3 Mar
2013

How to Survive a Vacation with Twin Toddlers

When the boys had just turned one, we took a trip with the kids and my parents to a neighboring seaside city called Mar del Plata.  It was nice, and refreshing to be in the breezy, salty air and quite easy to move around the kids in the stroller or in the car.  Plus, we had my parents as backup hands if assistance was needed. The boys were just learning to get around walking then, so we never really had to run after them like we do now.

Now is a different story.

Our boys just turned 20 months old and they are extremely active. Like, if they’re not sleeping or eating, they’re running, jumping, climbing, opening, pulling, unlocking, unzipping, exploring, pushing, dancing and practically climbing the walls all day. And look, my husband is the same way. He needs something to do all the time and it seems to have rubbed off on the kids. And like normal 20 month old kids, they have limited concentration periods so they like to change their focus quite often.

We just spent a week in Argentina’s hilly region, based out of Villa Carlos Paz, in the province of Cordoba.  One of my best friends here got married so we were going to spend the weekend celebrating with the couple, their family and friends and a few days just our little family. We decided to drive there from Buenos Aires so that we could drive around and explore the region a little bit.  I was a little afraid about traveling with the kids because I was unsure about how they were going to react being in a car for a seven hour drive to Villa Carlos Paz, so I had to make sure that we had enough things to keep them busy but I couldn’t fill up the car with toys.

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Packing:
I knew that my boys love to move around and get messy. Taking into account that we couldn’t possibly pack all of their toys and clothes I tried to limit everything down to it’s bare minimum.This was kind of hard since the average temperature ranged from about 12 degrees C (53 F) to 30 degrees C (86 F).

Kid Entertainment – I made the decision to bring four stuffed animals that they really like, two harmonicas and two toys (a play camera and a play cell phone) to keep them entertained. This really worked well. Because during the trip, they were able to stay occupied rotating the objects.  We put a mesh bag with the toys in between their car seats in the car so that they could reach in and take things out as they wished.
Kid Clothes – I decided to use a system. I bought a bunch of Ziploc bags. In each bag, I put one set of shirts for each child and one set of socks for each child. In a seperate larger Ziploc bag, I put 3 pairs of pants.  They were one pair of sweatpants, one pair of jeans and one pair of shorts per child. That way, I would reuse the pants depending on the weather and pair it with the shirt of the day. I put nightclothes in another bag (and only brought a couple of pairs to reuse) and to that bag added extra socks and shirts in case they needed to change out of their clothes for the day. We also had a baggie for their dress shirts they were to wear at the wedding. Here’s how it looked.
1 set of shirts and socks per day
1 set of sweatpants
1 set of shorts
1 set of jeans
1 set of dress shirts
1 bag with 3 nightclothes, and 2 sets of extra shirts and socks.
2 sets of lightweight sweater hoodies for the cool evenings
Kid Necessities* – In another Ziploc bag, I put 80 proof sunblock, child bug repellent cream, diaper rash cream (which is also great for curing sunburn and itchy, red and swollen mosquito bites), along with their toothbrushes and toothpaste. This went into their diaper bag with 4 extra diapers, 4 bibs, two water bottles and two extra pacifiers (cause they lose pacifiers like its their jobs). We also bought with us a packet of 44 diapers which lasted us 5 days and a packet of swimming diapers.

*Among the necessities were the car seats, stroller, 2 baby blankets in case travel was chilly or for picnics and our baby leashes. Oh hush – don’t judge until you have twin almost two year old boys who like to run and explore. Then call me up and be like, “You’re my savior, Gina! I love baby leashes!”

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As for the adults, we packed light. I bought a pair of flip flops, walking shoes and shoes for the wedding. I had a pair of jeans, a pair of pants and a pair of shorts, my bathing suit, a bathing suit cover up, socks and underwear for each day, along with 2 tank tops, a cardigan (which could also double as a cover up for the dress that I wore to the wedding), the dress for the wedding, a t-shirt, two long sleeved shirts, a hoodie and a lightweight fleece jacket. Of course, there was also my makeup bag, a hair dryer and curling iron (the last two I wouldn’t usually bring on a vacation, but for the weddings sake I did).

