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So you are thinking about taking a trip to Aulani with you baby (or babies if you are a lucky twin mom like me!).  You’ll find everything you need to know before you RIIIGHT here.

Planning

Planning a trip with a baby is tough! First, they change all the time.  How do you even know what baby’s personality will be like? What will she be interested in? What will she be capable of – walking? Sitting up? Who knows.  Second, it’s really hard to figure out what babies need on vacation. It’s not as if they are going to get excited, or even be able to do an epic water slide, or enjoy a fun luau or themed meal.  However, even though some babies are great travelers, and can handle anything their parents can handle, some need to get out and explore a bit more. 

Disney really knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating resorts for families.  Aulani has things to do for every age group and interest, from infants to grandparents and everyone in between.  You’ll be able to relax knowing that you’ll find something for your child, at any age, has something to do there.  

Taking a vacation to Hawaii Aulani was a great choice for us when our twins were babies, because, coming from the Pacific Northwest, it’s a relatively short flight- about 6 hours direct, and the closest winter/spring destination with warm weather (though, unfortunately, not GUARANTEED warm weather).

The view from our room- we stayed in a poolside Deluxe Studio and loved our view!

Getting There

After a 6 hour flight with an infant, or two, you are going to be ready to begin your vacation! It’s about a 30 minute drive from the airport.  My family likes to get out of the resort and explore the island a bit when we visit, so we prefer to rent a car. However, the daily parking fees at Aulani are high, and you certainly don’t NEED a car to enjoy your trip.  The resort also offers a shuttle to and from the airport for a very reasonable fee.   

If you do choose to rent a car, and you can manage it, make a quick stop at the Target in Kapolei, on your way out to Aulani.  You can pick up snacks, milk, diapers, and any other items you might need on your trip. It’ll end up saving you a lot of money, and you’ll be able to get exactly what you want.   

You’ll be thrilled to see that your vacation truly does begin the moment you get out of your car or shuttle.  You’ll be greeted by friendly staff members and a glass of refreshing fruit flavored water, and given a beautiful floral lei for the ladies and kukui nut lei for men.  Babies and kids even get a fun necklace! The resort has a small kids play area near the check-in counter, so you can let your baby wiggle around or at least check out the beautiful views while you wait for your room. 

Rooms/Suites

Aulani has many different options for rooms and suites.  And honestly, all are great! Standard rooms at Aulani are stylish and modern.  They have bathtubs, mini fridges, and enough floor space for two pack’n’plays and still have some floor space left to play.  The large balconies give a bit of extra space to spread out, and are a lifesaver for drying swimwear and towels. For a small splurge, check out the Deluxe Studio rooms.  They are very similar to standard rooms, but they have a small kitchen area with an extra sink, counter space, and a microwave. Families with babies will love having this space for washing bottles, and just storing extra baby stuff.  

The villas are, of course, fantastic.  If villas are an option for you, do it! They feature large, well appointed kitchens, and lots of extra space to relax. How great is it to cook a few of your meals on vacation?  Or, if you want a vacation from cooking, you have plenty of space to eat takeout pizza in your room.  

For all rooms or suites, you’ll find that Disney does a great job of providing everything you need.  At Aulani, you can borrow pack’n’plays (two if you have twins!), bed rails, bottle warmers, diaper genies, high chairs, etc. 

Excuse our mess- boys were SOOO happy to finally make it to Aulani

Best Baby-friendly Activities

Aulani is truly an all-ages resort.  Babies are not forgotten and you’ll have a blast letting your little one explore the resort, and perhaps experience a few firsts.  Our favorite baby-centered activities at Aulani are:

The Beach

Aulani Beach with babies
The beach was a hit for my twins! They MAY have eaten a fair amount of sand though OOPS!

You’ve flown 6+ hours for a beautiful Hawaiian beach, and, of course, the beach is going to be one of the highlights of your trip.  The beach at Aulani is beautiful, and is actually on a manmade lagoon. This expands the beach space, giving more wonderful sandy space, and protects the beach from the powerful Hawaii currents, making this area a bit more approachable for small children.  Aulani lends out beach toys free of charge, and provides plenty of chairs, so you can get comfortable and let your baby dig in, literally! 

One tip: not ALL babies love the beach. We are lucky enough to have a couple of beach loving boys. But several friends have had kiddos that HATED the beach as infants.  So, just maybe don’t plan on the beach being your ONLY activity and you’ll be fine.

Keiki Cove

The face that says "WHOA Mom- I got sprayed in the face!'. Also, how can someone with such a comically large head be so cute?!

The splash zone at Aulani is beautifully designed for children under 5 (though children of all ages are welcome), and I think really zeros in on the 12-18 month range.  It’s a small space, so parents will be able to easily keep their mobile, and quick babies in sight, and cruisers will be able to use the decorative wall to move around. Younger babies will still love sitting with their parents and watching the fun and unique water spray patterns.  And they’ll be able to participate in water play without being completely submerged, which might keep them warmer. This was our favorite activity when my twins were babies.  SO much fun!

Tip: For crawling babies, pick swimwear that covers knees. We love Swimzip suits. On days my kids were not wearing Swimzip, they had to bear crawl around to prevent scratches on their knees

Swimming!

pools at aulani
Ka Maka Grotto, the infinity pool. This picture was taken early in the morning before the pools opened.

