My husband and I planned a 3 week trip to visit friends and family. We would be on the road leaving from NW Ohio and making stops in Pennsylvania, Virginia, 2 stops in North Carolina, South Carolina and finally stopping in Florida. We’d pack up the van, take the kids and the dog and be on our way. Boy weren’t we optimistic! As we started planning and making preparations we realized this was not going to be the easy trip we had planned.
The most important thing for us was to pack wisely. I had to have enough clothes for 2 babies and 2 adults to last about a week. Fortunately we had places we could do laundry every few days so even if we had poop or puke blowouts we would have enough outfits for the kids. I made lists to insure that we were packing everything we needed. I had one for the dog, who as we continued to plan I realized would not be able to stay with us, one for my husband and me, and one for the kids. The easiest way to make a list for your kids is to go through your day in your head. Write down everything you use and might need. Over the next few days add to the list as you find items that you left off. The list for the kids was easily three times the size of the one for my husband and me! Here is a picture of just some of the stuff we were packing to take with us.
We decided to take enough formula to last us the entire trip so that we would not have to try to buy any on the road. 15 cans of formula takes up a lot of room! We also brought some jarred baby food for use in the hotels and on the road. We brought diapers and wipes but knew we’d have to buy more. We packed plenty of plastic grocery bags for easy disposal of diapers and food. Toys, DVDs, blankets and pacifiers were also included.
It was important to us to try to make wherever we were staying feel like home to the kids. For their pack-n-plays we packed toys that they use in their cribs at home. We also brought a night light so they wouldn’t be completely in the dark. Most importantly we packed their sound machine. This is what cues them that it is time to nap or go to sleep for the night. It helped them go to sleep and since we turned the volume up, stay asleep, especially in noisy hotels.
On the road
We are extremely fortunate that my husband was able to secure a DVD player for us to set up in the van. It is a portable unit so we were able to set it up so that even though the kids are rear facing, they were able to still watch tv. Here was our setup.
We hardly ever have the tv on at home so being able to watch in the car was a real treat. We bought several Baby Einstein DVDs and played them on a loop. Really the only time we turned the tv off was when we saw that both of them were asleep. As soon as they were awake again, on came the tv!
One trick that worked really well for us was to start out for the day at the time that the kids would normally go down for their morning nap. We’d begin our day as usual and around 9am when they would normally go down for a nap, we got in the car and set out on the road. It took a little longer for them to fall asleep than it would have if they had been in their cribs but they did eventually fall asleep and they stayed asleep until almost noon when it was time for their next bottle! We would take this time to stop, get out of the car, change diapers, stretch. I found it was easiest to then put them back into the car and feed them their bottles while they were still in their car seats. Another 1.5 hours later we would stop for lunch and then the kids would sleep again until we arrived at our destination.
This sounds perfect right?
There were a few times when things did not go so smoothly. On the leg of our trip from South Carolina to Florida we were in torrential rain storms. There was no way we were taking the kids out of the car to change diapers…they would have been drenched. Instead, we struggled with the lack of floor space we had and changed their diapers on the floor of the van. This was a situation where we were very glad we had packed purees with us. I climbed in the back while my husband was driving and spoon fed the kids purees while he continued to drive. Not stopping knocked a good amount of time off of our trip so we weren’t stuck in the rain any longer than we had to be. We had to employ this technique again on the way home from Florida. The original plan was to stop 2 nights, once in Georgia and once in Kentucky. On our way from Georgia we heard that Kentucky was expecting 14” of snow. We figured this would shut down the city and we did not want to be stuck overnight. We only stopped for brief diaper changes and potty breaks for us and drove 12 hours in order to get home that night! The kids did great and I attribute that to having the food on hand and the DVD player!
Where to sleep?
If you want to take a road trip like this I highly recommend you plan out your stops in advance. We booked hotel reservations so that we would never be in the car for more than 6 hours driving (so about 8 hours total day with food stops, etc). Book your hotel in advance, especially when you have kids with you! You want to make sure you get the size room you need. Heck, you want to make sure you can get a room period! We spent a little extra money to get “suite” size rooms which allowed us to close the door to our room so that we would not have to worry about waking the kids and also so that we did not have to go to bed at 7pm when they did! The setup worked really well for us even though we had to move around a little furniture to have room for both pack-n-plays and to still be able to walk!
Ask the hotel clerk when you check-in if they can put you in an area where there aren’t other guests. That way you won’t have to worry about them slamming doors and waking the kids and you also won’t have to worry about your kids making noise and waking them up!
Try to stay at hotels that have continental breakfasts. You can give the kids fresh fruit and cheerios which might be the healthiest meal of the day if you are on the road all day! Always make friends with the breakfast staff. That way when your kids throw their cheerios all over the floor they are less likely to be angry with you for it!
If you plan to stay with a friend or relative, try to find out what the sleeping arrangements will be ahead of time. This is not something we did and it would have been nice to have been prepared! If you will be sharing a room with your kids be prepared for nights of restless sleep. You will hear every noise they make and they will hear the same of you. One thing that worked well for us was to pull all of our evening toiletries out of the room and place them in the bathroom. This allowed us to put the kids to bed at 7pm and not have to go to sleep at that time ourselves. We were able to get ready for bed when we were ready and sneak into the room to go to sleep. Ideally you will be staying somewhere that you and the kids can each have your own room!
Make sure that whomever you are staying with knows and respects your “rules” for the kids. If you use the cry it out method, make sure they respect that. If you do not want the kids to cry at all, make sure they know that. Whatever methods you follow, explain them to your hosts so they can be on board and supporting your efforts. You do not want to have to go home and “retrain” your kids in whatever method they are accustomed to!
What to do when you arrive?
This is an area where I failed to plan. I am a planner so how did this escape me? It didn’t…but I figured our hosts would know what there is to do in the area and would offer suggestions or would come up with ideas for us. Bad plan. Our first few stops were only overnight visits and mostly involved eating dinner and entertaining the kids for a little bit until it was bedtime. We brought a big bag of toys from home so we were all set for these times. The failure to plan came when we were at locations for more than the night. Tip: bring swimsuits and water diapers for nights in the hotel. The kids LOVED swimming and they slept really well at night after all that activity!
The only excursion we made while on the trip was to an aquarium. Our 10 month olds were a little young to really enjoy it and they could only stay for about 1-1.5 hours before their patience was up and they needed a nap. A lot of activities (such as the aquarium) cost a lot of money so you don’t want to spend a lot to on excursions that you will only be doing for an hour.
What kind of free activities are there? This is where research would have come in handy. We went for walks. We went to parks and used the swings. We went to outlet malls and did some shopping. Other than that…we had no ideas! It was too cold to go to the beach which we thought we would be able to do one day.
If you have a zoo membership a lot of zoos have reciprocation with each other. Unfortunately we had not brought our zoo pass with us otherwise we would have been able to visit several zoos during our trip!
Another idea for a lower cost activity is city tours. They typically run all year long and are for shorter amounts of time so younger children will be able to handle the duration of the tour.
A good idea is to hit up the chamber of commerce or the tourist centers for the place you are traveling to. Of course there is the Internet and Google which can definitely provide you with ideas for activities. Have a list of ideas and prices with the activity duration length ready to go for each stop of your trip so that you can make the most of your trip.
What kinds of trips have you taken with your multiples? How did it go?
Guest post is by Allison, who is the proud mom of fraternal B/G twins! This brave mama survived a long roadtrip with her babies, and lived to write about it!