My husband always keeps his packing to an absolute minimum. If he didn’t have to bring a suit for the wedding, he would have been able to put everything in a child sized backpack. He brought a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, underwear, bathing suit, socks and a couple of shirts – short and long sleeved with a lightweight jacket, deodorant and cologne.  Men are so lucky.

We fit all of our clothes into a medium sized suitcase. We had a mesh bag of toys, the stroller, car seats and a bag of food.

Our snacks included: homemade banana bread, an avocado, a couple of oranges, apples and pears and of course, we’re in Argentina and traveling includes mate (a type of Argentine tea). I also had some ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch on our first day.  Javier ate one for breakfast. (yuck.)

In writing, this seems like a lot, but in reality, it’s a stroller, a suitcase, a bag of toys, a diaper bag, a packet of diapers and a bag of food. There it is.  That’s what we packed for 5 days of vacation including 14 hours of travel time back and forth.

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And it worked! To be fair, we did leave Buenos Aires at 4:30am, in the hopes that the boys would sleep until about 8am in the car. WRONG. They woke up as soon as the sun peeked across the horizon, dazed and confused.  They wanted to eat, they wanted to play with their toys, read their books and snooze a little more after a while.  We did make a little stop near a corn field so that they could stretch their legs and we could change their diapers. They weren’t too happy to go back into the car after getting some fresh air, but they got over it with a little talk from me talking to them through their Mickey Mouse doll.

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When we arrived, we all took a walk.  We had a picnic by the lake and walked back to the hotel in the midday sweltering sun. The boys were off their schedule that day and even though mom and dad wanted desperately to take a nap, the boys didn’t. They didn’t take their nap until about 3pm – when we put them in their stroller and walked out by a tree by the hotel pool.  Javi and I were the only ones at that time in the hotel, so we enjoyed some pool time alone, while the boys slept.  It was the first time I had been in a pool without children since before I was pregnant.  AMAZING.

Guests started to filter in slowly in the afternoon and the boys woke up for some milk and crackers. We hung out with the boys by the poolside until about 7pm. Normally we would be getting them prepared for dinner, but they had their snack a bit later and we thought things would be okay. WRONG AGAIN! At 7:30pm, their normal dinner time, the boys were totally anxious, telling us: Ahm. Ahm. AHM. and pointing to their mouths. Javi and I showered and bathed the kids and got ready to go eat dinner. We were going to eat Chivito – the local specialty of goat. Don’t judge until you’ve tried it – it’s like lamb, but less fatty – and when it’s cooked right and it’s fresh, it melts in your mouth.  We got to our destination at 8:30pm and the boys were CRAZY hungry. And the place didn’t open until 9:15pm. So we drove around, trying to find a bread shop that sold empanadas or something that the boys could eat in the meantime.  Their normal bedtime is around 9pm! We found a place that sold bread and were able to give it to the boys with a bottle of milk.  At the restaurant, the boys ate their empanadas and a little bit of the mashed potato and squash puree and really began making a scene, throwing things, whining, etc etc.  It was just too late and too much for them to handle. We ate and left – and the boys passed out from exhaustion in the car on the way back to the hotel. We waited until we got back to our room.

One thing that we did need to account for is that most places in this area close for “siesta” from noon until about 5pm. And restaurants don’t open until at least 8pm, so we had to make sure that we had appropriate food supplies with us at all times for our little beasts hungry dudes.

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Our mornings consisted of a lot of exploring the region in car, taking the boys out to walk around and explore the mountains, rivers, textures, looking at animals like horses and cows and sheep along the way – our afternoons spent in the pool with the boys (and THANK GAAAWWWD for the generosity of our friends on Saturday and Sunday who played with the boys all afternoon in the pool and left mommy and daddy to regain their sanity and swim around without babies attached to them) and our evenings were spent feeding the boys early and making sure that the first day tantrums never happened again.

