Double the Fun: How to Travel With Twin Children
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“You’re having twins.”
These were the first three words our doctor uttered when my wife and I shockingly found out our family would be doubling in size in a matter of months. As a recently married couple eager to explore the world, having twins would put a halt on our then upcoming (dream) vacation to Japan, but I was determined to not to let it deter us from traveling the world in the long run. It’s just double the fun, right?
However, traveling with twins was just going to require some planning … OK, maybe a lot of planning. This is when my points and miles hobby kicked into high gear. If we wanted to travel the world with twins, I was going to have to get scrappy and strategic.
I quickly started to make calculations in my head. We now had to think much more strategically about booking flights (everything from time of flights to actual seats on the plane), contacting hotels in advance to request not just one but two cribs (or bring our own pack-n-plays), and, of course, pack a surplus of items such as bottles, baby food, diapers, wipes, our double stroller — everything double. Twin travel, or travel with more than one child, has its fair share of challenges. In fact, we would return from “vacation” needing another one (without the kids), but the memories built and bonding time quickly overshadow the struggles.
We took our first trip with our twin girls when they were just 8-months-old, and although they are now seasoned travelers, we’ve had moments where I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide under a bulkhead seat. Below are some of the challenges we’ve faced when traveling with twins and how we’ve overcome them.
Twin Travel Challenges and Solutions
Challenge #1: Messing With Their Routine
Let’s face it, traveling with small children takes them out of their daily routine, which can be a difficult. Small children feel safe within a routine, but when embarking on a flight or long road trip, they may get irritated, cranky, hungry, sick — maybe all at once. You can plan to your heart’s content, but be sure to pack patience and have reasonable expectations. Still, preparation goes a long way to ensure a smooth ride for you, your kids and the other passengers.
For air travel, book a flight that is as aligned with your children’s daily routine as possible. I always recommend booking a flight not too early in the morning or too late in the evening. You know your children’s sleeping and eating time patterns, so make it easier on yourself by flying at times when your children are less likely to be overly tired or hungry (and pack food and snacks, of course). For example, for domestic flights under three hours, I prefer a flight that departs between 8am and 10am or 3pm and 5pm, after and before sleepy times. For flights to Europe, the overnight option is almost always preferred as the times align with their normal bedtime. Here are a few more suggestions to survive flights with kids.
Challenge #2: Where to Stay
As a self-proclaimed hotel aficionado, I love leveraging my hotel elite status from credit cards to score upgrades on rooms, free breakfast and extra perks when staying at hotels with my family. If you’re new to family travel, Mommy Points runs down the best hotel chains for families. But hotels aren’t always the right lodging choice for families with twins or multiple littles, because you may not have the same comforts of home such as full kitchens, bathtubs, cribs, extra rooms, etc.
During a holiday weekend in Orlando, I took my then 2-year-old twins to Disney World, and emailed the hotel in advance requesting two cribs. Upon arrival, the hotel only had one crib available as the others were distributed to other guests. One twin slept in our bed, and Mom and Dad both woke up with back pain as we were curled up away from her all night. Not the end of the world, but certainly not the most comfortable night’s rest in anticipation of a full day at the Disney parks.
Rent an Airbnb. When you rent a home, you make life on the road much more like life at home. Separate rooms for napping babies? Check. Full kitchen with a refrigerator to store snacks and perishable items such as milk, meats and yogurts? Check. Feel like a local in a new city? Check. You may not get the free breakfast from elite status by renting an Airbnb, but you can run to the local grocery store and pick up a few items to make your own breakfast. Not only will you save substantially on dining out, but you’ll be able to prepare meals just like if you were in your own home.
Bonus: Mom and Dad can maybe even sneak a glass (er, bottle) of wine in the kitchen or patio while kiddies sleep in a separate room.
