How to travel with twin infants, toddlers, and a dog, and remain sane
Travel with four kids under four
A month ago we took our four month old twins down to Cape May on their first overnight trip. We had such a good time with the boys and things went so smoothly that we decided to take a weekend trip with not only the boys and our dog, but our friends and their two toddlers as well. Little did we know how much harder traveling with an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old can be. Luckily we did several things right in advance and things ran smoothly as well. Here’s how you too can successfully take an extended weekend trip with four children under 4. We visited the great and child friendly town of Mystic, CT, but these tips apply for any trip.
As with so many things in life, a good plan will help lead to success. Remember what Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” A good plan is adaptable, flexible, and modifiable. With kids, there will be plenty of unforeseen circumstances that change and disrupt the plan. Be ready for these. Don’t become a slave to the plan and freak out when things change. I’m incredibly guilty of this, but have begun accepting that things change and no plan is set in stone.
However, just because plans have a propensity to change, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make one. Planning ahead for the things you definitely want to do and see will help make sure you actually do and see them. Think of your plan more as a menu of the things you have available to do, and then as the days progress, you can choose from it to do the most important things first. Tantrums, naps, and unexpected bathroom and food breaks may derail your plans, but you’ll still get to the most important places.
Don’t be afraid to split up
Infants and toddlers have very different schedules and needs. While infants will pretty much react the same way to all entertainment activities, there are some that may not work well logistically. For those that require quiet, try to plan them around feeding or typical nap times. We were able to take in a planetarium show because we lined it up right with a feeding and the twins kept silent for the whole thing.
Because the toddlers tended to eat early and this coincided with the time we typically put the infants to bed, we tended to split up around dinner time and reconvene in the evenings once all the kids were asleep. We also split up in the afternoons a few times while the toddlers went to parks or playgrounds so we could get a nap in for the infants — and mommy and daddy could go to a brewery while they napped.
Plan around feeding and nap times
It helps if your children areon fairly normal schedules. Since the infants always take an afternoon nap, we planned low-key activities for that time with more active ones in the morning. The toddlers tended to take afternoon naps as well, but much shorter ones and would tend to nap in the car, so we planned travel between locations for this time.
Large sit down meals are the enemy
Sure, you might be able to get one or two in if you time everything perfectly, but aligning four children’s schedules to have a meal without at least one tantrum is very difficult. Instead, go for delivery, takeout, or quick meals like pizza and burger places where you can minimize the time spent waiting and trying to entertain children. Because of the excellent house we stayed in in Mystic, we were able to bring food back in at night and eat mostly together right in the small window after the infants went to bed and before the toddlers did. Luckily Mystic has a good selection of pizza and Asian food that do takeout.
Bring wine and adult entertainment
After the kids go to bed, you’re going to have some time to kill and the first thing you’ll want to do is relax. With our friends, this involved wine and the collection of DVDs the house we stayed at included. You may want to bring your own if you desire a more modern collection.
Plan child-friendly activities
You don’t have to limit yourself to activities targeted to children only, but make sure during the day your activities will keep the kids engaged and active. The more tired out they are at the end of the day the better things will go. Anything with walking and some physical activity is good, but include some culture and education as well.
Zoos and aquariums are great for both infants and toddlers as the toddlers will love the animals and the infants will just enjoy the different colors and scenery. They are both fairly fun for adults as well.
Hikes and walking tours are also a great way to get some exercise and explore an area. Large open air museums are good as well, but smaller indoor ones may not be the best option for toddlers or infants.
You can also find parks and playgrounds which will keep the kids entertained for some time, but I prefer ones near hiking trails to finish up with as hours at a playground can be torture for parents.
Consider renting a house
Before booking a hotel, check AirBnB or HomeAway. Hotels are fine but can be fairly child unfriendly. You don’t want to be worrying about other guests when your toddler throws a tantrum at night or your infants wake up in the middle of the night screaming. In Mystic, we found an amazing historic Victorian home to stay in that was less than 500 feet from the downtown. We had to do some quick child-proofing of the furniture and other items first, but it worked out perfectly for the kids. Having a home as base helps provide stability for young children who aren’t as used to traveling. It also makes it easier to split up and meet up at the house. Bringing back food or getting delivery or preparing meals in the house is also way easier than doing so at a hotel. Often, you’ll spend the same as a hotel, be closer, have more room, and have an easier time with kids as a result.
Our four day trip ended up without a trip to the hospital, the house burning down, or even any band-aids. Alone that would be considered success, but the kids — those who could talk — claimed to have had the best time of their lives. If you plan ahead and focus on these tips, you will see similar success.