Flying with Toddler | International Flight with Kids

I was so apprehensive flying to India with my twins when they were 20 months old despite having flown with them so frequently before.  It was definitely different from before.  At 20 months, they were loud, they were so mobile, they wanted so much space to move, and they had such short attention span.  We flew Emirates from San Francisco to Hyderabad, with a 3-hour layover in Dubai, and altogether a 22-hour journey.

My mom traveled with me (since 2 infants are not allowed on lap with 1 adult passenger unless you buy a separate seat for one), but because it had been just 2 weeks since she met the kids – they were more clingy to me.

Here's my video showing what I packed in my bags and in this post there are lot more details and updates on what I couldn't record in the video.

What I packed in my toddlers’ check-in bag:

  • 2 big packs of diapers and wipes (this was A. just to last us for 1 week to 10 days in case we get too busy in India to go buy Pampers or Mamy Poko, and B. in case we don't find any nanny to help--which we fortunately did within a few days, so the kids were mostly on cloth nappies half the day and she cleaned them (they wore diapers only during nap, bedtime, and when going out).
  • Their clothes for a month, their towels, their Munchkin Miracle 360 cups for water, their straw bottles for milk, a basket that I use to keep all their bottles in one place
  • In one Ziploc I packed: 
  • In another Ziploc I packed:
Note: I traveled in the month of September 2016 to Hyderabad when there was high risk of malaria, dengue, and what nots.  Hence I took extra precaution.  In our previous trip to India when kids were 11 months old – I did not apply any of these. 
  • In a box of wipes:
    • Medicine bottles (Infant’s Tylenol and Children's Motrin), a syringe and measuring cup for the medicines
    • Vicks Vaporub
    • Nail cutter
  • Aquaphor (I apply this on my kids every day for their dry skin and absolutely love it for myself too)
  • Washcloths
  • Sanitizer bottles
  • Bottle cleaning and straw cleaning brush
  • An extra pair of shoes for each

What I packed in my toddlers’ carry-on bag:
  • Diapers in two different Ziploc bags (keep extra in case there is flight delay or longer layover)
  • Wipes (travel pack)
  • Plastic bags (to throw diapers)
  • Disposable liners (to act as a changing pad)
  • Snacks (I took some biscuits, crackers, and smoothie packs.  We also took some khichdi (rice and lentil porridge), paratha (Indian roti), and aloo sabzi (stir-fried potatoes) just before leaving in case there’s no food for them in flight.
  • Crayons and white papers
  • New, small, and lightweight toys and books and stickers that they haven't seen before to keep them busy
  • Familiar toys (in this case I took their LeapFrog Remote--I love how this toy is educational, small, lightweight, handy, has sound and lights, and great for travel)
  • Magnetic doodle (there's no mess, no colors, no leaks, no other tools needed - great toy for travel especially for kids who love scribbling)
  • A washcloth and extra clothes for kids and for me (in my last flights they have puked and pooped over their clothes and mine and it was sick)
  • iPhone stand (since I saved some videos for them to watch during travel)
  • Ergobaby 360 carrier (I took it in my last trip to India when kids were less than 1 year old and I love how it did not give me shoulder, back, or hip pain.)

What I packed in my laptop/shoulder bag:

  • Their jackets
  • Portable phone charger (in case flight doesn't have charging points near the seat)
  • Phone chargers
  • A box of raisins (because they say sucking or chewing something during takeoff and landing helps ease ear pain for kids, and my kids never say no to raisin, so I thought of letting them chew raisins, and because of that I intentionally did not give raisins to them a week before flying)
  • My laptop and charger
Keshav and Alisha carried their favorite blankie and lovey with them pretty much the whole time.

I wore cargo kind of pants with multiple pockets (ideal for travels for me!).  So in one pocket I kept a pen, in one I had passports, in one I had cotton balls to put in our ears (for all 4 of us) to avoid ear pain.  I did not wear any belt or socks or scarf or jacket or anything that was required to be taken off during security checks, so that saved me a good amount of time.  I wore loafers (simple slip on shoes) and nothing with laces either.

Maclaren stroller at Dubai airport
I was debating whether I should take their heavy Joovy Double Stroller or not because in our last trip our other double stroller was of no use and car seats were of no use (everyone liked to carry babies in their hands), but I borrowed one Cosco Umbrella Stroller from our cousin just before leaving for airport and oh my god it was so light, so small, so easy to fold and keep, and very useful!  However, we had to check the stroller in at the gate and received it only with all our luggage at the destination (India).  Emirates provides Maclaren umbrella strollers at the airport in Dubai so we used those during half of our layover.  But handling a stroller with one hand and dragging our carry-on bag and carrying my shoulder bag was quite messy.  There were carts at Dubai airport so I put one kid inside the cart, the carry-on bag underneath, and had only the cart to push around – which was so much easier both for me and my mom.

In my last trip to India I had carried one Fisher-Price booster dining seat for my kids to learn to eat sitting at one place.  At that time they were 7 months old.  But it took a lot of space in my bag so instead of taking the dining seat this time I borrowed this Baby's Journey High Chair Pad (as pictured) from our cousin.  I could buckle it up to the chair and feed Keshav (since he’s the mischievous one who wants to move around) while Alisha would sit still and eat.  It’s a very useful thing for travels, it is portable and foldable, and take so little space and weight.

How was my journey and trip to India with my 20 month old twins?