Airbnb hosts are sometimes parents, too. Heck, Airbnb even has a search filter for Family/Kid-Friendly listings as a feature; this implies that infants, children and families are welcomed. Don’t be surprised if there are bunk beds, toys, coloring books, Netflix and even a crib or two. If you want something different, Airbnb even has some quirky listings like an extravagant tree houses. Kid & Coe is another home rental option — they are like a high-end Airbnb for families.
If you are traveling with others, Airbnb now provides a feature where families can split the cost of a rental with others in their party. Many times a single hotel room will cost the same as a large house rental, but the house will fit 10 people comfortably, whereas in a hotel you’d be forced to reserve multiple rooms to accommodate a larger group.(See also: Renting a House for 22 People for Less Than a Hotel.)
Challenge #3: What to Bring
Packing is always a “fun” challenge for parents of multiples. Double the diapers, double the wipes, two sets of pillows, pacifiers, sippy cups and the ever-so-popular-and-massive double stroller. Add medication (just in case), baby food/formula (for young multiples), lots of snacks for the flight, toys and books for entertainment and now you are inundated with “stuff” for the children.
Pack efficiently. My rule of thumb is one suitcase per adult that fits as a carry-on (or checked bag so you have more hands to deal with the kids) and if the multiples are young, they share one bag (we pack the same outfits times two so there’s less confusion). If you’ve got toddler twins, check out this packing list.
Use a backpack or diaper bag for your quick-access items and fill it with what you will need to keep the kids entertained and bellies happy. Depending on the age of the children, a tablet with games may be critical to your sanity but also include favorite toys, blankets, coloring books, crayons and make sure your electronic devices are fully charged. (Check out TPG Family‘s advice for keeping kids entertained on flights without tablets.)
The key when traveling with multiples is to liberate yourself from carrying any excess items so you have more free time and hands to attend to the kiddos, so you might want to check some bags. One tip I give all parents of multiples is to leave their fancy and bulky double stroller at home. Instead, take a handy umbrella stroller you can find on Amazon and call it a day.
From the Caribbean to South America to Europe, you name it, we’ve taken our $60-something umbrella double stroller everywhere and it has eliminated aggravation from lugging around a large double stroller that has a hard time fitting through doorways abroad. It’s also worthwhile to listen to this advice about baby carriers and strollers from a full-time traveling family who has four children.
Challenge #4: Double the Price
It’s no surprise, double the fun comes with just about double the cost. When you have multiples, you now have to plan for double (or more) the plane tickets instead of just for you and your partner. If flying internationally, you’ll need to purchase two infant lap tickets for children under 2, which usually costs 10% of the fare for the cabin in which the accompanying adult is traveling, plus taxes and fees.
If you’re heavily invested into credit card rewards programs, then your earning and redeeming strategy may shift from premium cabin travel to travel in economy, in order to accommodate your growing family. It’s a lot less luxurious, but you’ll need significantly fewer miles than for first or business class awards.
Make sure you’re maximizing your earning potential on everyday purchases. Understand the various credit card products and points programs that exist and determine, based on your spending patterns, what the best cards are for you. If your spouse has strong credit and is eager to travel with the kids too, you both could devise a responsible plan to accrue the amount of points or miles needed to book a future family vacation. Two-player parent mode (when both you and your significant other accrue points or miles in a strategic manner to help fund family travel) is always a more efficient way to score a family trip than if only one parent is doing all the heavy lifting.
For domestic twin travel, also strongly consider the Southwest Companion Pass. While the children are lap infants under 2, one Companion Pass can actually fly the whole family of four with one ticket purchased on points or dollars. Parent A designates Parent B as their companion and then each parent brings along a lap infant. That’s four for the price of one. Once the twins turn two, a family would need two Companion Passes to pull off travel for four, but that is still an unbeatable amazing deal. (Here’s how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass and use it for up to two years).
Every parent will inevitably face challenges when traveling with young kids, especially with two or more of the same age. Planning, packing efficiently and setting expectations ahead of time will help tremendously when vacationing with multiple little ones in tow. Do you travel with twins? What are your secret hacks?
Featured image by Johnny Grieg/Getty Images
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