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travel with two

We approached our three-week odyssey with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. S had taken both kids to Italy in November, but there she had had her parents’ help, which was absolutely necessary for managing Munchkin’s difficult moments. Also, S and her family had mostly stayed put in one place. This would be our first trip just the four of us – our first time taking both kids on an extended journey, and we packed a lot into each day.

We left for the airport shortly after the sun rose over Kigali’s slumbering hills and arrived at our destination after nightfall. Two flights, one stopover, one layover, and then an hour-long drive to arrive at our lodge in Avoca, on the outskirts of South Africa’s Addo National Park. Remarkably, we managed almost the entire day without any major meltdowns. We were less than ten miles from our destination when a series of “rumble bumps” on the road roused Junebug from her nap and sent her into hysterics.

The first handful of days definitely required an adjustment period. At six months, Junebug’s needs fell into an easily predictable pattern. It didn’t matter whether we were at home, aboard an airplane, or driving around South Africa’s famed Garden Route – she needed to be nursed and put to nap at regular intervals, and it was fairly easy to accommodate our schedule to her needs. Managing Munchkin’s volatile moods, on the other hand, required a bit more attention on our part.

The key to a happy holiday, we quickly discovered, would rest on our ability to ensure that Munchkin did not go too long between snacks and that he never grew either too exhausted or too bored. In the mornings, he would be bursting with energy, forcing us to consciously accelerate breakfast and pre-departure preparations to ensure that he did not tear our accommodations apart with restless energy. By contrast, once we were out and about, we had to make sure that we kept him well nourished and did not run him too ragged, lest we invite a threenager meltdown, as happened on several occasions early on in our travels.

Once we took note of Munchkin’s needs and adjusted our travel style accordingly, we were amazed at how relaxing the trip became. Now nearing his fourth birthday, Munchkin also appears to have underwent a bit of a developmental leap on this trip. We still had a couple of rough moments, but he definitely turned the page and put the tantrums that have plagued us for the better part of the last year behind him.

It also helped that the kids appeared to be functioning on completely different wavelengths. Junebug slept for long stretches in the car, apparently undisturbed by the songs, high-pitched squeals, and running commentary emanating from Munchkin’s car seat next to her. Similarly, he not only took to napping in the car but also slept unperturbed at night, even when Junebug, lying not five feet away, would wake and clamor to be fed.

We covered a lot of ground in South Africa, putting 1,400 miles on our rental car in the span of two weeks. Some days we just relaxed at the beach, but we also visited a number of interesting places. Yet, by far the most enjoyable part of this vacation was spending tons of quality time with our kids without them driving us crazy.

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