Abe*, the twins, and I just returned home from our annual summer getaway with my family at Bear Lake. The wonderful thing about having a big family is that reunions are always loud and full of laughs. This year’s trip was extra enjoyable, though, because it was the first to include grandkids. Sophie* and Cleo*, my four-month old twins, finally got to meet my dad, my three youngest sisters and my brother, and got to see their grandma and the oldest of my younger sisters again. That made eleven of us at the lake!
Although our stay at the cabin was supremely relaxing, the drive to get there was not quite as pleasant. The idea of tackling a five hour journey (plus stops) with two babies in a backseat way too small for me to join them loomed over me for weeks. We ended up making a couple of rookie mistakes on the way to the lake that landed us with about four hours of screaming. Luckily we learn fast and the trip back was not as stressful.
1. We drove through the night. We thought that the least painful way to road-trip with the twins would be to wait until their bedtime and drive through the night, allowing them to slumber peacefully until we reached our destination. This was a terrible idea. The babies didn’t sleep at all, and we were so tired ourselves that the babies were not the only ones who cried during the trip. On our trip home, we left around eleven in the morning. Even though it made for a long day of driving, it was much better than the endless night of driving we’d had.
2. We put the twins in the car without a nap. We thought being tired would help the girls fall asleep more easily in the car, but actually it just made them really, really cranky. They didn’t sleep at all on the way to the lake. On the way home, we gave them a good long morning nap before leaving, and amazingly they napped for much of the car trip, too, and were much happier when they were awake.
1. We used disposable diapers. We use cloth diapers at home, but I knew that quick diaper changes would be key to short-as-possible pit stops. Not to mention the fact that the ability to toss stinky diapers rather than stowing them made the atmosphere in the car just a little more pleasant. I used Earth’s Best chlorine-free brand for the first time, and I was pleased with their absorbency and fit.
2. I tied mirrors to the headrests in front of each of the girls’ rear-facing car seats. This was helpful in two ways: it kept the girls entertained for a while and it made it super easy to check on them from the front seat. To create the mirrors, I hot-glued two pieces of wide baby ribbon to each back of two big (8×10) mirrors I found at the dollar store. I tied the mirrors to the headrests and tilted them so they would face the babies in their seats. The mirrors were lightweight enough that the hot glue held them well enough for this trip but because of the summer heat, the glue ended up melting by the time we got home. Probably another kind of glue would work better for long-term durability.
3. I loaded the car with baby toys and the girls’ “loveys.” A couple bright giraffe toys with chewable legs kept the girls entertained while they were awake, and their soft lovey blankets gave them something to snuggle while they napped.
4. We closed big square swaddle blankets in the back windows to shield the babies from the harsh sun. We have those pull-down sun shields that they make to suction on backseat windows, but they just did not block enough sun during the daytime hours driving through the desert. The blankets shaded the entire backseat, keeping the girls cooler and the sun out of their eyes.
5. When the girls did cry, we pulled over as soon as possible for a diaper change and feeding. On the way home, the twins generally stayed calm between stops until they wet their diapers, and I made sure to tank them up again before we resumed our drive so we wouldn’t have to stop for a separate feeding.
I’m a little hesitant to admit that when all else failed on the way home and the babies couldn’t stop screaming even after a diaper change and a feeding, I leaned into the back seat and nursed them (separately) until they fell asleep. I hadn’t planned on doing this, and next time I might pump some milk so that I can feed them more safely, but it was honestly a lifesaver to be able to comfort them rather than let them scream for hours again. I would never do this on a normal drive, and probably won’t even do it again on a road trip, but in the moment it was all I could think of.
All in all, I feel like we had a pretty successful vacation. We can’t wait to fly back east for Christmas with my family in a few months! Hopefully we will be a little better at traveling with babies by then.
Have you ever traveled with a young infant? What were your rookie mistakes and/or genius ideas?
*Names have been changed