Thursday, July 6, 2017

20 tips on staying sane while traveling with two (or more):

Hi Moms & Dads,

For those not on my social media and wondering why I have been missing for the past few weeks, it's because I was enjoying the comforts (or lack there of) of my old stomping ground with both my babies - dear old New York. Okay fine, there is nothing old about that ever evolving city, it remains the most energizing and invigorating place. My son now asks me every day why we don't live in New York with it's ample parks and museums at walking distance or in a city where there is a Disneyland (we spent a week in California and also in Boston as my brother - yes, he is still single - just graduated from Harvard Business School).

The travel bug seems to be contagious, so if you have caught it too, and are traveling around any time soon, here are some tips on traveling with two, and staying (relatively) sane.

Still in two minds? As tiring as it can be, I don't think anything teaches our kids more than travel does (and that one on one time away with us).

Note: My kids were 9 months and 3 years when I set off on this mammoth holiday with my mother. Thank goodness for the help, my father and husband joined us for 2 weeks of the trip, but my mother helped me keep my sanity the rest of the time while she gave up some of hers in exchange.
(For tips on traveling with one, click here.)
These two keeping each other busy..

20 tips on keeping your sanity while traveling with two:

1. Don't do it alone: I'm not advocating taking your staff with you if you have staff. No offense to those who do travel with staff but for me it's something I have always chosen not to do for a list of reasons that would spark a long digressive debate. However, it is a luxury I chose to decline in favor of my privacy and uninterrupted bonding time while on holiday. That said, let's be a little reasonable here, you do need a second set of hands when you are dealing with two or more kids, specially if you have little kids who need to be watched constantly. If your child is old enough to even fix cereal and bring you things while you can watch your little one, that can offer some respite and you are more likely to be sane after long stretches of alone time with both children. However, if both need constant monitoring - try to make sure that you have someone else traveling with you (who is going to be stuck to you and your kids like glue at all times). My husband has a cell phone addiction and even that was getting frustrating when we were alone with the two of them.
Kiara keeping herself occupied

2. Don't kid yourself: Remember that you are a parent. So you are parenting in other cities and other places, (and the harsh reality is that) relaxing is not on the agenda for you as hard as you try. And while you likely remember this moms, it's really the dads who need this reminder because I bet they will ask you when they are getting to go drinking or to the spa, and if you will watch both kids while you look at them with the most bewildered (or worse) look in your eyes..

3. Prepare for the flight: I am and always have been a last minute packer. Even more so now that my pups get distressed when they see suitcases lying around. However with two, there's even more to pack. Try and simplify your load though and pack what you need more often into one bag that you can keep by your seat (food, milk, water, iPad if your child is old enough and allowed screen time/ the airline allows iPads, diapers, wipes, a nursing wrap, and a of couple age-appropriate quiet toys for the younger one), and then pack a second bigger bag (if you have help and someone else to carry it of course) that has all the things you don't need immediately - more food for later, more wipes, busy bags if you think your child will need them (I skip these and keep my son busy with stickers, crayons and card games), activity books, crayons, sticker books, and a carrier if you have a really young child - something like the baby Bjorn - I had mine with me on the way there which I used on the flight there, but didn't use through my trip and checked in on the way back - so it's really a judgement call to decide whether it is something you use or not. If you are traveling alone, make do with one bag that has wheels, or one large backpack (or honestly, have some one help you board - some airlines have services that help you when you are traveling with your family and need help that you can pre-book, it's worth it). I am definitely assuming though that if you are traveling alone with both children - you are not doing it for leisure!

4. Preparing for jetlag: Use the flight time to adjust your children to the time zone they are going to. You do not really have to prepare much in advance, (other than maybe keeping them up a little later the day you are traveling - you can even get them to nap if they do not nap so that they stay up late, so that they are tired on the flight if you have a night flight). This is not really possible with little kids, I could not do much at all with my 9 month old, I had to let her sleep when she wanted as little kids get over stimulated and then sleep even less (and shriek more), however, with kids 1 and a half and older you can keep them entertained and awake longer hours, and prepare them a little more for the time zone change. (And yes, it's  okay if the kids are on different time zones. It's still better to have one child awake at night and one asleep, then to have two awake through the night because you can give the elder one the iPad or some form of down time and take care of the younger one in the day / get some rest).

