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Surveying Scotland: Preparing to travel with two children under four

As I mentioned in the introduction, a lot of decisions now revolve around my kids. I thought it might be useful for some young parents to see what other decisions the kids’ affected.

I’ve gotta say, preparing for travel with two children is pretty different than preparing for one. At least when they are this close in age (2.5 years). Here’s how we tackled each problem presented (note: this is being written three days into our trip so there is still plenty of time for things to go south). I’d love to hear feedback from other parents about how you handle these things.

And those of you who fall into this category:

I have no good comeback.

Transportation

I went through most of this in the introduction, but one or two more points here. One of the reasons I chose to mix it up so much is variety keeps my kids’ interested. I know most people in the UK would probably drive up to Scotland (10 hours). I considered it – it sounds like a beautiful drive.

travel with two children

Driving affords the ability to stop and take pictures

But with little knowledge about rest areas and the like, I didn’t want to risk driving that far. Plus, that gets boring. At the same time, the drive from Inverness to Edinburgh isn’t that far, but I thought my daughter might enjoy riding the train. And infants basically light up at every new experience so I know I’m covered there.

I also booked direct flights whenever possible: pretty much a no brainer at this point. Gone are the days I’ll take an extra leg to try a new business class product. Oh well.

Car seats

These freaking things. I realize this makes me weird, but nothing causes me more stress as a parent than deciding how to handle the car seat situation. Buy? Rent? Ship? AHHH! And we need two car seats to travel with two children!

Well, I’m exaggerating there because handling the car seat for H was a piece of cake. We brought his Chicco Keyfit 22 and caddy: car seat plus stroller, done. Those are both getting retired when we get home, but he can slum it for two more weeks.

M, on the other hand, needs her front facing car seat. Normally, we bring it in this huge bag and load it up with diapers (not a bad plan). However, with two kids, that’s less hands available, and we decided to leave the bag at home. Let’s ignore the fact that it’s been sewn back together three times, it just wasn’t going to be feasible.

travel with two children

You served us well my friend

So I decided to bite the bullet and rent the car seat for a week. Even typing this I am still annoyed: it costs more than buying a seat (about $80). I wanted to buy one and ship it, but that presented two problems.

1) The only place I could logistically ship it to before we need it was our hotel in London. That would necessitate us dragging it on our flight to Scotland with us.

2) H needs a front facing car seat, as alluded to above. Meaning I would want to keep the one we bought here. Meaning we’d have to get it home somehow. Forget it.

History has proven that, for my family, I made the right decision. We had some, um…developing situations at Paddington Station that an extra bag might have further complicated. So I spent a little extra for convenience. I am the one percent!

Of course, did I mention we used to stuff the car seat bag with diapers?

Suitcases

So we needed to find space for 75 diapers. Yes, yes, could have ordered them online and had them sent to various places we were staying, I know, I know. That is the smart thing to do (I am Amazon Prime UK for another 3 weeks), but I’m not a smart guy. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Instead, we loaded our diapers into this baby:

travel with two children

You will definitely turn heads walking through the airport with this thing

That’s right: a carry on sized rollerboard with a backpack ZIPPED ON. It’s made by Ful, which I pronounce “fool” because that’s how I look dragging that thing through the terminal. But who cares, it works. I have no shame.

In addition to that we brought a large suitcase. Scotland is cold and rainy so we just couldn’t get away with two carry on sized suitcases. I’d love to hear from parents who can take two week trips with 2+ young kids and carry on only: teach me! For us, it’s checked bags or bust now. At least they are free. 😛

Strollers

Jess and I love to walk, especially in Europe, and the reality is at 3.5 years old M can’t keep up. So we had to bring her a stroller – we brought our Uppa Baby G-lite which is D-liteful. The shoulder strap is super convenient and came in VERY handy in London.

travel with two children

Two strollers isn’t ideal but M just doesn’t have the stamina

As mentioned above, H can ride in his caddy/carseat combination, but he prefers not to. So the real decision was whether to bring a second umbrella stroller or not. Answer: enjoy being uncomfortable buddy! Maybe you can use the big stroller when M feels like walking!

Worst case scenario, I’ll buy one on Amazon UK and ditch it in Scotland.

Length of stays and location choices

In the past, Jess and I would be happy spending one night in a city if it seemed interesting enough. After we had M, we reduced the minimum length of stay to about two nights, now with two that is more like three nights (though it’s not a hard and fast rule).

We also look to travel a bit more off the beaten path, places like the Isle of Skye where the natural beauty is the attraction in and of itself. That prevents us from feeling pressure to go see everything: instead we can take things slow and enjoy one or two attractions a day.

Food

There is a famous story in my family that goes something like this: my negligent parents once took us on a day long drive through the Outer Banks during the offseason where every eating establishment was closed. We survived only on the strength of four Polly-o string cheeses.

While that story has grown in legend over the years, it approximates the truth. So my goal as a parent is to avoid those kinds of situations (we were close yesterday though).

Hence we packed a lot of cheap snacks that we could use at any time even though they took up a lot of space. Cheerios, puffs, and teething biscuits for the baby. Instant oatmeal, goldfish, kind bars, and trail mix for the preschooler (mixed results on the last two).

