We recently took Alex and Nathan on their first vacation, driving almost 8 hours with them in the car. I was excited about taking them out of town, but the idea of keeping them in the car that long put me in cold sweats every time I thought about it. They were definitely younger than I thought they’d be the first time we took them to the beach, but my mom and stepdad planned a family trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and asked us to come.
At first, I was apprehensive about traveling so far with the boys at only three and a half months old. But I was dying for a getaway and couldn’t turn down the opportunity for a much-needed change of scenery. If I was going to be covered in spit-up and pee, trying to simultaneously console two fussy babies who seemed to love to tag team me, why not do it by the ocean for a while?
Thankfully, we took steps to prepare, the boys did really well, and we ended up having a great trip. We did everything we’d normally do during a beach trip, like going out to eat and walking on the boardwalk, with babies in tow. I couldn’t believe it, and the boys seemed to enjoy it! (But at their age, if they aren’t screaming, I interpret that as happiness or at the very least contentment.)
Here are some things that made a road trip to the beach with twin infants possible:
- Packing the car in advance.
We left at 5 AM, so we made sure the car was packed and ready to go while the boys were still sleeping for the night. That way, when we woke the boys up, all we had to do was get them ready and hop in the car, and they went right back to sleep.
- Timing feedings strategically.
The first leg of our drive was about 3 hours long, just the amount of time the boys usually have between feeds. We timed their nighttime feeds so that when we woke them up to leave, they’d be good and hungry, and gave them each a bottle and fresh diaper right before getting in the car. That way, we were able to drive the three hours straight without stopping.
- Having someone sit in the back.
I drove and James sat in the backseat between the boys’ car seats. He’s 6’1 and his legs were screaming by the time we got there, but it was important for us to have an adult in the back to calm the boys when they started to fuss, entertain them while they were awake, and clean/aspirate their spit-up if necessary. (Our boys have mild reflux, so they spit frequently and have choked before.)
- Being flexible in our route.
Just as we hit the Alabama/Georgia state line, we hit standstill traffic. The boys had been lulled to sleep by the car’s movement, and when the car stopped, it woke them up, and suddenly they realized they were completely over being in the car seat. They both started screaming – loud. I turned on my GPS and drove through small town Georgia back roads until I had bypassed the traffic. It added about 30 minutes to our trip, but it calmed them down enough that we were able to get to my mom’s house without further incident.
- Taking breaks, even when making great time.
The second leg of our trip was longer – about 5 hours from Atlanta to Hilton Head. I knew we wouldn’t make that whole trip without a break, so I let the boys determine when we’d stop. About three hours in, they both started crying, so we pulled into a gas station, gave them each a bottle and a diaper change, and walked them around the parking lot for a few minutes. As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t go more than three hours without stopping to give baby a break.
- Turning the hotel into home.
I brought everything we used at home to the hotel room. Both Rock ‘N’ Plays for sleeping, the Blooming Bath for bath time, all of our bottles, bottle brush, dish soap, and bottle sterilizing bags for the microwave. A case of diapers, a case of wipes, a case of formula with two gallons of bottled water. A duffle bag full of baby outfits, pajamas, socks, burp cloths, towels, wash cloths, and blankets. I packed way too much – and that was the goal. We had everything we needed, so the transition from home to hotel wasn’t a huge deal. It was far better to have too much than to get there and realize we were missing things.
- Keeping their routine close to the same (kinda sorta.)
I admit, we didn’t stay on a perfect schedule while at the beach, but their feedings were still three hours apart, and they still had the same bath and bottle routine before bed at night, so they still slept pretty well at night – no different from how they slept at home.
- Avoiding peak sun hours.
This was one mistake we made: we took them out to the beach at the heat of the day, around 1 PM. I had bought a baby beach tent on Amazon and figured that was enough to keep them cool and protected from the sun (since they aren’t old enough for sunscreen yet.) Well, the tent was pretty flimsy and barely stood up to the wind, and it was still super hot even inside the tent, so we ended up leaving and bringing the babies back in the evening, just before sunset. It was much cooler and we got to enjoy the beach as a family without worrying about if they were getting too much sun. Also, pro tip: We used baby bath seats as beach chairs.
- Using carriers whenever possible.
We used our baby carriers for the entire trip. My mom and I each wore a baby on the boardwalk, on the beach, and at restaurants. The boys are content when they’re being held, and they were extremely quiet and well-behaved as long as they were close to us. Plus, it was much easier than trying to push around the foldable Buick that is their double stroller.
Vacations with the boys will definitely be more fun next summer when they’re actually walking and playing and all that good stuff, but it gave us something to look forward to and a chance to take the boys out to see the world. Emotionally, it was overwhelming – just thinking of the fact that they’d still been in the NICU just six weeks earlier turned me into a weepy mess pretty much the entire trip. Plus, having such a long trip be successful gave me way more confidence in taking the boys places. We can go just about anywhere now.