Aulani heats its pools to approximately 85°F, which isn’t exactly exactly bathwater, but it’s a huge improvement over most Hawaiian pools, which are only heated by the sun and stay around 75°F.  Babies get cold so quickly in the pool, so having warmer water allows you to spend more than 5 minutes in the pool.  

The largest pool at Aulani, Waikolohe Pool, has a great zero entry for littles, and is sizable enough for families with babies to find a quiet spot free from splashes of bigger kids. The resort also holds Disney Pool Parties at the Waikolohe.  Though babies are too young to really participate, they’ll enjoy the show.  

The gorgeous infinity edge pool, Ka Maka Grotto, of course, has beautiful views from the infinity edge.  It also has some fun caves with sculptures of little animals built into the wall for babies and kids to enjoy.  

The lazy river, Waikolohe River, was the warmest of all the pools, in my experience, and was a big hit for my twin babies.  They could sit in my or my husband’s lap and ride around, checking out the sights, including lots of beautiful flowers and foliage, little menehune (mythical, mischievous people in Hawaiian culture), and bridges to float under, and caves to float through.  

Chairs are aplenty in the pool area at Aulani.  And the staff doesn’t mess around when it comes to pool chair policy.  The rules are that empty chairs are ‘saved’ for one hour. Staff comes around, and marks unoccupied chairs by folding towels.  If no one has come to claim the spot in an hour, they’ll remove the towel (and take other items to a holding area), freeing up the chair.  So don’t plan on parking everything in a spot all day while you are out exploring. But, if you are visiting with a young child, you know you’ll be back every 30 minutes for sunscreen, snacks, diapers, whatever, so it likely won’t be an issue.  Overall, I LOVED the chair policy. I was free to move from place to place and could USUALLY find a chair in a convenient spot, since no one was holding chairs all day.  

Tip: Aulani provides life jackets, and like most resorts, has some restrictions on what guests can bring into pools. Check out their rules here to ensure you don’t pack something you won’t be able to use. 

Rainbow Reef

Aulani is home to a private snorkeling saltwater lagoon called Rainbow Reef.  Ok, a snorkeling lagoon doesn’t SOUND like it’d be of any interest to an infant, but hear me out.  This lagoon has a great viewing window perfect for littles to check out. Even the tiniest babies will appreciate the colorful fish and beautiful turquoise water.  Plus, it’s pretty amazing to see snorkelers in the water with the fish. An older baby might even recognize Dory and Nemo in the lagoon!

We spent a lot of time watching these beautiful fish

Koi Pond

Aulani also has a great Koi pond that was a huge hit for my babies.  They loved just sitting and watching the giant fish every time we walked by.

Tip: The ‘Olelo Room is right next to the koi pond, so grab a table right next to the koi pond so your baby will be occupied while you grab a quick drink or appetizer.  

Beach Trails

Hawaiian breeze on his toes
He loved to stick his feet in the air and feel the ocean breeze on his toes

An awesome paved trail follows the beach from Aulani about a mile to Ko Olina Beach Park.  It’s a super nice little walking trail with beautiful views and Hawaiian breezes along the way.  Whenever my twin babies would get a little bit overwhelmed, or needed a nap, this trail was the perfect break for all of us.  Doing stroller naps on the beach trails is perfect for both baby and parents!

Dining

PB&J with ears! So cute!

Options for dining at Aulani are many, and for families with babies, it’s pretty nice to avoid getting in the car to go out for dinner.  The dining options vary from ultra casual to elegant, and all but the pool bar are kid-friendly! For older babies who are eating more solid food, its nice to see that Aulani follows the Disney nutritional guidelines, and generally included a fruit and a vegetable with each meal.  If your kiddos are like my kids, they won’t actually eat those things, but I like to continue to put it in front of them anyway LOL!

Our go-to restaurant at Aulani with littles is the Ulu Cafe because it’s ultra casual and you can take everything to go.  My twins have also been super wiggly so we prefer to go eat at the beach, or in our room so we don’t have to worry about keeping them still.  Breakfast at Ulu is especially great with a large selection of hot and cold meals. My favorite is the acai bowl, but breakfast sandwiches are also excellent.  Ulu cafe also offers poke bowls, sandwiches, snacks, and pizza.  

Makahiki is best known for its Character Breakfast, which is a must-do activity, even for babies.  The breakfast features miscellaneous Disney characters, songs, and tons of fun activities. Babies may not be able to participate in everything, but it’s still a fun experience and a great breakfast.  But be sure to book early! Character breakfast is extremely popular and sells out early. Makahiki offers buffet style dining, which is nice with little people who may not enjoy sitting still a restaurant for extended periods.  

Ama ‘Ama is Aulani’s star restaurant with a menu that changes frequently based on what is in season and has a beach-side ambiance.  The restaurant is kid-friendly and has a great kids menu but meals are served and meant to be enjoyed at a slower pace, which of course is tough with babies.  So give it a try, if you are up for it. OR, use one of Aulani’s quality kid sitters. OR, wait until you baby falls asleep, and enjoy a nice meal while your babe naps! 

Aulani drinks
While the babies stroller-nap, mom and dad get fruity Hawaiian drinks!

Overall, Is it Worth Going with a Baby?