Regarding food in flight
Kids ate a little bit of food that we carried.  I was planning to feed my kids whatever vegetarian food they’d serve us. They give dinner roll, butter, fruits, salad, etc with the meal and that was something my kids could eat.  Food was not much of a concern to me because I have got my kids used to eating various foods.

Regarding milk in flight
I did not carry milk with me.  I used the milk they serve from a carton in flight and I asked attendants to warm it up a little.  For the 22 hour journey and just for one day it didn’t matter to me if it was whole milk or 2% or even fat-free.  My kids drank without a problem.

Regarding changing diaper in flight
I took them to change diaper one after the other (their diaper changing schedule at home is pretty much the same too).  They were big for the small changing table in the toilets but I had to distract them with lights and mirror and songs and questions and all of that.

Regarding entertainment in flight

Emirates has lots of children’s movies to choose from, and just for this one day I did not lose my mind and peace of mind over the amount of screen time.  I let them watch as much as they wanted to because it being touch screen, there wasn’t much I could control there.  All their small toys and books barely got used in the flight.  Also, Emirates give coloring book and color pencils and lots of goodies in flight for kids so that kept my kids a little occupied too (but no more than 10 minutes).  And for myself – I may have watched a couple of movies while sipping on wine, after wine, after wine.

Regarding seating and sleeping in flight
We had booked 2 adult seats with 2 infants on lap.  Fortunately there was an extra seat beside both my mom and I in both our flights from SFO to Dubai and Dubai to Hyderabad, so both my kids got to sit.  Otherwise it would have been crazy to have them on lap the whole time.  Before boarding the flight I did ask at the counter if they could assign me a seat beside an empty one and the ground staff was very helpful, and so were the stewardess who did some shuffling around of passengers so I could get an extra seat beside mine.  I put Emirates’ blankets and pillows on the seat to make it comfortable for kids to sleep.  There are some leg rest travel pillows like Fly Tots that are becoming very popular these days but I didn’t carry those.

Regarding jetlag and sleeping
They were jetlagged for the first week.  They’d be up at 2-3 in the night and sleep during the day.  I tried shifting their sleep times by an hour every day.  The one day when I tried to keep them awake for as long as possible all day – they were super cranky all day and finally slept early in the evening, hence ruining their night sleep, my sleep, and our schedule.  I was soooo close to buying a travel crib and carrying along with me but I did not because I did not have enough space in bags.  So the kids either slept on the bed (surrounded by pillows) or on the single mattress (both could fit into and sleep horizontally on the vertical mattress along with a pillow between them) that was spread out on the floor in our room.  I slept either on bed or on the mattress on floor with either one child or with both or without both – whatever the situation at the moment demanded :)

Regarding food in India
I gave them boiled water in India for the first week, then started giving them the regular filtered water that we all drank.  I cooked food with less salt and spice for them and they ate roti and rice that we all ate.  The food intake and their appetite did go down for the first week in India, also they would skip meal because of being jetlagged.  There was a particular "gaushala" (cowshed) in Hyderabad where they sell packaged pure cow's milk.  It is pricier but good quality milk without adulteration.  I boiled it and gave that milk to my kids. 

Regarding health in India
They were fine for the first week, then the next week they both caught fever that ranged and kept swinging from 101 to 104.  So this week they lost their appetite once again.  I gave them Tylenol and Motrin (dose was as required for their age and weight).  They did not catch any malaria or dengue or anything else.  They’ve had fever, cold, and cough the last few times when we traveled back and forth from India to Thailand in 2015 so I guess that’s why I didn’t panic and was mentally prepared no matter how much I prepared or prevented.

Regarding mosquitoes
1.       If you give a bath with this Avon Bath Oil [I couldn't get it shipped in time but my cousin had recommended it. Something about this bath oil's fragrance keeps mosquitoes away plus safe for kids any day.]
2.      Then lightly apply this Ultrathon Mosquito Repellent Cream
3.      Then put this Mosquito Repellent Patch on shirt [This is the brand my cousin had recommended but I ended up buying the other one that you see in my video which is useless because the sticker keeps falling off the clothes]
4.      And then lightly, gently spray this Mosquito Repellent Spray on calves and feet [one 4oz bottle will last well]
Then your child will be definitely well-protected from mosquitoes.  I know some people also carry a mosquito net to protect their child from mosquitoes.  Not me.  I carried cream, patch, and spray and applied either one or two of those things in morning and once in evening – whichever worked out in the amount of time I had and if the kids cooperated!

Travel Tips!

§  Use an empty box of wipes to store bottles and other small items.  The baggage staff throws the bags around (despite the Fragile sticker) and stuff gets damaged.  It all stays safe and in one place inside the box of wipes!
§  I like to pack as many things as I can in Ziploc bags.  So simple to carry, is lightweight, can be disposed of if not needed, and easy to see what’s what and what’s where!
§  If you are taking toys or anything else that requires batteries – remember to replace to new batteries!
§  Overnight journey works out the best for us.  When kids sleep 10-12 hours of a 22 hour journey, it's only the other half to worry about.
§  Keep yourself and your child hydrated and moisturized. I did not keep a tube of Boroline handy (I use it on dry skin for me and my kids) or a tube of Aquaphor while going and Keshav's and my skin became so dry and irritable throughout the journey. On our way back it was so much better when I carried a tube and applied every few hours.

Phew!  That was a long post.  I hope my lists and notes and experiences are useful for those of you flying with your kids.

Happy Travels!

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