Having recently returned from an enjoyable family vacation in Puerto Rico, the first trip that did not involve either of my children falling ill to motion sickness, I couldn’t help but think about how much easier traveling with twins has become. Yes, I still feel stress beforehand, and I tend to expect the worst (so that I am pleasantly surprised when it turns out better), but I think my husband and I have figured out a system that works for us and, hopefully, will continue to work as they get older. If you have yet to travel long distances with your multiples or cannot find a system that makes the trips easier on you, I hope you will find some useful tidbits in this post.
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This is how we roll while on vacation.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Make a list: This may seem obvious, but the more prepared you are, the better you will feel about your trip. For me, this involves making a packing list to ensure I bring everything important and to determine what I might need to buy. (The list also includes my own travel necessities because my semi-permanent placenta brain makes packing effectively from memory almost impossible.)
To devise your list, think about the temperature and anticipated activities at your destination; what your children eat and drink in a (travel) day; how much clothing they require from morning until bedtime each day; any medications, vitamins or supplements they use (or might need in an emergency); any special bedtime necessities (e.g. noise machine, dolls, night light); toilet training tools (portable seat top); bath time supplies and toys, etc.
Leverage your familial resources: If you are visiting family members, ask them to stock up on the diapers, formula, wipes, etc. you use because it will help to alleviate some weight from your bags and save some space in your suitcase for anything you end up acquiring on your trip. Bonus points if they have also accumulated some kid-friendly gear for your use. My mother-in-law has a knack for finding some great items at yard sales (e.g. infant seats, high chairs, car seats, safety gates, play pens, etc.).
Organize what you carry: To minimize the number of carry-on bags we would bring, I used to include as much as possible in a single bag. While this certainly saved us space in the airplane cabin and in the car, I found myself constantly digging through the bag to find what we needed and lamenting the lack of compartments and zippers in it. With toddlers in tow, I now make sure to separate their cups/drinks/snacks from their toys/activities/extra clothing/wipes and my own personal items. In this way, I am able to organize our travel necessities efficiently using no more than two tote bags.
On the airplane
Buy an extra seat: If traveling with twins under two, buy an extra seat if you can afford it. (We love to cash in our points.) This will allow you to place one child in a car seat and hold the other so that you and your partner can take breaks from holding a busybody. We also found it easier for them to nap in the car seat than in our arms, and they seemed to like taking turns checking out their surroundings from a different vantage point.
One twin awake, one twin asleep
Protect your baby gear: I had read somewhere about how often car seats and strollers are damaged during travel, especially when you have to deal with airport baggage handling, so we have tried a few different approaches.
For our first trip via airplane, we purchased the most inexpensive double umbrella stroller we could find at Babies R Us and ended up having to throw it out shortly thereafter. I would recommend bringing a sturdier, one-piece stroller that also collapses easily. We now bring our well-constructed, fairly lightweight, easily collapsible Baby Jogger City Mini Double Stroller, and it has fared very well against potential transport hazards.
Before our daughters turned two, we would also bring one of our Chicco Keyfit 30 car seats aboard the airplane to secure to the extra seat we purchased and protected the second car seat in checked luggage with a car seat cover we found on Amazon. Fortunately, the car seat cover did live up to our expectations and kept our car seat from getting damaged. You can check out that same car seat cover here.
Once our daughters had to be assigned their own seats on an airplane, we began to use an FAA-approved harness system for both instead of lugging around their car seats, which brings me to my next suggestion…
Ditch the bulky car seats: When traveling with twins that are two or older, consider an FAA-approved seat harness to spare you or your partner all the muscle required to haul two car seats along with the rest of your luggage. My husband, our former pack mule, now has a much easier time carrying the convenient little pouches that come with the harnesses. Check out these safe, innovative and lightweight harnesses here. Once we’re on the ground, we use the rented car seats we have reserved from the car rental company at our destination.
Keep them entertained: Bring snacks, new toys and activities for them to do. Stickers and notebooks, sticker mosaic pictures, Crayola Color Wonder markers and compatible Color Wonder coloring books, molding clay, crayons and coloring books, Melissa & Doug Water Wow books, and beading kits have all been popular with our twins. (These are also great things to bring with you to restaurants, church, the DMV, and pretty much wherever you need your toddlers to sit and behave for an extended period of time.) Click here for some other fun ideas
Bring your carry-on essentials: In addition to the usual kit you would bring with you on an hour-long visit to wherever, I would also encourage you to bring a change of clothes for each child, plastic bags to seal off any soiled clothing or diapers, and hand towels for wiping off any spills. I love Ziploc bags for their functional versatility and minimal space requirement; they work well for storing partially eaten snacks, sealing off soiled diapers (think about the shared cabin air), collecting loose crayons and markers, etc. My daughters experience motion sickness, so we can never be without these items!