The biggest questions out there – is it worth it? It really depends.  There are a lot of things to consider regarding your priorities, plans and perspective.  For example:

  • Are you planning to use the pools, splash zone, etc? Or are you just interested in going to the beach?
  • Do you like the idea of being in a large resort, where you don’t HAVE to leave?
  • Do you want to take your child to Aulani just once and want to time it JUST right to maximize the experience? Or are you looking for a great/the best spot to take your baby on vacation?
This face definitely goes in the PROs list!

Pros

  • Aulani has more for babies to do than most other resorts.  If you know you want to go to a resort with babies, it’s definitely a great option.
  • A larger resort means you don’t HAVE to get packed up and strapped into the car 100 times a day, or EVER during your vacation.  You can easily stay onsite and walk everywhere.  
  • Dining options are baby-friendly and close by
  • From the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii is the closest truly tropical destination, with only about a 6 hour flight.  Travel to Hawaii is totally doable even with an infant

Cons

  • It’s definitely not cheap.  If you primarily want to go to the beach, it’s probably not worth the extra expense.  All beaches in Hawaii are free, so you can get access to great beaches without paying Aulani prices.  You are paying for Aulani/Disney amenities.  
  • Children under 3 cannot use the Aulani kids club, Aunty’s Beach House
  • Aulani is about 30 minutes from Honolulu, so visiting the city isn’t super easy
  • Many of the activities and events are designed for older kids

For my family, traveling to Aulani with babies was absolutely worth it.  I loved that babies aren’t just an afterthought at Aulani. This was one of the only resorts out there that I felt was really designed for them, as babies.  As we approached my twins’ 1st birthday, I wanted to take them somewhere truly baby-centric, where they wouldn’t just be stuck in a stroller or a babycarrier, and I felt like we found it at Aulani.  We even planned a trip to the same resort one year later!

Updated 10/8/19

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Screen time is one of those things that a lot of parents struggle with at some point. But as parents of toddlers who travel a lot, we’ve decided we are ok with screen time on long flights and drives. When shopping for a tablet for a toddler, there are a lot of things to consider. First, toddlers are limited in what they can do on a tablet, so it’s important to find a tablet that is easy to use, and easy to put on ‘lock-down’ so they can’t change a bunch of settings until the device starts reading everything on the screen out loud in a different language (not that we’d have ANY experience with that!). Second, they break everything. So we need a case to make the tablet indestructible, and, even with the case, we assumed at least one tablet would be broken before too long, so keeping costs as low as possible is very important.

Some background on me first. I follow technology trends and read tech blogs and articles on a regular basis. I don’t always buy the latest and greatest, but I like to keep up with what’s available. Most people I know have fallen into the Apple© ecosystem and have stayed there, from computers to phones to tablets.

I decided early on that I didn’t want to be in that closed ecosystem and have stuck with Android equipment to this day. I think it has to do with the option to tinker and customize my stuff if I wanted to, and Apple© doesn’t let you do that. Apple© makes fine products, but in this day, you need to pick a system and stick with it so that all your devices can talk to each other easily and you don’t have to re-buy apps, movies, music, etc. you purchased previously.

kindle fire kids edition
On the plane with the Kindle Fire Kids Edition

First Kids Tablet: Kindle Fire Kids Edition

So, in our research, it seemed that lots of people were very satisfied with the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It is cheap, runs a kid-friendly version of the operating system, and came with a thick, rubberized case. We bought two (like everything else with twins, since ours fight over everything) and put them to the test.

When they were little, it didn’t matter that they couldn’t work the tablet and navigate the screens. They just saw it as something with moving pictures and fun sounds. That was good up until when they wanted to do those things. They didn’t understand how to manipulate the tablets, so they would hit and swipe and bang on them, which is not good for a budget electronic device. After a while, one of our Kindle Fires became slow and unresponsive, to the point where it was unusable.

So we started looking for sales on the same Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It appeared that the best deal would be a two-pack, so we figured we would buy two and have one as a spare.

kindle fire kids edition
Kindle Fire Kids Edition – Kid-proof, even when they’re eating cookies with their toes.

Over time, the same thing happened again, so we used the spare. Additionally, since we’ve almost exclusively use tablets in the car, or on a plane, they aren’t often connected to wifi. Apps would just disappear and we’d have to get connected back on wifi to get everything working. This usually happened as we were IN the car ready to go.

Second Try: Lenovo Tab 4, 8″

At this point, I started looking at other options. Since I am an Android guy, I knew there were plenty of budget tablets under $100 that could work for the kids. There are a ton of unknown brands out there, but I figured we should stick to a bigger brand, which landed me on the Lenovo Tab 8. It was affordable, had expandable memory, and decent specs. I ordered two with 2 of the thick rubber cases and 2 memory cards since they only came with 8GB of memory.

I proceeded to set them up by deleting as many unnecessary apps as possible to keep the home screen as clean as possible. I loaded movies and shows on the SD card and opened up the movie player (I prefer VLC player). And then…….nothing. I tried deleting and re-installing the media. I tried reformatting the SD card. Nothing. I tried a different SD card to see if I got bad cards. Still nothing.