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The difficult thing is that our twins are still young.  They have absolutely no fear of anything or anyone. They don’t understand danger or strangers and are so fiercely independent that we need to be at a constant surveillance with them.  They don’t stay near us if they’re not attached to us by a leash and they will walk up to perfect strangers and put their arms up for a hug. It’s NERVE WRECKING. And my boys know their target group. They usually walk up to young cute girls or the grandmotherly type, looking for hugs. The kind of people that usually melt at their baby blue eyes and PICK THEM UP! Especially in small towns. I usually try to say something like, “Oh Bruno, you know better than to ask PERFECT STRANGERS to pick you up. That’s not right.” Like, HINT HINT! 50% of the perfect strangers still pick them up even after I say that.  By that time I’m trying to pry my babies out of their arms and saying, “Ah we’ll your father’s calling you! Time to go!”

GRR.

The hardest part for us was that we were exhausted – exhausted from pool time, exhausted from the energy we needed to coral the kids at all times, exhausted from not having a kitchen and high chairs to put the boys in while we prepared food, exhausted from constantly trying to think of new places and things to get for them to eat because let me tell you, it’s HAAAAARDD to find places that sell vegetables already cooked in Argentina. I seriously don’t know what children eat here. Ham and cheese sandwiches? Not my kids. They prefer grilled cheese, spinach and tomato sandwiches. Where do they find that? At home. Salty egg omelets with cheap cheese? No way, they prefer omelets with brie, mushrooms and spinach.  They eat bean salads and whole grain rice and quinoa and broccoli.  Anything impossible to find in a rotisserie in a touristy village in the mountains in a province of Argentina, they like. At least they like well cooked meat. Like chivito. (yah! cause chances are your goat isn’t injected with hormones like chickens and cows).

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On our last day, we spent some time in a small village of German immigrants called Villa General Belgrano. The trip there was lovely and we stopped a few times on the way to look at animals and stretch our legs. We ate lunch there, and the boys were satisfied with some bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potatoes. We were too.  And as tired as everyone was, the boys refused to nap. So we hopped in the car and stared driving through the mountains.  There were few cars on these routes and I was so exhausted I could hardly keep my eyes open.  So once everyone was asleep, I pulled over the car into some shade, cracked open the windows and let the fresh mountain air and the sounds of the breeze in the trees, cowbells in the distance and birds chirping enter our dreams.  I needed 20 minutes to recharge my batteries and that kept me going through to the evening.

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On the way back to Buenos Aires the next day, we left at 6:30am, and that worked out well.  The boys slept a little longer in the car and the sun didn’t seem to bother them. They woke up at 9am and by 12:30pm, we were home.  Tony refused his nap that day, but we were able to move back into their daily schedule the next day. It took us parents a longer time to get back on track.  I was so exhausted that I was going to bed around 10-11pm for a few nights.

We would have liked to have the luxury to have napped when the kids were napping, but that didn’t really happen with so much going on.  It was a special occasion anyway. I think Javier expected to have more naps like he would on a regular childless vacation (HAH!) or maybe in general be less exhausted like on a regular childless vacation (again, HAH!).  But in general, no place is baby safe unless it’s your own house.  Our boys were bouncing off the walls in the hotel room and when we would take walks, they would struggle with wanting to walk alone or holding hands with an adult or being in the stroller. In the hotel, there were lots of stairs to climb and a pool area to contend with.  Luckily we had a LOT of friends (including the bride and groom) helping us poolside during the weekend, and making sure the kids were getting enough to drink and eat at the wedding.  And seeing my friends and my children enjoying each others company, that was wonderful.  But vacationing as a family and seeing my boys deepen their bond, well that was priceless.

manos

 

So, what do you think?