5. Baby steps: Accept that you will be taking baby steps. Even if your children are not as young as mine or they are both toddlers, you yourself will be taking baby steps. There are diaper bags to pack, likely strollers to fold,  kids to bathe and feed, snacks to anticipate, potty breaks, and and constant hiccups along the way, things just take longer than anticipated so expect the baby steps. We had literally one day saved for Disneyland in Los Angeles and it was our last day in California. We didn't have a choice with the day since we were avoiding the Memorial Day weekend and wanted to go on a weekday. While I was getting the kids things  ready, my three year old announces that he has pooped. So I look at my husband, who is still lazing in bed with my daughter, and wonder how he managed to get back into bed after cleaning my son. I pass a remark about how that was so efficient and unlike him and take a step forward and almost step into the said poop on my aunt's pristine white carpet. Then my son who has never done anything like this in his life sheepishly explains that it happened during what he thought was a fart. Needless to say we had to run out and get diapers, Imodium, and wait until he "going" a little less frequently.  He had a bad stomach virus for the first time in his life (which was later accompanied by fever - a few days and not hours later fortunately), but we were several hours late to Disney. As frustrated as I was to get to Disney at 3 pm, we still caught 2 parades, did one entire section of rides, and my son has spoken about it every single day since. My brother and I were initially disappointed we did not make it to any of our favourite adult rides, but nothing can replace the joy that we saw the kids feel (specially since my son is convinced Mickey waved right at him). Also it was our 14th trip to Disneyland and my son's first, so baby steps for us is acceptable because the impressions on the little minds are much greater.
So pumped for Disney with my elder (anyone believe me?) bro..

6. Set Reasonable goals for the day: As invigorated as you are, and even if you do manage to spend all day out of the house or hotel (we did), you will not be able to do all 10 things that you have planned. Set reasonable goals, and try to plan things that will keep your children entertained too or expect tantrums. We planned one thing for the kids everyday and then planned our day around that. For example, take kids to the zoo today, and then planned our lunch, stores, and dinner location based on the zoo timings and location. The children's activities also helps keep them incentivised to behave during whatever activity you have planned for yourselves. Also, make sure that whatever reservations you have for yourself are a little fluid and give yourself ample time to get there. And expect hiccups and breaks. Late one evening, just before we were leaving a store to get to a dinner reservation, my son squatted in the middle of a department store and insisted he had to go potty. I had to carry all 40 pounds of him and sprint to the nearest restroom (which was no where near us), whilst wishing my wipes were not in the diaper bag hanging on the stroller, and praying that there is no poop in his pants when we get there (I haven't bought diapers in his size in at least a year - this was prior to the Disney land incident). When I finally found the loo, and put him on the pot, he jumped up in a few seconds, and laughed - much to my dismay - he wanted to see whether the bathroom had an automatic flush (yes, I know, I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for keeping my cool).

7. Make the most of their downtime: Which doesn't mean you get downtime unfortunately. It means you get to hustle when they are asleep. Try and eat your meals with them, so that when they do sleep (even if they do not nap, like my son and only sleep at night), you can do the laundry, pack their bags for the next day, pack your suitcases for your next destination, put away your shopping or even run to the grocery store and set up for breakfast. My son and I actually made some late night grocery runs together while he was jetlagged and awake so that my daughter could get some sleep and my mom could get some downtown (with the dishes).