I then decided to load a sample movie directly onto the Lenovo tablet and it worked! So I started to look into user problems with this specific tablet and found that this was a known issue with reading the SD card. And there was no fix or support from the manufacturer. So you are basically stuck with a small amount of space to store your media, which would be unacceptable for us since movies and shows take up a lot of space.

So we ended up returning everything before the kids even had a chance to use them.

The Final Pick: iPads

The next obvious choice would be to consider the iPad. It was close to the holiday season and we had thought about up-sizing their tablets (from 7″ to 10″) anyways, so it was a serious consideration for a couple of days. There was still the issue of expandable memory, which is something Apple doesn’t provide on any of its devices. You just have to pay the markup for extra memory.

Ipad- our pick for the best tablet for your toddler
Snacking with the iPad in the car.

So there I was, considering buying an iPad. Someone who had never owned an Apple product other than buying an iPod for his wife. After looking at options and discussing further, we decided to go for the iPad with 128GB of memory to ensure we would not run out of space quickly. Of course, we also had to buy thick rubber cases, because: kids. 😕

And that’s where we are still today. Two iPads in rubber cases, two toddlers who have learned how to use them to watch movies, play games, and even how to turn on the camera and take pictures. They’ve held up well, and the only issue I have with them is having to use iTunes (for now) to upload any new movies or shows. And the price, which is almost 4 times as much as the Kindle Fire Tablets.

our toddler happy with his ipad
iPad case with a handle that rotates to become a stand.

Quick Hits:

Kindle Fire Kids Edition

  • Pros: inexpensive, comes with a case, expandable memory.
  • Cons: Amazon-specific OS with a smaller app store, did not hold up well for our kids. We went through 6 of these. Doesn’t function well unless its regularly on wifi

Lenovo Tab 4 8″

  • Pros: inexpensive, expandable memory, mostly-stock Android OS.
  • Cons: Tablet could not read SD cards, needed to buy a kid-friendly case.

iPad 9.7″ 6th Gen 128GB

  • Pros: good build quality, large app store, easy for the kids to navigate
  • Cons: Expensive, need to buy a kid-friendly case, no expandable memory.

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No one will deny that taking a flight with a toddler is tough.  When you have two of them, it can seem brutal. In our experience, those early toddler days were the toughest BY FAR.  I was curious, so I did a little survey, below, and it seems that we were NOT ALONE in this experience.  

Don’t get me wrong, actually traveling with toddlers can be pretty amazing.  Toddlers are amazing creatures, and excellent travel companions because everything is so new to them. No one can get excited about seeing a pineapple plant or a pile of rocks, or riding on a bus like a toddler can. Plus the toddler years are an excellent time for them to be traveling.  Their brains are developing unbelievably fast in the toddler years. Travel during that period gives them a huge opportunity to learn flexibility, tolerance, and an appreciation for culture and cultural differences. 

Most difficult age for travel

But the actually GETTING THERE part? It’s rough.  For us, peak flight difficulty was right at 18 months, and flying with two 18-month-old toddlers was a true test of patience for me.  They are strong and never stop trying for what they want. Isn’t it funny how seemingly good qualities, like perseverance and a passion for what they want, can feel so impossible to handle when your twins are embodying it? My boys were literally climbing the seats, and pulling away from me as hard as they could at that age.  We have learned some great tips and tricks to ease the process a bit, but flying with twin toddlers is no vacation (ba dum tss). 

1. Travel Light (ish)

Travel light (ish):  Of course this tip is on every travel tip list ever in the history of the world, but it’s really easy to get carried away when traveling with twin toddlers. And trust me, I have not figured out how to vacation with twin toddlers with just a 30L backpack or anything even CLOSE to that.  If you figure that out, PLEASE tell me your secrets! Twin toddlers need a lot of stuff! But bring it all and you’ll be hating yourself as you sweat through the airport with half your house and two rowdy toddlers. Bring as little as you can to make the trip a little less insane. 

  • Most hotels, and many vacation rentals have pack ’n plays.  Call ahead and you can often secure a second pack ’n play.
  • Another travel-friendly sleep option is making sure there is an extra bed for your kiddos, then use inflatable bumpers- we love these ones. They work great, fold up super small for travel, and are quick and easy to inflate
  • Buy diapers at your destination whenever possible.  We use cloth diapers at home, but for us, it’s just not worth packing cloth diapers, dealing with the laundry situation, etc.  Sometimes we pack overnight diapers because we have a good system to prevent leaks, but foer the most part, we can get by with any old diaper for the short term
  • Don’t go nuts on toys and books for your trip. You’ll likely be too busy to enjoy those toys anyway.  
  • For more packing tips and tips for once you reach your destination tips, click here.
travel with twins
We clearly don't pack light! We try to keep it from getting TOTALLY out of control.

2. Avoid Early Flights

If you can, avoid getting your toddler up super early for a flight.  Many kids won’t be able to fall back asleep, and they may not be able to nap well either, so you’ll end up with cranky, overtired toddlers.  When there are two of them, it’s just too much to handle for me.  Instead, choose slightly later flights, even if that means keeping them out past bedtime.  In my experience, kids can better handle staying out later than they can handle getting up super early.  Or, maybe they’ll just fall asleep somewhere randomly.  Either way, you’ll be better off taking a slightly later flight.  

