a wall. Esther did AWESOME and I hardly noticed she was even there. I look forward to traveling with my twins when they are a little older (if they are anything like their big sister).
    on the plane
    Superstar traveler occupied herself with a lot of activity books.


  4. Dramamine will make one twin sleepy and have the COMPLETE OPPOSITE affect on the other twin (apparently this is not very uncommon). Yep, Miriam was absolutely energized and ballistic. She had a major screaming meltdown standing in the aisle in the middle of the plane. She needed to exorcise her flying demons, then she passed out in my arms as I stood in the aisle cradling and rocking her until she fell asleep. It was the sweetest moment, and I needed it right after she lost her mind.
    Ilana asleep on the plane
    Hubby had the sleepy baby, so jealous!

    Miriam asleep on the plane
    Miriam exhausted herself after screaming her face off, sleep has never been so sweet.
  5. Trips to the bathroom helped me stay sane (sitting in a small chair with at least 1 child crawling on me at all times is challenging!), and I can handle having two kids with me in the restroom while experiencing major turbulence. My 4 year old needed to make a few trips and Miriam always wanted to come with (she’s in a seriously mama-focused phase). While Esther was on the potty, we had some serious turbulence. I wedged Miriam in a corner and held her there with my body while I was surprised to see Esther keep her balance on the potty. Since we were all there, I figured I might as well take advantage and pee while I had the chance. I wedged Esther across from Miriam in the other corner so they only bopped around a little while the plan felt like a crazy roller coaster ride.
  6. Give people benefit of the doubt. On the flight out we had to change our seats because of the “no more than 4 people in an aisle rule” so I felt for the two gentlemen my husband and I were seated next to (we had the middle seat and played musical chairs quite a bit to keep our mobile little ladies happy). At the end of the flight I personally apologized and thanked each seatmate because I know Ilana basically fell asleep draped across my husband’s lap with her feet dangling in their personal space. The man on my right said, “Oh, don’t worry. I have a 2 year old granddaughter, I totally understand.” The man on my left said, “I’m taking notes! I have a 2 year old daughter and a 6 month old baby who couldn’t be on this trip with me because my wife couldn’t get off from work. You’re doing fine.” I felt particularly good about our flying experience when the woman seated in front of us (of course the seat I kept telling my babies they could not touch, kick, shake like monkeys in a cage, and repeatedly open and close the tray table on) said, “They did really well” without me prompting her!  Then another passenger who sat behind my gang of monkeys said when waiting to deplane, “You have 3 kids?! I thought you had 1.”   Woo hoo!
  7. Don’t underestimate myself. Traveling with three little kids is not as scary as I thought. We survived!
in the airport
Killing some time before our return flight home.
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