Good-Enough Traveling

Some families, by necessity, started off right away traveling with their twins (and then some) – because family lives across the globe, or because work required it, or because they’re just plain crazy. As an example of the latter, a friend drove her three children – 26 month old twins and a 10 week old – to see family for the weekend. Six hours away. Solo.

Us? We live 400 miles round trip by car to get to family. And because my entire family lives in that one city, we’re the ones that have to do the traveling – about six times a year. And every time we just don’t know what we’re going to get. Sure, I’ve got a spreadsheet packing list with formulas for how many diapers and outfits to take based on how long we’re gone. (This makes it easier for my partner and my nanny to participate in getting us ready to leave town. And yes, I know that is anal.)

But I will be honest when I say that going out of town with the twins is pretty close to the bottom of favorite things to do. Why?

They hate sitting in a car. Yes, all this fostering of independence from an early age we’ve promoted, all this learning to walk by us without leashes, has produced toddlers who cannot stand to be stuck in a carseat for three and a half hours. They also hate strollers.

I’ve tried everything – making sure we have enough snacks, breaking down and buying dual monitor DVDs (it helps!), stickers, coloring books, books, toys, an iPod playlist with favorite music, and iPhone app for white noise, and knowing our one stop for a breath of fresh air and a diaper change. All those things work, but there is inevitable unhappiness, and omigod, the whining!

We’ve tried leaving first thing in the morning, after breakfast. That didn’t really work because they hadn’t run off some of their energy and we’d end up arriving with overtired kids. We’ve tried leaving just before the morning nap (back when they were still taking two naps). That worked somewhat, but inevitably the boy wouldn’t need as much sleep and would start talking away and then wake up his still-sleepy sister, and then it would be hell. We’ve tried leaving in the late afternoon and that was flat out a disaster of tears. Now that they are down to one nap a day, we’ve tried leaving right after breakfast and also right before the nap. With mixed results. And just this last trip, we tried leaving long after the afternoon nap (so that they’d at least be rested), anticipating a pre-bedtime arrival, thinking the waning daylight would help calm them down. IT DIDN’T.

We have not tried leaving at bedtime because I am just too risk-averse to jack with night time sleeping, and because my kids are not the kind of kids that stay asleep from carseat to bed. We have not tried driving in the middle of the night because neither drivers are night owls. And we have not tried getting up before dawn because, well, trust me, you do not mess with the girl’s sleep.

For us, knowing that there is no great time to travel with our kids, we’ve concluded that after breakfast arriving before lunch, is the best of the worst window of opportunity. That gives us time for a snack in the car, some Dora, minimized whining, arrival at Grandma’s just before all hell breaks loose, lunch at Grandma’s, a romp outdoors while we set up their sleeping spaces, and then a nap around noon.

I cannot even imagine when we’ll ever travel together “for fun” and it not be a family birthday or major holiday. Maybe when they’re six.

How about you? What’s your best window of opportunity, and why?

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Rachel blogs about life with twins and a two-mom household over at Motherhood.Squared .

20 thoughts on “Good-Enough Traveling

  1. Our girls are great car travelers. We’ve been driving the 10-12 hour trip to visit both our families 3-4 times a year since the girls were 6 months old (4 months adjusted if that matters to anyone). The girls are now 4.5 years.

    We always leave at 4am. By packing the car the day before and going to bed when the girls go to bed, we are all well rested and we can count on the girls sleeping a good chunk of the trip. We also arrive in plenty of time to settle in before attempting dinner/bedtime somewhere other than home. If you have trouble going to sleep really early, this is the time for the first driver to take a sleeping pill while the other parent does night duty with the kids. He or she can always catch a nap with the kids at 4am.

    As infants, they just stayed asleep or went back to sleep quickly at 4am and we drove ’til they woke for breakfast and had 3-4 hours of the trip behind us. A couple of hours awake, morning nap, lunch, a couple hours awake, afternoon nap and we’d arrive in time to hand the girls off to their grandparents for an hour or so while we napped.

    As the years have passed, the girls have dropped their naps one by one, but have become easier to entertain to the road. Some trips are good, some not so good, but overall, our system works for us and the kids no what to expect.
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..The Victory Dance =-.