8. Get your kids to help you: If both can help you, great! If only one is old enough to help, that really is good enough too. My three year old is still bragging about how strong he is because he learned to hold dishes and carry empty boxes to the trash compactor. He has also learned all about garbage and how it moves through the city to the sanitation department all cause he carried out those empty shopping boxes ( and had so many questions about them). Not only with chores but your elder one can help with your younger one too, they can entertain your little one and keep them busy while you run around and get things ready, they can also get you diapers if you are in a pickle.
Little helper

9. Let them entertain each other: that's the reason you had two isn't it. And the beauty of elder kids is that they can even entertain themselves, if not the younger ones. So  let them. My 3 year old was able to entertain his sister and sing to her, even if it was only for a few minutes at a time. Kids surprise us constantly with what they are able to achieve if we just let them be. It will give you space to put things together, prepare for the day, google things to do, call an uber, get their clothes ready and so on.
Best buddies..

10. Make your peace with some screen time: Even if you believe in extremely limited screen time (like I do), make your peace with giving your child some screen time on holiday. Explain to them that holiday rules are different than home rules and school time rules,  and then  download some educational games that you are comfortable with them using. Limit YouTube and hide the applications that you do not want them on (or put on Airplane mode and save a few offline videos that you are alright with them watching), and then use the time to get some peace to inhale your food, bathe or breathe. As much as Peppa Pig annoys me (I'm being polite), she got us through my brother's lengthy graduation ceremonies. (My little doll - the angel that she can sometimes be - slept through them.)

Nap time..

11. Be prepared to ease up on the rules: Screentime isn't the only rule you should be prepared to ease up on. Bedtime has to be flexible too. You really have to work around ways to make your own life easier. So if that means putting your kids to bed later so that you can all wake up a little later (when things are actually open), why not? It will take some adjusting when you get home, but so will unpacking and the time difference, and you can explain to them that home rules will be back in effect once they are back home.

12. Get (or rent) a Double Stroller/ Buggy Board: Just before I left, I took my Buggy Board for a spin for the first time. And I realised that my beautiful stroller and buggy board did not move much at all with the weight of my son on it, nor did my stroller fold comfortably with the attachment, and most importantly - my son did not want to stand, he wanted to be the child inside the stroller! So if you feel your child will get tired on your trip or will not be able to keep up, keep that in mind, and even if there are two of you it's easier to push one stroller, plus shopping bags, baby bags, all need a place to go when your child wants to be carried. Arrange to get a double stroller, a sit and stand stroller (depending on the age and size of your child), or a sturdy buggy board, you can even just get one if your elder one is comfortable walking enough and you are not going on a trip where you feel too much walking is required. If you do not need it on the flight you can order it to where you are going or you can take it along with you if it is something you do not have before hand, some cities have places where you can rent strollers/ cribs and car seats, so look into that if you need to.
Shopping time!

13. Stroller clip/ mommy hook: I forgot to pack my mommy hook (since I didn't travel with my stroller) and did not make it downtown to Babies R us) till the last week of my trip. So I did not feel the relief of this mommy hook until the very last week, but make sure you order it online or take yours along so do not have to lug things along in addition to the kids, their things and your own.

14. Share a bag: Skip a traditional diaper/ baby bag and pack all three of you into one bag. Okay fine, you may want to use a nice handbag like I did, but maybe use a messenger/ crossbody - if you're really not into mommy hood and don't care at all what anyone thinks then a fanny pack may work too but a messenger does the job just as efficiently with oodles more style. Pack your kids into one bag though and preferably a back pack so you can put it on just incase you need to carry it around for a bit, and it can also hang on your mommy hook or go into your stroller. If you really don't need a handbag, you can slip your wallet and phone into the front of the kids bag, I did that during travel. Something with several compartments to help find things quickly is helpful.

