Ask Shelly: Advice for flying to India with twins and handicapped mother?

I got this urgent request for advice this morning from a mom who will be traveling with twins and her handicapped mother to India in the near future, and I’m hoping those of you with experience traveling with twins in this age range, or who have traveled with a baby or toddler to India, or with the gear mentioned below, will chime in with your own thoughts as well. I offer my advice below.

Hi Shelly,

I am a mother of 15-month-old twin boys. I am from India and I want to take the kids home to meet their family. Have I signed myself a death sentence? What options do I have? I will be traveling with them and my mom who is a handicapped….can I even do it?

Specifically, we are considering how to take kids on the flight. We did get them their own seats, but I’m not sure if we really needed to?? How can they travel, realistically? We are looking at these three options:

1) The CARES harness – seems like a good convenient idea and light to carry also, but our kids are about 23 pounds and 15 months old – is this product going to contain them specially as it does not have a 5-point harness? We are reading mixed reviews about this product. Your advice

2) The Sit N Stroll car seat – seems like another good option, but we are increasing the number of items we have to take with us – also the reviews again are mixed and major concern is safety – also it is more expensive. Your advice?

3) Go kart seats we have used these before, but are too cumbersome to use and our Britax will not fit through the aisles as I am traveling without my hubbs I am not 100% confident that I will be able to handle this. Your advice?

Need your help SOS.

Thanks.

Shuchi

Before I get to the gear advice, I want to say your seats on the airplanes may greatly impact your sanity (and survival) on the long flight(s). While it is always tempting to book the bulkhead row to take advantage of infant sky cots (bassinets) when available, you need to be aware of two important things: there is usually a limit to how many young children may be seated on the entire bulkhead row, whether in their own seats and/or on laps. (Our family just had to sit on separate rows because of this ourselves.) And also, it can be very difficult to get children to sleep well in these areas of the airplane due to activity and distractions from the adjacent lavatories and galley.

Since you have purchased seats for the twins (hopefully with an infant seat discount — call the airline ASAP if not and ask), it might be best to request seats farther back in the aircraft where, with any luck, there will still be some additional seats open, giving you even more space as the children sleep and a quieter atmosphere. See if you can get a row in the center section of the aircraft all to yourselves, and start with the twins seated in the middle, an adult on each side to tend to each one, and the boys can share toys and snacks and help keep each other entertained while awake. Now for gear…

The Sit N Stroll – Yes, the Sit N Stroll offers the practical advantage of 5-point safety harness you can use in the airplane, which can be very helpful in keeping 15-month-old children in their seats, and also in a car—provided that the car has seatbelts for installing it as a car seat. However, in your case I think it would be too difficult to “drive” two different Sit N Stroll strollers through the airport by yourself, and of course you will need to be available to assist your mother… and I’d imagine carry-on baggage for all, which will be important on such long flights with your group! Also, once in India, you would probably not find the Sit N Stroll a desirable stroller option on the ground as it’s very delicate and would be very hot – not to mention it would be tough pushing two of them at a time! (More about the Sit N Stroll here.)

The GoGo Kidz Travelmate – It would be equally challenging trying to drive two separate car seats on their own GoGo Kidz Travelmates (the hand carts for car seats) by yourself. I am not sure of your car travel arrangements in India, but you may or may not have any practical use for car seats on the other end as well. And yes, bulky car seats are the last thing you’ll need to add to your juggling act on this trip. (More about the GoGo Kidz Travelmate here.)
The Traveling Toddler – You could also consider the Traveling Toddler car seat travel strap, which would at least help you combine one child, one rolling carry-on suitcase, and one car seat in a single push, but having to juggle one other child on your front or back at the same time, and possibly doing without one other car seat.  this would be a better option (more about the Traveling Toddler in Car Seat Travel Bags & Accessories)

Twin Travel Stroller + CARES – If it were me, I would bring a Maclaren twin stroller to check at the gate(either the Twin Techno or even lighter weight Twin Triumph)  for similar reasons as I described in this post (and you can read how it went for the mom in her reply), plus two CARES harnesses to use on the airplane. As I point out in my review of CARES, the harness partially uses the airplane lap belt which is easy for children to lift and open, but if you don’t make this obvious to your 15-month-olds, it may not be an issue. Also, you can twist the lap belt so that the buckle faces in toward the child and is not easily experimented with.

