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:
Until you guys are playing zone defense instead of man-on-man, don't even speak to us. 😂😂😂
— Mark DeBoer (@maulermark) July 4, 2016
I have no good comeback.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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. 😛
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.
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.
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).
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!