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“You’re staying overnight with 3-month-old twins?” I was asked unbelievingly. No one could fathom us trying to get away for the weekend with the boys. We needed it though. After a busy week at work for me and a stressful week at home with the boys for my wife, we craved a weekend away. We normally went with the family to Stone Harbor on the Jersey shore in the late summer, but couldn’t go this year, so we decided to take the boys down to Cape May for some sun and for their first time to the beach. It wasn’t as bad as everyone assured us it would be. Traveling with infants is possible and with some planning, can be just as fun and as stress-free as vacations pre-kids were.
By the third month of the boys’ life, we had established a bit of a schedule. Naps and feedings during the day were not on an exact schedule, but close enough to predict when the boys would be fussy. Night time was getting much easier with the boys even sleeping from 8 to 6 a few nights in a row. Unfortunately the boys forgot how to keep to this schedule a few days before our trip, so we had no idea how they would behave.
The smartest thing we did in preparation for the trip was to find a place to stay where we would be comfortable, but wouldn’t disturb anyone if the boys had tantrums in the middle of the night. We found that many of the charming Victorian bed and breakfasts in Cape May, while picturesque, did not even allow children under 2, likely due to thin walls. Instead, we booked an AirBNB loft above a family’s garage which was perfect. It was far enough removed from the house so that we wouldn’t be a disturbance. It had a ton of space with plenty of room for the boys’ pack and play and double bassinet. It also had a comfy couch and tv which was critical since the boys go to bed at 7:30 and while we are getting old, can’t fall asleep that early. Combined with some wine from the local winery, we had plenty to do after the boys fell asleep. The other key item we thought to bring along besides twice as many changes of clothes as we thought we’d need (we ended up needing them all) was their white noise machine. Though there was a nice cricket buzz at night, the noise definitely helps them sleep.
Though my penchant for over-planning trips is well documented, with the boys a certain degree of preparation was most definitely needed. I spent considerable amounts of time researching entertainment options, restaurants, and breweries that were child friendly and mostly outdoor. I may have learned this mostly from traveling with the dog, but I’ve found that outdoor seating lends to a much more relaxed and flexible experience. It may sound counterintuitive, but I also planned for some unplanned time and flexibility into the schedule. With the boys, I knew we would have plenty of unplanned feeding and changing time so couldn’t afford a tight schedule.
Combined with some wine from the local winery, we had plenty to do after the boys fell asleep.
We also wanted to keep the boys on a schedule with morning walks which always seem to calm them and keep them happy in the morning, so we planned opportunities for nice long walks on the beach, in town, and at the wetlands bird sanctuary and lighthouse just outside town. An important lesson learned from this was that carrying a 15 pound baby in a Baby Bjorn on unsteady sand will destroy your quads if you aren’t careful. The boys loved the sound of the ocean and experiencing it in real life after hearing it from their noise machine many nights. They also got to see the real life version of many birds and other wildlife from their books as it was prime migration season in the wetlands for many migratory birds.
While we did have opportunity to spend a good amount of time outside on these walks as well as when eating and drinking, we spent a bunch of time in the car on the way down and back and a bit between stops. Luckily, the boys are getting accustomed to time in the car and getting to the point where it typically puts them to sleep quickly now. Apparently my parents would often throw me in the car to get me to sleep and while I don’t want to depend on it for settling the boys, I do think it’s an important skill in life to be comfortable in the car. Many children tend to never get out of the house and suffer from car-sickness so easily. I don’t want that for the boys. Thankfully with the exception of when they are way past feeding time, they remained very calm even after hours spent in the car.
Getting the boys out of the house in general is a goal for me. I believe having these experiences in new places seeing new things and having exposure to new things is so critical for development and a happy, healthy, balanced life. If nothing else, I want to instill the boys with a drive to try new things and never be afraid to do different things in their lives since that attitude has made me so happy. Travel is such an important part of my life and a key component to my happiness. I want the boys to feel the same and I believe it has to start very early to really foster it in their attitude.
Since this was a trip with mommy and daddy, of course we included breweries. We may have received some odd looks for bringing a parade of not one but 2 infants in car seats inside. Breweries are great places for traveling with kids though. They don’t pressure you to move quickly and get out like restaurants, so they work very well for ordering and then feeding the boys while enjoying a sip or 2. I do wish more would have changing tables in their bathrooms though so that I didn’t always have to clear a space for changing on the floor. In Cape May, we found 4 breweries and 2 had nice outdoor spaces perfect for enjoying the fall weather with the boys and for them to debut their fall fashion with their hoodies. The other 2 were very calm inside anyway so were nearly as perfect.
Thankfully with the exception of when they are way past feeding time, they remained very calm even after hours spent in the car.
In line with my belief that beer culture is so much more relaxed than wine culture, the breweries were much cooler about us bringing the boys than the winery ended up being. While the brewery staff made conversation with us and about their children, the winery didn’t actively make us feel like we were unwelcome, but felt tinged with some judgement and a general attitude that we were less welcome. The wine tasting was a bit tense so we decided to grab a bottle after and enjoy the lovely outdoor atmosphere with the boys and their bottles. That went much better.
For food, we also chose outdoor spots and looked for those with a relaxed atmosphere. In Cape May, these tended to be seafood shacks which worked just fine for us. Fish, seafood tacos, lobster rolls, and even a fish burrito were perfect for the end of summer weather and sun. We gained a new appreciation for places with large tables, wide benches, and stable seats as we had to perch the boys in their car seats. Most servers had a hard time understanding that 3 month olds can’t sit up in a high chair, so some interesting conversations and musical chairs took place. Most fun was trying to figure out how to jam 2 car seats onto a single booth seat while mommy and daddy nearly sat on each others’ laps to squeeze onto the other side. These boys better be thankful for the sacrifices we make.
Traveling with infants isn’t easy, but with some planning and forethought, there is no reason it can’t be successful and relatively stress free. The first year or 2 of life of children doesn’t have to require sacrificing all travel and leaving the house for kids. Do like the French and seek for your children to adapt to your lives, not the other way around. You can get out, see new sights, eat delicious and exciting food, and have time to do what you want to do without having to leave the kids at home or with grandma. Even better, your children will thank you when older for giving them these experiences.
Tyler Lund is the editor of Dad on the Run.