Final Thoughts

Planning for two kids is pretty different than planning for one. In some senses you have to be more prepared; in other senses you just care less. The nice thing with the second kid is you know what worked for the first so you have a baseline to start with, but it won’t necessarily work for the second. Would love to hear how people with young kids handle travel in the comments!

travel with two children

 




Leave a Comment

  • Tyler July 9, 2016, 2:54 pm

    Glad you travel with the kids and love to read about someone else as crazy as me.

    We begin a trip by checking a box of diapers and then move them into a duffel once opened. This current trip, two boxes–not kidding.

    Im writing this from the Hilton in Luxor Egypt with our 6, 4, and 2 year old (great pools!). We began the trip 3 weeks ago in South Africa and then Kenya. We didn’t want to risk sourcing #6 diapers in Africa. Your fancy luggage is definitely a step up.

    Lots of snacks used here as well. The snacks can turn into meals when we miscalculate travel times and can’t access a meal on kid schedule.

    Car seats, I’m currently hauling two Cosco Scenera car seats and a bubble bum across Africa. We rented a car for the first week and a half, the car seat we saw in the SA Europecar rental office was not anything we wanted the kids in when we asked for help installing what we brought (the help was useless). Don’t forget the metal clip to lock the belt as we did, non-US seatbelts apparently don’t ratchet. The Cosco’s nest into each other and you can use the latch from one to strap it onto the other to make one unit for hauling (just an idea for when you’re out of the car seat carrier ). Also the kids were used to napping in the seats for the infra-African flights.

    Keep up the good work, enjoy the blog.

    Reply
    • Joe July 9, 2016, 6:04 pm

      Ooh that’s great. You inspire me. Checking a box of diapers is pretty smart, I never thought of that. E-mail a picture of the car seats when you get home I’m curious 🙂

      Reply
  • Nathan July 9, 2016, 8:32 pm

    Ugh… We are getting so lazy about car seats. Especially international. We are in the DR and are just buckling them up like we used too as kids. Remember in my day we didn’t even have car seats! Plus don’t have to fear the police here.

    Reply
    • Joe July 10, 2016, 4:15 am

      How old? I find myself getting lazier and lazier as well but the shoulder strap literally wraps around my daughter’s neck so that doesn’t seem safe. She needs another 2-3 inches minimum haha.

      Reply
  • Diana W July 9, 2016, 8:38 pm

    We’re the crazies who bring our regular car seats (around 20lbs each) on the plane, using the gogobabyz travelmate to get through the airport. But haven’t tried an international flight with both kids yet..Canada doesn’t count. I’m interested in the Scenera but the lack of padding kind of scares me. I pack enough diapers for the flight plus a day or two, and buy diapers at the destination.

    Reply
    • Joe July 10, 2016, 4:16 am

      Yeah I wanted to get one of those but then we changed our minds! This was two years ago though…maybe we would change our tune now…do you have hands for any other bags?

      Reply
      • Diana W July 10, 2016, 4:30 pm

        DH and I each wear a backpack. I pull the kids in their cars eats which are attached to the gogobabyz. DH handles 2 suitcases that we check in. Hopefully #2 will be potty trained soon to ease up on the stuff we have to pack. But then #3 is arriving next year…*facepalm*

        Reply
        • Tyler July 11, 2016, 3:44 am

          I second using backpackers backpacks to keep our hands free, especially with the three kids. It is useful when using public transit as there is always a lack of elevators or if they do exist are often under repair. Also for stair boarding of aircraft since we often also are carrying the kids. We never have an issue carrying on (7flights so far this trip). We like it when we have enough luggage with us so that any baggage error won’t cause an issue.

          As for the padding of the car seats, our two year old has already fallen asleep in his on our current flight awaiting takeoff, I guess it’s just what they’re used to or how tired they are (had to wake up at 4am–they moved the flight forward a week ago!).

          Also, have a picture of your child sitting in the car seat on an airplane. Be firm and explain how you always do this, everyone has backed down. We’ve blown quite a few minds on this trip. I am assuming for many of the cabin crew, these car seats are the first that they have seen, let alone used on an aircraft.

          Reply
          • Joe July 11, 2016, 7:07 pm

            Nice! So you don’t check bags at all? Amazing.

            Yeah, we were in business class so there is this padding (airbag?) on the seatbelt. I could have run it through a front facing car seat but not the backfacing fit in caddy one (where you have to loop the belt through those small prongs on the top instead of through a larger gap in the back. At least not in any way I could think of.

            The crew said they would love to have it on but they had just tried with another family to get it on a couple days earlier. I took their word for it. That thing on the seatbelt is super bulky!

  • Jamie July 16, 2016, 8:45 am

    You definitely could’ve bought diapers in the UK. In London I’m sure you passed many a TescoExpress or Sainsbury’s while out walking. And with a car in Scotland you also could easily stop by a supermarket to pick some up. That is going to eat into your travel time though. And I always liked bringing diapers so that we ended up with more space in the suitcase as time went on.
    Those GLite strollers are fantastic! A friend let us borrow one when we took our kids to Disney. (Even if your kid is a year or two out of strollers, you want one a Disney). You’re probably past this point in your trip, but if you end up needing another umbrella stroller MotherCare is the store that has all of the mom and baby stuff. ASDA is like SuperWalmart and TescoExtra is a Tesco supermarket with all of the household and clothing stuff too (also like SuperWalmart). MotherCare would definitely have the strollers but also would be the more expensive option probably. The other two would be cheaper but there is a small chance they don’t carry strollers.

    Reply
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