Our families live a six-hour drive away from us, or I should say, we live six hours away from them. All of the official grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins on both sides live within an hour’s radius of one another, which is a small convenience in the grand scheme of things. Knowing how hard it would be to travel that kind of distance with two newborns, we did not attempt it until they were five months old. Our first trip home this past summer was a week-long tour visiting as many members of the family as we could. We’ve now managed it three times in their eight months, and each time has felt like an accomplishment in line with receiving a college diploma.

On that first trip, it was hard to decide what needed to go with us. I’m a light packer, but packing light for babies isn’t exactly the same. I strategized by writing a list of all the things we used in a regular day. I tried to think of every possible scenario; extra sleepers and onesies, pre-made food and bottles, and extra baby wipes. Though I fit their clothing into one half of a carry-on suitcase, a vast selection of reusable tote bags were also filled with diapers, bath-time accoutrements, books, toys, and blankets. The trunk also had to fit our double stroller and a pack-and-play for sleeping, a baby bathtub, two baby recliners, and of course our own clothing bags. Too much? It really wasn’t, as everything was used at some point during the week.

I also planned for the drive itself. We set out as soon as the twins were up and fed, which had us on the road before seven in the morning. Figuring we wouldn’t want to stop if the babies were asleep, I packed us a lunch that could be eaten while driving. I made us coffee the night before that could be iced, to avoid any need to hit a drive-through as they‘re notorious for baby-waking in my experience. I packed everything as compactly as possible, and my husband managed to fit it all into the trunk while I loaded the twins into their car seats. We executed all of this with military precision. This kind of thing should really be on my resume.

I see rest stops in a new light now that they’re a necessity. I wonder why so many of them lack comfortable seating for nursing and why there aren’t more of the family washrooms, since about 90% of the people using rest stops are families, at least judging by the line-up for family washrooms. I’ve also learned that a grocery store, a park, and the parking lot of a mall can function as a perfectly suitable rest stop in a pinch.

Each of our three trips home have been a success, based on the fact that we did not have to stop and get a hotel halfway, and that the entire journey took less than eight hours. Some legs of the journey have been harder than others, and one thing is guaranteed; if a baby begins to cry, it will stop the minute you get off the highway and pull into a carpool lot to check on it. It’s a big effort but it’s worth it to spend time with family. We’re now experts, and know exactly how much can fit into our vehicle. We’re planning for the holiday trip home, which hopefully won’t involve too much snow. To prepare, I’ve let everyone know that their Christmas gifts will fit within a four-inch by four-inch box — no larger, because space is at a premium!