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Mum of toddler triplets shares genius tips for surviving flights with your sanity intact.

Life with triplets. It’s busy. It’s harder than I’d ever imagined.

It’s three times the nappies, the washing, the cooking, the nurturing; it is three times the tantrums and three varied sleep patterns. There is no time to ‘rest when they’re sleeping’ or the wheels fall off pretty much straight after a nap. But it’s three times the love, three times the laughter and three times the hugs. So you go on, unkempt eyebrows and all.

After a natural and unexpected, yet welcome, pregnancy, I learned everything on the run. It took a while to truly believe I could raise three babies at once, especially as they were my first. But once they were born, my heart exploded with love and I managed, day by (looong) day.

A year and a half of clinging loosely to routine and staring at the same walls without falling into a heap had me dreaming of sipping piña coladas on pristine beaches under warm skies. When $400 return flights to Hawaii popped up in my news feed, I booked a family holiday before I could even say ‘toddler triplets’.

Hmmm. My babies would be almost two and there were three of them.

"Hmmm. My babies would be almost two and there were three of them." Image: Supplied.

If those pool side drinks weren’t waiting beyond the flights, beyond the customs gates, I’m not too sure we would have boarded the plane. Only time and a long list stood in my way. And three stubborn little colds.

Here’s how I survived our first family holiday and long haul flights, with triplet toddlers:

1. Acceptance – you have kids.

Before babies, travelling was my life. I lived to explore the wonders of the world.

Impulsive, spontaneous and treacherous journeys would be on hold for now. I had to accept planning, preparation, organisation and packing for others would now be part of my holidays (at least for another 16 years).

2. Belief – people travel all the time.

Once I accepted my travel life had changed, I recalled flights I had taken with families and their screaming children. As a youngster, I questioned their holiday choice: was the potential of a screaming baby on a flight not a deterrent to wait a few years until chocolates and movies could quell their piercing cries?

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For me, it was better the devil I didn’t know. Anything was an improvement on the same four walls and monotonous routine. People travel with babies all the time. So can you!

3. Use your luggage wisely – bag riders saved space and our sanity.

Cheap flights don’t come with any bells and whistles. Or free luggage.

From door to door, I needed to pack for 20 hours. At a minimum, that’s 24 nappies, 15 meals, tons of snacks, entertainment and emergency gear. I also needed to keep the babies close when running the airport gauntlet, passing through customs and boarding the plane (my kids naturally run in opposite directions).

family travel with triplet toddlers
"Cheap flights don’t come with any bells and whistles. Or free luggage." Image: Supplied.

That's when carry on cases with seating for toddlers gave me a solution, like those made by Mountain Buggy Bagrider. These bags provided enough space to store all our on-board needs, plus they convert to a type of pram to securely seat the toddlers when they were tired or needed to be contained.

As the distance from an airport entrance to most boarding gates is usually over a kilometre, there is no way we could have carried the babies and our luggage that far. I never thought I’d be so appreciative of some luggage, but these things may have saved my holiday. They definitely saved my sanity.

4. Book travel around sleep patterns.

Probably my biggest mistake. I was mostly concerned about ensuring the flights ran as smoothly as possible (so those youngsters without kids didn’t give me the evil eye when my babies inevitably screamed).

I packed earphones, iPads, movies, books, pencils, toy trains, healthy snacks; a few un-healthy snacks for negotiation… if a child had ever been coaxed, persuaded or cajoled with something, I had it. But there is no outsmarting the sleep cycle of a toddler. Our flight out departed at 3pm, in time for a very late afternoon sleep. The babies spent a few hours awake toward dinner time, but once they ate their meals, viola, all slept for a good five hours.

My smug demeanour from our successful flight quickly vanished on our return. Our flight departed at 8am, which meant a 4am wakeup call for the babies and a very, very, very uncomfortable flight home. Two of my babies gave in to cuddles and rocking… but these actions stirred a fury like I’ve never seen in one of my boys.

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At one point, I had half the plane offering settling tips and tricks, with the other half auctioning off spare earplugs and earphones. If there was anything I’d do differently, it would be to check alternate flight times, book evening flights only and pay the difference.

5. Confirm travel plans and speak the lingo.

"Before babies, travelling was my life. I lived to explore the wonders of the world." Image: Supplied.

When travelling with babies, nothing gave me more peace than purchasing travel insurance and confirming all details with our travel agent.

Even though I had printed confirmation all was well (and confirmed via at least 20 phone calls), I stood at our hotel reception for an hour begging for cots for the babies to sleep in, to no avail. The Americans, we finally surmised, call a cot a ‘Pack and Play’.

6. Pack bags early and enjoy your holiday.

Another path to holiday happiness, for me, was packing early. I feared forgetting a passport, missing the plane and heading back home to the kitchen. I really try to avoid that kitchen. We were heading into an American summer, which made packing easier. We wouldn’t need our winter woolies in balmy Hawaii.

I packed for one person per week, which meant I was thinking about our holiday daily. My anxiety over forgetting something was almost non-existent when our luggage was ready to load two weeks ahead of departure. I could now focus on unwinding in time for our holiday and having everything ready made all the difference.

I’m a lists kind of girl and felt pretty accomplished by the end of it. My holiday to-do list was pretty extensive and took weeks to prepare. But planning was a pathway to holiday happiness and our kids can now look back on happy snaps, not snappy snaps.

What are your tips for travelling with toddlers? Tell us in the comments section below. 

Speaking of stress-busting travel tips, this is the only packing hack you'll need. Commit it to memory now.

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