Consider headphones for toddlers: For flights lasting longer than two hours, consider bringing kid-friendly headphones for use with your personal electronic devices or the airline’s television programming. Ear buds pop out constantly, and you will have to repeatedly fix them. One of my mom friends turned me onto some great ones from Kidz Gear that are available for about $20 on Amazon. They fit comfortably on both my daughters, whose heads vary in shape and size, and the earpiece is well-cushioned with soft, kid-friendly padding. You can check out their fun colors here
Help with changes in air pressure: I generally don’t recommend giving your kids a lot of candy or sugary treats, but I have found that lollipops (especially Push Pops) do work as a distraction for the ear discomfort felt during the airplane’s descent. Drinking liquids and sucking on a pacifier, if applicable, also help a little.
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In the car
Because my twins’ motion sickness is worse in the car, we tend to avoid driving long distances. We prefer to fly or, when necessary, put them in the car at bedtime in hopes they sleep through most of the drive. Nevertheless, we have acquired a few tips for traveling with twins via automobile.
Rent a minivan: When you opt to fly to a new destination, I recommend renting a minivan for extra space and comfort. We do not have one at home, so it is always a bit of a treat for our twins. We tend to get free upgrades from a mid-size vehicle to a minivan most places we go. If your rental car company does not make a similar offer, it never hurts to ask! Also, reserve any necessary kids’ car seats in advance to ensure they are readily available when you pick up your rental vehicle.
Prepare for motion sickness: If your kids get car sick (like mine), bring a kit to keep in your vehicle that contains extra clothing, clean towels, and plastic bags for sealing soiled clothes. You should consult your pediatrician about using children’s Dramamine, but it is not usually recommended for kids that are not in school. On the day of your trip, try to avoid giving them dairy products. If you’re leaving in the morning, pancakes or muffins are better choices for breakfast than yogurt or cereal. We also stick to water, juice, and tummy-friendly snacks like crackers, chips, and applesauce.
Quick lunch in the rental minivan
Take frequent breaks: You may have to adjust your scheduled arrival if traveling long distances by vehicle. Kids need potty breaks and a chance to stretch more often than most adults do. If possible, plan your route ahead so you can stop by a park or playground along the way.
Use naptime (and bedtime) wisely: We like to plan our longer drives around their nap or bedtime schedule. Although my daughters have given up their daily naps, they cannot resist the lull of a vehicle engine when the ride is timed just right. Last year, we moved across several state lines at their bedtime, which at least saved them from becoming ill, although they did not cooperate with the anticipated sleep schedule!
Pack some entertainment: If you have DVD screens in your vehicle, play some of their favorite movies and perhaps bring some new ones that are likely to keep them occupied. Bring children’s music CDs and play games like “I spy.” If your kids are not likely to become dizzy when looking away from the direction of the vehicle, new books and other hand-held activities can also help them pass the time.
Enjoying the arts & crafts table at the hotel
At the hotel
Secure kid-friendly sleeping arrangements: When traveling with twins who still sleep in their cribs, ensure your hotel has cribs available for your use. Of course, you can also bring your own portable cribs like the popular Graco Pack ‘n Play.
If you’re traveling with twin toddlers who no longer sleep in cribs, you can ask the hotel for bed rails, although some have “safety protocols” against them.
Consider booking a suite: If you can swing it, we like to cash in points to book a one-bedroom suite that gives us a separate but adjoining space (like a pullout sofa bed in a living room) for them to sleep in. This gives the kids a better chance of respecting their bedtime routine and the parents a bit more freedom to move around the room once they are asleep. (Bonus points if you can get a suite with a kitchenette or, at the very least, a small refrigerator to store formula, milk, etc.)
Compare kid-friendly amenities: Before deciding on a hotel, check out what age-appropriate amenities the hotel property offers for your twins. Swimming pools, private beaches, playgrounds, arts & crafts, water parks, and miniature golf courses have all been popular options for my twin daughters. Free meals and babysitting services have been welcome features for their parents. Proximity to area attractions is also helpful when your hotel is lacking kid-friendly services and amenities.
Lounging by the hotel pool
Traveling away from home with children is never easy, and when you have multiples, it is likely to bring on some stress. Whether you have twin infants or toddlers, you are very likely to enjoy your travel adventures if you keep these tips in mind when you are planning your next trip. Happy, healthy twinning!
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Have I missed something? What do your vacations with twins look like? Please comment below.