  2. My boys are almost 3, daughter just turned 1 and baby #4 due this summer…we don’t go out of town much. We drive about 2 hours 2-3 times a year to visit in-laws. If they want to see us more, they come here. My kids don’t travel well and I’m with you–we don’t mess with sleep if we don’t have to. We’re hoping in a few years, when all 4 are a little older, it will go better, but right now I can’t take the whining and screaming that inevitably comes with any trip over an hour. My kids are very well behaved, but just do not like being stuck in their seats. We haven’t tried the dvd player yet…I’m sure that would help with the older 2, but for now, we’ll just stick around home and let the grandparents come to us. It’s much easier on everyone.
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..23 weeks =-.

  3. I loved this post. I’ve always liked traveling, we too have far-away families–but I too really disliked traveling with my twins, who turned 3 in December. We’ve only taken one long car trip with them, from Boulder to mid-Missouri where our closest family members are (an 11-hour trip when it’s just adults), when they were 4 months old. We found it exhausting–it took 16 hours–and we still haven’t attempted it again. We also flew with them twice when they were under a year–that was mostly fine, though easier with 8-month-olds than almost-one-YOs. After that, no travel with them until they turned 3. I just couldn’t imagine it. Since turning 3, however, they have flown twice, once a five-hour flight (with husband) and once a 1.5-hour flight (me solo w/ them)–and both times went well. I think we might be over the hump. I also think the drive to Missouri might be do-able again, if we split it into two days….But I’m quite ready to plan a trip like that….

  4. We have to do an 8 hour drive each way every 28 days for my one twin’s chemo. Our first trip for that was when he was 4 months old. They are so used to it now, they don’t even care. They’ve also become excellent at eating out. They are 9 months now.
    .-= Jayme´s last blog ..Ryan Update =-.

  5. Just reading this post about traveling is enough to make my chest tighten with anxiety. The last trip we took was over Christmas to see our family, about a 4-hour drive one-way. I swore from the backseat, where I was sitting between the girls’ carseats to try to “stretch” their lunch time by an hour, car sick myself, that we WOULD NOT DO THIS AGAIN until the girls were older. How much older? I am hoping we won’t have to wait until the girls are SIX, as you suggested (LOL), but I have decided that, if our family wants to see us between now and this summer, they’d better be packing for a trip northbound.

    We always leave as quickly after breakfast as we can…although it usually takes a good hour to pack the car and load the girls. Unfortunately we use most of the *stuff* we have to pack, so we’re limited with what we can pack ahead of time. The girls usually sleep for about the length of a normal naptime, an hour and a half or so, and then Mommy climbs into the backseat to sing, dance, play, and fill their little faces full of snacks until we reach our destination. That usually puts us an hour and a half or so late for lunch, but the girls have managed OK the few times we’ve done it.

    We’ve had great luck on the drive home a couple of times, making a pit stop to see more relatives. We have about an hour in the car during morning naptime, so we’re lucky if the girls sleep 3o minutes. We feed them lunch and play at the pit stop, and then they’re so tired that they’ve taken a monster…like THREE HOUR!!!…nap on the major part of the drive home.

    I have decided, though…no matter what…we’re going to the BEACH this year. It’s normally an 8- or 9-hour drive, which I guess we might have to split into two days, but it’s going to happen. Somehow. :)

    [Oh, and I'm glad to hear someone else has an Excel spreadsheet with formulas. Makes me feel "normal". HA!]
    .-= MandyE´s last blog ..Little Misses Muffet =-.

  6. We’re in the travel early in the day group. We try to leave right after breakfast or right after lunch (nap time?). But, it is only 1.5-2 hours to get to the grandparents’ houses. We generally managed with quiet babies. The challenge is keeping the 3 year old entertained without relying on an endless stream of snacks.

  7. We travel a lot and have learned to not get too stressed about it. We started early, a few months old, and make the trip from Southern California to Northern California about every 2 months. At first, the 7-ish hour drive took us about 10 hours — that sucked. Way too mnay feedings, changing, pumping. Once they could hold their own bottles and eating solids it was so much nicer. I would carry the “bottle boat”, thermos of boiling water, cooler, and breast pump in the front seat (yes I was crowded). I would heat their bottles while we were still driving, quickly pour the water back into the thermos so I could use it again, give them bottles, wait until they finished to give them toys, then pray that I could have 20 minutes so I could pump and not have to turn around to fetch things from the backseat.

    Slowly the trip would get shorter and shorter. Just last month we made the trip in in 7 hours, one stop, and no crying. The girls are 3 now.

    We have also always left super duper early so they could sleep a few hours when it is still dark outside.

    Not always easy…..Good luck!