3. Free Your Hands

Check everything you can.  We check both car seats and all luggage, except for our stroller, and 2 small backpacks full of activities for the kids.  Choose backpacks that are comfortable and not oversized (because it’s VERY easy to fill the space, if you have it, so limit yourself).  Toddlers can be so wild and when you have two of them, it’s going to be a little bit crazy. So if you lighten your load, and you’ll end up happier plus you’ll be able to give your kids more freedom at the airport.

4. Bring your Stroller

Bringing a stroller is a huge question for us every single time.  But when you have twins, we err on the side of bringing it. There can be a LOT of walking at the airport, and mixed with the crowds, it gets pretty overwhelming for little guys.  Plus, travel days might mean naps at unexpected times. Even if you feel confident your twins can manage the walk, flight delays or gate switches might change that, and you’ll end up carrying them both miles through the airport, giving you a serious backache.

Another thing to consider is that you often spend a lot of time near busy roads or parking lots on travel days.  For my kids, at the end of a long travel day, focus is low and I end up with a death grip on hands to keep them from running out into traffic. No one likes that, so I prefer keeping them safety buckled in the stroller for those tough times.

Toddler nap at the airport
You definitely don't want this to happen with no stroller!

5. Burn off Energy at the Airport

 You’ll have to get to the airport early no matter what, so use that time to your advantage.  Since we usually have our kids in the stroller for longer/boring walks in the airport, we make sure we find a good, somewhat quiet corner of the airport where they can run free a little bit.  We often make a racetrack on the carpet using small cars, or make a little game with patterns in the floor to get them jumping and moving. I make sure they walk to and from the bathroom for their last diaper change, and try to keep them as active as I possibly can for those last few minutes.  

There is lots to see and do at the airport. We stay busy and burn off as much energy as we can.

6. Purchase nice car seat and stroller bags

Since you’ll be checking your car seats, and you’ll have to gate check your stroller for basically any domestic flight, and many international (since double strollers are SO huge), make sure you have a good bag that will provide some padding and protection from drops, rips, and tears. 

When it comes to double strollers, it’s hard to find a decent lightweight one, so our travel stroller is a bit pricier and we’d hate to see it destroyed, so we make sure it’s protected. I know lots of people have strong opinions on checking car seats, but checking is what works best for our family.  We use a cheaper, lightweight set, and put them in a nicely padded, quality car seat bag – we love this one, and we have always gotten away stuffing our kids favorite blanket, toddler pillow, and a lovey for a little extra padding (and saving some precious suitcase space).  

7. Make sure you tickets allow seat selection

Seems like a no brainer, but as airlines change their policies and rates, it can be confusing.  Some airlines now offer a cheaper ticket class that doesn’t allow seat selection, and your assignment is given after check in, even for small children.  I don’t have any idea how it is possible for a toddler or young child to not sit with their parent or caregiver.  But to me, it’s really not worth the hassle and the risk.  Get seat assignments. For parents of twins, seating is important, so you’ll want to be able to figure things out ahead of time. 

8. Choose window seats, or 3 seats in a row

When traveling with twins under the age of two, you won’t HAVE to buy a seat for each child. But you can only have one lap baby per row, because of availability of air masks.  We loved purchasing 3 seats for the 4 of us (my husband, myself and our twins). For most planes, that’ll give you the whole section of seats, so no one else is sitting RIGHT next to you, and allows you to easily pass your twins between you.  

However, as your twins approach toddlerhood, I’d recommend buying them each their own seat.  Even at 18 months old, toddlers are big to be sitting on your lap in a tiny airplane seat, and they are STRONG, so holding them in place is going to be hard work the entire flight. Giving them their own space helps everyone feel more comfortable and relaxed.  

window seat is best
Window seats are the best- looking out the windows gives toddlers a few minutes of distraction

If you purchase a seat for each of them, and assuming you are traveling with a second adult, I recommend getting window and middle seats, one set right in front of the other.  The window seat is coveted for my kids, and a young toddler simply cannot understand why they can’t climb into the lap of whoever is sitting there to play with the window shade. That could get awkward pretty fast.  Just make sure you have the window seat. Sure you’ll have to ask the person next to you, in the aisle seat, to move a few times to allow you to get up, but overall, window-center seat combo is the easiest.  

If traveling alone with twins, choose flights on planes with a 3 seat per side/row if at all possible, then buy each child a seat.  It’s a lot to handle, but bring your patience, and you can do it!

9. Bring one backpack of fun/supplies per child

 Assuming you are traveling with your twins, it’s easier for each adult to handle all of the needs of one child.  You can switch as needed, but make sure each adult has everything needed to care for one child, including extra clothes, diapers, toys, snacks, etc.  That way, you won’t be constantly interrupting the other caregiver to ask for something, frustrating the twin with that caregiver.  

Bring plenty of extra diapers and wipes in a small diaper pod with a changing pad and a handle so you can hang it on the bathroom door.  You’ll want to ONLY take what you need to the bathroom for diaper changes since airplane changing stations are certainly NOT toddler sized.  

With toddlers, blowouts are less likely so complete outfit changes are a bit more rare.  But come prepared for water or food spills, sticky messes, etc., and don’t forget about weather differences between your area of departure and destination.  Since we live in the Pacific NW, we are usually going from cooler weather to warmer, and so I like to dress them in a tee with a long sleeve over the top, and some comfy pants, and either wear or pack socks for the flight.  Then I pack shorts I can change them into at the end of the flight and take off the long sleeve shirt and socks. Getting them changed before they get cranky about the heat really helps keep stress levels low for everyone.  

