Just the thought of taking an infant on a long flight is enough to induce dread and anxiety in most parents. But traveling with infant twins? When Christina Diaz, 38, and Michael Rubinstein, 32, parents of 14-week old twins Arrow and Jasper, booked a cross-country flight to visit family in Washington, DC, they knew it might be a bumpy flight—in more ways than one. So to make it easier on their fellow passengers, the couple got creative.
According to Fox News, before the flight took off, the couple passed out goodie bags filled with hard candy and chocolate and a preemptively apologetic note that read, "We're twin baby boys on our first flight and we're only 14 weeks old! We'll try to be on our best behavior, but we'd like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared, or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (a.k.a. our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them. We are all sitting in 20E and 20F if you want to come by to get a pair. We hope you have a great flight."
One passenger was so charmed that he posted a photo of the note on Reddit.com, where it promptly went viral. As for the twins, by all accounts, they made it through the flight just fine, though some cabinmates did take Diaz and Rubinstein up on the earplugs offers.
Cute idea, right? Since not every parent has time to make treat bags, though, this story still leaves us wondering something: Besides buying earplugs in bulk, is there anything parents can do to keep small children happy—instead of howling—on long plane flights?
The answer, thankfully, is yes, says Debbie DuBrow, a mom of three and travel writer who blogs about family travel at DeliciousBaby.com.
The first step to calmer skies? "Allow plenty of time to make it through security and onto the plane," she says. "If you're rushing, the kids will be flustered before you ever get on board."
Once on board, keep children well-fed and and let them know through your actions that they have your complete attention. In other words, keep the computer in your carry-on, unless you're using it to keep them entertained. Also be aware that during takeoff and landing, changes in air pressure can be uncomfortable for your child's ears. Older kids can keep their ears "popped" by chewing gum. For babies and toddlers, breastfeeding, or offering a bottle or sippy cup of milk, can also do the trick.
As the hours drag by, DuBrow has an arsenal of low-cost ways to keep young travelers happy, including such tactics as:
- Magazine Scavenger Hunt: Thumb through the airline's complimentary magazine and pick one item per page for your child has to locate (where the mountain? where's the boy?). For older children, come up with a list of images they need to find by themselves in the magazine.
- Instant Picture Book: Load some fun pictures onto your digital camera before you leave on your trip (you're carrying it anyway). "Good candidates are pictures of the people and places you are going to visit or pictures of a recent adventure—like the zoo," says DuBrow. Whenever there's a lull, make up stories based on the photos.
- Be Handy: Teach yourself some new finger rhymes before you go. Don't know all the verses to "Where is Thumbkin?"? Now is the time to brush up!
- Make Meals Fun: "Extend snack time by challenging your child. 'What is the the smallest bite you can take?' or 'See if you can eat just one at a time,' which can be tricky for little fingers," DuBrow finds.
And if none of these work?
"Three words," advises DuBrow. "Barf bag puppets"