  8. We have taken several very long road trips and my boys do very well in the car. What’s tricky is getting them settled for the night in a new place. I try to duplicate the home environment by bringing their white noise machine AND (call me crazy) I bring at least 1 or 2 very dark sheets that I can cover the windows with to make the sleeping room darker. What do I attach the sheets with? Binder clips, of course, which I bring along in at least two sizes. THAT’s twin motherhood.

  9. Or I should have said, THAT’s twin mother brain at work. THAT’s the foresight required to meet the challenge of keeping the twins on schedule even when on the road.

  10. EXACTLY what Rhonda said. Down to the drive time. It’s a 10-hour trip to my MIL’s and we’ve made it a half dozen times with no incident and my twosome are 18-months old. I think starting early (age and time both!) is the key…

  11. My babes are almost a year and we have done one full day (each way) road trip and a few half day ones. For the younger ones I highly recommend the Podee bottles and the car adapter for the pump. This eliminates the need to stop for feedings. Also leashes for the binkies so you don’t have to contort yourself too much as you “fish”!

  12. So, how did you teach them to walk beside you (out of the stroller)? Do you have a method? I have two 16 month olds (I’m a single mother by choice – SMC) and have a great amount of trepidation about letting them have that kind of independence (although I really want them to have it….) in certain venues. Most of the outdoor spaces we go to are pretty safe for wandering, but…

    By the way, I love your blog and your family is beautiful!
    .-= Lisa ´s last blog ..Juggle, juggle. =-.

  13. Lisa – I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. By about 16 months old, and particularly by 17 months, I felt my two understood me well enough that I could say, “you have to hold mommy’s hand or I will pick you up.” And then I followed through. That sometimes meant carrying two toddlers like sacks of potatoes, but eventually they got the idea. There is no exception…if they are out of the car, they have to hold my hand as we walk.

    Just like most things…consistency and persistence pays off! :)

  14. The only time I have travelled with my 3 was when my twins were 6 weeks old and my son was 12 months. Me and 2 of my sisters drove to North Carolina. Thankfully with 3 adults it wasn’t too bad, but it was tough making the stop every 3-4 hours to feed the little ones. Now that they are 14 months and 24 1/2 months, I can’t imagine doing it.
    .-= Amy´s last blog .. =-.

  15. We’ve traveled quite a lot with our twins (now 2) since they were born. We’ve flown cross country 4 times, internationally once and we make it to our weekend house (4 hours away by car) about three weekends out of five.

    I think that the key is that we started traveling with them when they were only 8 weeks old, so they are desensitized to some degree. Also, we try to do most driving starting around their bedtime (7pm) so they just sleep in the car. If we have to drive during the day, we coincide with nap times and always try to have car-friendly snacks and toys or books on hand. We don’t have a DVD player in the car – yet. So far, they seem to enjoy checking out the scenery and cars (especially CARS) as we drive.

    The packing is a very streamlined process once you’ve done it enough. All of the travel gear that we fly with is collapsible (peapods rule, and so does packing everything in with your car seats) and if we are going for an extended period of time, I have diapers and whatnot shipped ahead by diapers.com, instead of dragging it myself, or getting stressed about shopping when we arrive.

    Flying will be curbed for a bit because we have to buy tickets for the boys now… but hopefully not for too long. I feel like a change of scenery is good for them, and me.
    .-= Allison´s last blog ..The Two at Two =-.

  16. I have a 3 year old and twin 20 month olds. We’ve traveled 6 hours each way to see my parents over long weekends since they were born. I think this is part of the key. They are used to it. (We’ve also taken one 10 hour each way trip last August…hard but okay. LOTS of pre-planning!) Our best bet is to leave around 4 or 5 p.m. Stop for dinner between 6-7 p.m. Turn on a full-length movie after that. They’re usually asleep by 8-9 p.m. and hubby and I hang out until we arrive at destination. Here’s the tricky part. When we arrive, all the kids wake up because they’re so excited to see Grandma/pa we usually let them play while we unload for about an hour. We begin talking about bed time and start our routine and they usually go down around Midnight. They sleep until their normal time between 6:30-7 a.m. I really didn’t think this could work, but we’ve done it about 4 times now and they just seem to get it. Also, they are used to putting themselves to sleep alone in a dark room, so we don’t rock them or sing or perform any other tricks. Good luck to all!!!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Picture test… =-.

  17. oh my, i’m SO nervous. we have a big summer of travel coming up: 4 kids under 7 years old, the youngest two will be almost a year old. We’ll be flying internationally for 8 hours and then we have 3 15-20 hour card rides. FL-NE-PA-GA. Are we entirely crazy??

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