10. Bring snacks, snacks, and more snacks, including some that can function as a meal

For a toddler, snacking is a great distraction tool!  Heck- honestly, its a great distraction tool for me too! Bring snacks that are fun, some that are healthy, and some that are kind of emergency distraction tools- we like to use mini M&Ms given one at a time, or lollipops for near meltdown moments because they last a little while, and are SUPER exciting.  Fruit snacks or fruit leather are great as well.

Most toddlers struggle to eat a good meal even on the best days.  On travel days, it’s next to impossible. Plus, a good meal isn’t always available.  No one wants a couple of toddlers in meltdown mode because they are starving and there is nothing available to fill their tummies.  So include snacks that have protein and any other nutrients you can squeeze in there, and are filling enough to work as a meal.

11. Bring toys that allow wiggly fingers, but not wiggly entire bodies

Toddlers are so active, so they need something that will at least allow thing to wiggle their little fingers.  Look for toys that take some concentration and last more than a couple of minutes, and that don’t require their entire body to move as a part of play.  A good rule of thumb is one new (or not recently played with) toy per hour of flight time. Honestly, that’s not enough.  But you can’t bring everything, so that is our reasonable compromise.   Here are a few of our favorite travel toys:

squigz on the plane
Squigz are a great travel toy! They don't stick to the tray super well, but they do stick to windows, tablets, etc.
  • Squigz:  They stick to any flat surface, and to themselves, and are tons of fun for all ages.

  • Little wind-up toys:  They are small, fairly cheap, and actually provide quite a few minutes of giggles
  • Finger puppets:  They are small and versatile, and toddlers love them!

  •  Board books with slide open or flip open features, like What’s in My Truck or Dear Zoo.  They allow kids to be involved, and they are open ended enough you extend the stories so that they provide more than 2 minutes of entertainment

  • Small cars or monster trucks to play with at the airport, or on the tray table.  We like Hot Wheels because they are not self propelled, so they won’t be flying quite as far in the plane.
 

  • Sticker books.  We love the National Geographic ones because they are inexpensive and have over 1000 stickers so they last FOREVER.

  • Wikki Stix but not too many.  These are super fun to stick together and build with, but if you bring a lot, they’ll just want to mash them together.

  • WaterWow books are reusable, mess free, and just require a little water. They are easy to use for little guys, and tons of fun.

  • Tablet loaded up with some toddlers games and shows.  We recommend iPads and we love
    • Daniel Tiger Explore app
    • Bugs and Buttons app
    • Sago Mini Farm, and really ALL Sago Mini games
    • Episodes of Wild Krats, Daniel Tiger, Octonauts, Little Baby Bum, and Dave and Ava.  
  • Our special map made specifically for the trip- read more about these homemade, toddler-friendly maps, along with other toddler travel tips here.   
toddlers on planes
We don't limit screen time on flights. Tablets are a huge travel tool for us. Bran is playing Bugs and buttons here.

12. Get enough sleep the night before, and grab a coffee!

It’s no secret- flying with twin toddlers is hard work.  So prioritize getting enough sleep. Don’t choose an insanely early or late flight, if you can avoid it, and show up ready to work.  My twins VERY RARELY sleep on airplanes. So they end up bored, a little bit tired, and wanting ALL MY ATTENTION. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but 3, 6, 8 hours of 100% attention is exhausting! And sometimes, they just can’t- their focus is completely gone and they start acting out.  So I need to have enough patience to handle whatever they throw at me (perhaps literally) because if I lose it, it’ll only make everything worse.  

Tons of toddlers who are not mine sleep GREAT on airplanes.  They take extra naps, and sleep from the moment the plane takes off until after it lands.  Probably that will be you. But, my take is that it’s better to be prepared for the worse- cranky toddlers who will not nap, and then be pleasantly surprised if things are easier.  

SOMETIMES my kids sleep, but its very very very rare. Proof that it happened at least once, and it was AWESOME!

13. Don't worry about judgement

When traveling with toddlers, especially toddler twins, there are bound to be a few people out there that give you the look.  You know the one- where they are clearly annoyed that you exist and somehow thing you are entitled to purchase 4 (or 3 or 2) tickets on the same flight as them with your children.  Don’t even worry about them.  Seriously.  Don’t give it one moment’s thought.  I bet you are a good parent, and I bet you’ll do your best to care for your children during the flight, and there is nothing more anyone could ask of you. 

Also, we travel quite a bit, and MOST people we encounter are kind and understanding.  If you are stressing before you even leave, don’t.  I’m a pretty good worrier, but after having so many positive interactions with people telling us we are doing a great job, or noticing how hard we work during the flight, I feel pretty confident while traveling.  And you should too! You’ve got it.  

14. Skip the line at car rental agencies

Car rental lines are often obscenely long and slow.  When you have two burnt-out toddlers, its a recipe for disaster.  Use Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold or Budget Fastbreak to skip the counter and go directly to your car (often your name is on the board with slot number).  If you are using a shuttle, have it set up ahead of time. Do whatever you can to get et out of the airport as fast as you can. After a day of traveling, your twins are going to be just done.  Hurry the process of exiting the process along so you can hopefully delay any meltdowns.