You will need a good stroller to keep the children secured at many stages of your trip, including while you use the restroom, change the diapers of one at a time, collect your baggage, purchase food at an airport, and possibly change gates between terminals. One with seats that recline and shields them from airport lights will also help them nap if needed during a layover. One that you can manage on your own and will fit in the taxi or other car with your baggage (or tie on top) will also be necessary. Better yet, you will be able to use the stroller to help carry your backpack, diaper bag, or other items as you make way through the terminals.

Car seats, as I’m sure you know, are quite rare in India, and many vehicles are simply not equipped for them or would be large enough for two plus an adult in the backseat. If you are sure you will be able to use car seats while in India, and will have a newer equipped vehicle for these, you could consider the Safety 1st portable Go Hybrid car seat / booster, which folds up in its own carrying case and is much safer to check through the airport’s baggage system than plastic-shell car seats, so you can simply check it on arrival. The Go Hybrid requires a top tether, however, so be sure you would have this in the vehicle(s). They are not cheap car seats, and cannot be used in airplanes, but you can use them from 22 lbs. up through school age when it converts to a backless booster, so they may help on trips to come as well as get use at home (more about the Go Hybrid in my review. Renting CARES for your trip (as opposed to buying) could help curb your costs for this investment.

Finally, by all means, contact the airline about your situation to make sure they’re fully aware and ready for you, and request airport assistance in getting your mother to the gate. Hopefully they will take your whole party together on an electric cart. It is a massive undertaking, and you are very brave to even consider it. I applaud you for honoring your extended family with this journey and sincerely wish you safe, smooth flights, and many helpful hands along the way. I am sending you a copy of each of my books in the hope that they may also help. Please let us know how it goes!

Related posts and pages:
Ask Shelly: Advice for flying to India with a 2-year-old?
Moms Around the World: Bangalore, India
Ask Shelly: Which twin stroller for travel to Europe?
Flying with twins on separate rows (and why you might want to)
Best twin or double strollers for travel
Tip #6: Flying with twins on laps

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
and the NEW Take-Along Travels with Baby pocket guide
http://www.travelswithbaby.com/

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    Brace yourself for the CARES harnesses not keeping your sons restrained- maybe do a trial run in a chair with a belt to get them used to it. If they are at all squirmy it simply won't securely hold them in their seats. Since it's only a 4 point harness they can easily slide out the bottom (which is exactly what my boys did when we flew with them at 15 months).

    Get a gate pass for your husband (or whoever drops you off at the airport). Some airlines will balk, but be firm. Another adult will be a huge help getting everyone through security to the gate. You might even bring along another adult to help with your mother.

    If I were in your shoes I would bring a single Maclaren stroller (one of the light ones- the Volo or Triumph) and an Ergo. I'd wear one baby on the front, use a backpack as my carry on/diaper bag, and place the other baby in the stroller. On the plane I would bring one carseat and one CARES harness. I might even consider bringing a bucket (Snugride) style of carseat (and a snap n go stroller) since they are so much lighter than a convertible. At 23 lbs your guys might still be able to fit comfortably. It will be much more manageable to be able to securely strap one in and tend to the one attempting to escape the CARES harness. The Ergo will be good to have on board the plane- you'll be able to wear it in your seat to hold a sleeping baby to your chest, you can walk the aisles with a baby strapped to you, etc.

    For the flight try memorize several songs and stories so you don't have to depend on a book (sometimes you just can't reach one). Hearing a familiar tune really helped my little dudes cope with the stress of all the new sounds and sights on the plane. We sang a lot during take off and landing.

    Good luck!

  2. Gup Chup

    Hi Shelly

    Thanks a lot a lot for your very detailed and informative advice

    I will call the airline and check with them about the infant discounts baggage limitations and special needs.
    I think our original thought was also to get 4 in a row seats that arrangement worked out very well with us for Chicago flight, something with extra leg space will work out best for us.
    for traveling you have adviced us on the harness, I also heard that the airline also provides with a harness for the toddlers which helps keep them in place , how has your experience been with that? if you have ever used it?

    I look forward to reading your books and thanks again soo much for your advice , I will keep you posted on how it went for us.

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