Traveling on a plane with 1-year-old twins would be nerve-racking for any parent. But it was all the more so for Lucas Grindley before he and his husband took their daughters on their first flight. A crying baby is not just a crying baby for a gay parent like him, he said; he feared it would be seen as a commentary on his ability to be a parent. “Because people don’t have loads of experience with gay parents, they are more judgmental of them,” said Grindley, citing a study by Binghamton University that showed a pattern of negative reactions from participants toward a gay couple engaging in the same parenting as a straight couple.
Once aboard, though, Grindley found the TSA and other passengers were as helpful to them as to other parents – at least as far as he noticed. “When I’m in the zone and am trying to keep them occupied and happy,” he said of his daughters, now 2½, “I’m not thinking at all what other people are thinking of me.”
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Grindley on what parents – gay or straight – should keep in mind when traveling.
Q: Any tips for surviving flights with toddlers?
A: We bring all kinds of little games to keep them entertained, like coloring books. And we have all these snacks they’ve never had before, so it’s more fun. We stock the iPad with those 20-minute Disney Junior and Sprout movies. To protect our iPad from being dropped on the ground, we got this cover called the i-Blason ArmorBox Kido, and to ensure the girls can hear it without disturbing our neighbors, we got Kidz Gear headphones.
Q: And when they were infants, what did you do on the plane?
A: Everyone assured me that they would sleep on the plane, and they did. You do have to prepare for takeoff and landing, though, so we brought a bottle with a smaller nipple size so it took them longer to finish it.
Q: Any particular paperwork you carry?
A: When the kids were young enough that we didn’t need to buy airline tickets for them, we did still need copies of their birth certificates so that we could prove their age. At the time of our first trip, we were still in the foster care system, hoping to adopt, so we had to get copies from the county. For foster parents, that’s worth noting because you have to allow for the time needed to get that. We actually had to email our entire trip itinerary to the social worker to get approval to leave the state, and you can’t travel internationally. As a precaution, we also brought the paperwork that said we were legally responsible for the girls’ health care. As it turned out, one of our girls who was learning to walk fell and hurt her mouth; we took her to the emergency room, where we needed the paperwork to show we were legally responsible.
Q: Any tips for helping your kids adjust once you arrive?
A: We are the folks who don’t change nap schedules; we just move everything back three hours when we’re on the East Coast. Instead of their 7:30 bedtime, they go to bed at 10:30, though that would be difficult to do going from East to West. We use Pack’n Plays (portable cribs) for their beds – the grandparents usually borrow two, and most hotels have them – and we bring all their sleeping accouterments. We even brought extra copies of their security blankets in case we lost them, which we did once.
Q: How do you transition to being home?
A: Schedule a day of vacation to recover from your vacation.