15. Pack snacks they can share: Even if your kids never shared a toy, they will see each other eating and be hungry and thirsty at the same time, so keep their water/ milk/ juice bottles together, and similarly their snack packs together. Pack quick snacks like cheerios into ziplock packets and boxes that they can share and even eat on the go, and pack larger quantities that they can share because even if they are not hungry they are likely to just want what the other is having.
Peppa on an East to West Coast Flight
16. Less is more - exceptions apply: The less things you take with you the less you have to lug around all day. So try to keep your bags light, and don't stress about extra jackets, socks and the usual things in your diaper bag - you can always pick up more milk, ask for more water, buy more wipes, instead of carrying them around the entire day. Just a (strong) suggestion though - do keep extra diapers on hand. We had a major diaper leak, (which of course had to happen when we were down to our very last diaper late in the evening on a day when we had had many more bathroom breaks than possibly anticipated), and I had to leave my mom and both kids in a restaurant and run - covered in pee - to the nearest pharmacy - which ofcourse was no where near by, to buy a full pack of diapers and then run back. The most painful part though was waiting for the restaurant to seat us so that I could put down the pee covered baby and get away, alone - even if it was for a few minutes (honestly - and you are going to think I am totally insane - it was almost long enough to miss the madness). Okay fine - I blocked out the most painful part - it was really the fact that I actually roamed around the restaurant carrying her and looked for a baby around the same size, and was tempted to ask random people if I could borrow a diaper (and since I am amongst the most introverted people you may ever come across, I finally sent my mom to ask them if I could borrow a diaper since I was much to embarrassed to do it, and unfortunately the one family I found was down to their last diaper too).

17. Shopping is daunting but possible: It's not easy to shop, but it is possible. Incentivize them to sit in the stroller because it's impossible with two running around the store to look for anything for yourself (or even for them), try to plan it around at least one of their nap times if they nap, and bend the rules and use technology here if you have to - especially if you are in a department store!. Riaan would enter my mother ship (also known as Saks Fifth Avenue,) and ask for my phone but then I enter there so rarely since I no longer live in New York that it is a rule I am quite comfortable with. My son also likes to pick out his own things, keep that in mind when shopping that kids can often add their own things to your cart - they can also add it to their strollers - unintentionally - so teach them store etiquette and  search the strollers just in case, before you walk out of the store to ensure that you do not set off any alarms (or worse..) One on one in a store, they may even be able to help if its a quick in and out and you can get them to push the cart or keep them busy, but again, they may keep adding things in so beware.
We definitely got some shopping done (that's my Mom!)

18. Do your homework: Before you head out for the day plan what you want to do with the kids, which activity you want to do with them and plan kid things that are fun for them to do. There are a ton of child attractions that will be different from where you live even if your city (unlike Mumbai where we live) is packed with them. So plan ahead and find out what needs tickets, bookings and what closes early. You don't want to bribe your kids to expect something all day only to show up there and find out it's closed early on that day (trust me, we planned to go to the Central Park Carnival one entire day - we went four times so this was the second time, and we got there only to realise it shut earlier on certain days of the week. Luckily, my son took it well, but it could have ended disastrously.)
The little Fireman!

19. Explain away: Kids absorb everything you are doing. So explain what you are doing while you are doing it. Chances are, not only will they learn from you, they will also behave better because they have learned what to do and why you do it. Talk out loud while you do chores and show your little ones how it's done. There's no better role model than you. (This works both ways unfortunately, my dear brother has a banker mouth - also known as a "I'm going to wash your mouth with soap" mouth - and my son has picked up some unfortunate words on his trip that I'm hoping he will forget sooner rather than later.)
Driving the duck Bus in Boston!

20. Leave something for next time: I'm pretending like you have a choice. Those baby steps will ensure that you definitely do have much left on your list for the next time, but plan your days with this in mind and leave the things that are lower down on your priority list for the end (of your day or the trip, because both of those tend to get obliterated by the kid's agenda). That may leave you longing for your next holiday anyway.

Everyone says children grow up on holiday, but I could not have anticipated how much until I got on the flight back home and felt how much my kids had grown up from the last long flight we had been on, 5 and a half weeks before. They really do grow up. Mine did in size too, but their minds absorb and learn from the world around them, so if you can travel with your children, take the opportunity to do it, even if it's someplace close by, and not more than half the world away.

More to come!xx


P.S. Forgive the rambling I'm still on a Mommy hangover from this mammoth holiday.

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