These kids are ready to go HOME!

15. Take a break as soon as you can

If you have to drive more than a few minutes before you reach your ultimate destination, give you twins a little break.  Maybe you can stop by a park. Maybe you can find somewhere safe to run crazy in the airport. But find a way to give them a 30 minute or so break before you ask them to keep holding still and being patient.  It’s a lot to ask of them and make sure you don’t forget how hard it is for them.  

Flying with twin toddlers is not easy.  But it’s not impossible either.  With a bit of preparation, and a lot of patience, you’ll be just fine.  Perhaps you’ll even enjoy all this mandatory play time with your twins.  And if it sucks, it’s only a few hours- or quite a few hours.  Whatever it is, its a limited amount of time, and then you’ll be whereever your going, and it’ll be great!  

Let us know- what works for you? What doesn’t? 

Updated 10/13/19

In our area, there is a major shortage of childcare options so waitlists are extremely long, and prices are extremely high. Like many twin parents, started looking at the options and discovered that a nanny cost about the amount as two in daycare. Plus, having a nanny gives the additional benefits of allowing your brand new babies to stay at home where they will get more one on one time, and be exposed to fewer illnesses. And, of course, you won’t have to rush out the door every morning with two babies and the mountain of supplies they need for the day.   

Hiring Our First Nanny for our Twins

Unfortunately, I had to go back to work when my babies were only 12 weeks old. So my husband and I went on the hunt for a nanny to care for our children. After watching the horrible video the hospital made us watch about purple crying and shaken baby syndrome and seeing one too many horrible news stories, we were extremely nervous about making a hire. However, we were definitely not experts on childcare or hiring someone for childcare. We had NO idea what we were doing!

Our awesome nanny, Sara

However, despite our inexperience, we managed to hit the jackpot with our first nanny, Sara. Don’t get me wrong, we had our battles. I know she felt frustrated at us for not always being clear on expectations, and we didn’t agree with the way she handled every single thing.  But our kids adored her, and she adored them. She sent me tons of pictures at work, and always told us everything about their days. She brought up anything they, or she was struggling with and we worked through everything together as a team. She spent the time to get to know us, and gave us a chance to get to know her. She was our family’s nanny for 18 months and really became a part of the family in that time, and she still is today!

Round Two

Sara eventually had a baby of her own and decided not to stay with us as our nanny after giving birth.  As we started thinking about how to replace her, we felt much more qualified to hire a nanny than we were the first time.  We thought about what type of parenting style we’d want a future nanny to embody, and what other qualities we like to have in a nanny.  We felt confident. 

Sara and the boys on her last day 🙁

The first nanny we hired no-showed us before she even started.  Our next three nannies lasted only a couple of months each, and the final straw – our last nanny was downright bad and we had to let her go because we were worried about our kids’ safety.  We were completely stressed out, unable to focus on our work, and we could see that our boys were not thriving because of the lack of consistency in their lives. We knew that something had to change. Even though we were ‘improving’ our process every time, we just couldn’t find what we were looking for.

I asked everyone I knew for advice. I did some major soul searching- and then some more soul searching. Making hiring decisions is always tough. And for a nanny, it’s even tougher. The person you chose will play a huge role in shaping the lives of your children, and so, of course, you will want this person to be PERFECT in every way, but NO ONE is perfect. But, after all my disappointments, frustrations, and just endless troubleshooting, I think I’ve finally figured it out- the trick to hiring a nanny that is not perfect but is perfect for your family.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Define your Job

Not all nannies and not all nanny jobs are the same, and it’s SUPER important to keep that in mind when defining your job and talking to applicants. Some parents will not allow their nanny to take children outside of the home, while others prefer that the nanny take kids out every day. Some parents are ok with unlimited screen time, others are completely screen-free. Some expect a nanny to simply supervise play, and some expect her/him to be actively playing with children all day. So, you’ll need to carefully and thoughtfully define exactly what you are looking for, for yourself and your future nanny. Some other questions to consider as you go through this process might be:

  1. Do you want to get frequent text messages and know everything about your children’s day? Or do you prefer not to be distracted while you are at work?
  2. Do you want your nanny to bring suggestions and advice on how to handle parenting struggles that come up? Or do you prefer to give directives and make decisions without your nanny’s help?
  3. Will you have meals, weekly schedule, and activities planned for your nanny and your children, or would you prefer to have your nanny handle finding and creating fun activities on her own?
  4. Are you expecting your nanny to take on any additional tasks, beyond watching your children, during their work hours? It is responsible to ask a nanny to help with cleaning up play areas, washing dishes created during the day, and helping with the kids’ laundry- but you’ll want to make this clear from the beginning.

I think most of us will agree that the top priority is finding someone who genuinely enjoys spending time with your children. You’ll want to think through any other qualities you’d want for your ideal nanny. Do you want someone fun and silly? Someone calming? Creative? Strict? Gentle? When you are parenting an infant, it’s hard to imagine all these parts of parenting, but before you know it your tiny infant will be running around the house FULL of personality, so you’ll want to at least attempt to anticipate what you’ll want for your child is they become a toddler and even a preschooler.

Adventures with our nanny

2. Set Expectations

I’ve had a hard tell telling my nanny my expectations, and an even harder time correcting something when I haven’t made my expectations clear. I feel like I’m being too demanding, and I always want to give my nanny the flexibility to relax a little bit on the rules if the day is particularly hard- I know that some days are just plain hard and I don’t want her getting frustrated and potentially losing her temper with my kids. However, if you are not able to set expectations, both you and your nanny will wind up frustrated.

For me, the best way to set expectations is to write them down. I created a bullet point list of expectations that I give to potential nannies before hiring so that we are all on the same page. I include Everything–parenting style with books we like, screen-time rules for nanny and children, communication expectations, what to do about any specific behaviors and what to do as new behavioral concerns come up, vacation and holiday policy and pay, etc. Having everything spelled out was great because it sets the nanny up for success.

Sitting in a Firetruck. More fun with the nanny

3. Interview Carefully

Choosing the right nanny for your family is a huge undertaking that can feel so overwhelming. But after TOO many rounds of interviews, we’ve found a system that works well.

  1. Post your job anywhere and everywhere you can, and let friends and family know you are looking. You never know where you’ll find your perfect nanny.
  2. Start with a quick phone call. We had TONS of applicants who weren’t actually available the hours we needed or weren’t willing to come to my house to watch the kids or something. With a quick phone call, I was able to work these things out without wasting too much time.
  3. Come up with great questions to ask during interviews. I felt situational questions like “What would you do if both kids had a toddler tantrum in a park” were very telling. Also, questions that give the applicant an opportunity to show their passion (or lack of) for the work, such as “what do you love most about being a nanny”. While you are interviewing, make sure you let your applicants open up so you can get to know them.
  4. Once you think you’ve found your nanny, run a quick background check.  Probably nothing will come up, but it’s nice to have that peace of mind. 
  5. BONUS STEP if this is something you are able to do: Have a previous, trusted nanny, or a friend or family member come do a test or training day/extra interview. In my experience, applicants were more willing to be honest with my previous nanny during this training day, than they were with me. For example, one applicant was afraid of my dogs, and although caring for the dogs was to be part of the job, she didn’t mention the fear and general dislike for dogs to me, but she did tell my previous nanny.

4. Bond with your Nanny

I think my biggest AHA moment has been realizing that people are motivated by relationships. This is true for all jobs, but when it comes to being a nanny, this job is SO much more emotional and requires so much more heart and care than most jobs, so a great nanny family and nanny will become like family. And think about it, if you are lucky enough to have a grandparent or a good friend that is able to watch your kids, there is a pretty good chance that person is highly invested in the long term wellbeing of your child, right? Why not create that relationship with your nanny as well? You’ve chosen your nanny because s/he has some great qualities or values that match your own, so likely you’ll be able to form a friendship with this person. Why not take the time to really get to know this person?

Being close with your nanny is a huge benefit for so many reasons. First, both you and your nanny will likely be so much happier working together as friends and able to enjoy each others company since you’ll likely be spending some time together. Second, it’s so much easier to talk to someone when you are friends. And there is SOOO much to discuss when it comes to raising young children. It’s nice to know what each other will do in a given situation, know each other’s philosophy on childcare, even if you don’t 100% agree, and to be able to have open, honest conversations about everything, but especially about your children. And honestly, over time, if you find a nanny that loves and cares for your children, you will likely wind up loving your nanny as a person.

So take your nanny out for coffee one day, or just take some time to chat in the morning before you leave for work, or in the evening. You won’t regret this the time you spend really getting to know this person that is SO important to your children.

More outings with our awesome nanny- preschool gym time.

5. Having a Great Nanny takes work!

Kids and their parents are constantly changing and growing, so ensuring that your nanny continues to be a great match for your family means you need to keep talking. As brand new parents, we really didn’t know who we were yet. We didn’t identify as any particular parenting style, and we didn’t have a lot of confidence in our abilities as parents. As time passes, we’ve learned a LOT. We’ve found our style and a bit of confidence that we might have some clue what we’re doing sometimes. And with a nanny, that means a lot of shifting roles, and a lot of discussions about decisions we’ve made, or new opinions we have. These discussions can be difficult but in the end, both the parent and the nanny are happier.

Another important thing we’ve learned is that we needed to let go of the reins a bit! Our instinct has always been to take the lead on anything related to the kids- come up with project ideas, meal ideas, sign up for activities and classes (if our nanny is open to taking the kids), etc. However, I recently realized that not only am I doing more work than I need to, I’m also taking away an opportunity for my nanny to feel valued and have a bit more job satisfaction. So I’ve learned its important to give your nanny projects. Give her/him responsibility for something, like potty training, or setting up a craft station for your kiddos. In the case of potty training, you can approval for methodology, or work together on it, but let her/him take the lead. For the craft station, let her think through which types of crafts your kids are capable of, and come up with a list of necessary supplies, within your budget. Nannies are often professionals who want to learn and grow, and these extra projects will give a great nanny a sense of accomplishment and show her/him that you trust her/him.

Having a nanny has many unexpected benefits, and hardships. We’ve learned a TON after having 6 nannies in just over 3 years, and I sincerely hope some of our tips can help you find the perfect person for your family, and put in the work together to keep that person perfect for the long run.

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