Tips for surviving a solo trip with twin toddlers

A few weeks ago, I uncharacteristically booked a last minute trip to Taiwan with my now 4 year old (!!) twins, sans husband. I was towards the tail end of my 3 week break, in between jobs, and thought, what the heck–it should be fine! Luckily it was a great trip with just one major tantrum. In case anyone out there has thoughts of traveling alone with their kids, here are some handy tips:

  1. On the plane, have your kids sit next to each other, rather than on either side of you. My kids entertained each other with Netflix shows, coloring, and Play Doh during most of the 4.5 hour flight and I only had to intervene every 20-30 minutes.
  2. Bring Play Doh! I brought 4 small tubs and it was a good way to break up cartoon time.
  3. Obvious one–bring tons of snacks! I normally restrain my kids when it comes to sweets, but I let them each buy a candy bar from Changi Airport to keep them as happy as possible. Fortunately they didn’t have a major sugar rush on the plane.
  4. Stay in a kid friendly hotel. We stayed at Dandy Hotel in Da’an Park, which was right next to the MRT and 7 Eleven and across the street from a nice children’s playground. The lobby had a kids’ play area and on Sundays, they have a balloon artist who made amazing Hello Kitty and Spiderman balloon animas!
  5. Stay out late–you’re on vacation! My twins don’t nap anymore, but on the night we planned a late dinner, I made sure that we napped 3:30-4:30pm. Totally worth it!

Age 3, the best year with twins so far

Wow, 2018 has flown by. Just like that, my twins are 3 1/2. I haven’t posted in a LONG time due to some funky website issues, work, and a bit of laziness, but to summarize:

  • We survived our second long haul flight to the US! We stopped in Seoul for 4 nights, then went to LA to spend time with family (and shop at Target, Nordstrom Rack, and Trader Joe’s…and eat Mexican food and In N Out). Our MVP Award goes to the Maclaren Twin Triumph for saving us through long treks through airports, 2 Disneyland malls, and countless shopping trips.
  • My twins surprised me by performing almost flawlessly at their end of the year school concert. They memorized some serious dance moves without a sweat! For such shy kids, they amazed me by showing no stage fright in a theater full of parents.
  • The pace at which my twins are learning still astounds me. They remember the smallest details (my son still talks about flying Singapore Air to Korea, then LA; he knows we’re going to fly Scoot Air to Thailand in a few weeks) and I can’t ever promise things that I won’t follow through with. My daughter knows how to write her name! The kids can speak to each other in Mandarin!

Latest obsessions:

  • My daughter loves Frozen and must watch at least 10 minutes of the movie every day. She’s obsessed with Anna and refuses to go to school unless I have done “Anna hair.” Overall, she loves all things girly–dresses, the color pink, ponies, bunnies.
  • My son is still slightly obsessed with Star Wars but is more into cars, trains, and planes now. Favorite Netflix shows: Lego City, Simon. Paw Patrol and Super Wings were favorites earlier this year.

I’ll make sure to jot down some more highlights when I can put some more coherent thoughts together!

Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 3 (Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Fu Hang Dou Jiang, Mid-Autumn Festival)

My last post on my trip to Taipei with twin toddlers included:

  • Reuniting with Yong He Soy Milk (Taiwanese breakfast stall)
  • Discovering the playground at Da’an Forest Park
  • Eating at the original Din Tai Fung outlet
  • Enjoying the scenery at Taipei 101
  • Sweating endlessly at the Taipei Zoo

This post will detail the last few days of our trip and include some final words of wisdom.

Day 5: McDonald’s, Eslite 24 hour bookstore, Yu’s Almond Tofu, Jin Man Yuan Pai Gu pork chop rice

Still exhausted from the previous day’s outing to the Taipei Zoo, we decided to take it easy on day 5 of our trip. We had McD’s for breakfast (slightly better than Singapore but the coffee was bitter; note that almost all the coffee in Taipei is unpleasantly bitter) and headed to the Eslite 24 hour bookstore near Zhongxiao Dunhua. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any children’s selections, but we enjoyed the air conditioned bookstore and cafe.

In the afternoon, we bought some souvenirs in Ximending and had a snack at Yu’s Almond Tofu, where we enjoyed our almond shaved ice with milk. For dinner, we had pork chop rice at Jin Man Yuan Pai Gu in Ximending. In Taiwan, pork chops are seasoned with salt and pepper (and probably MSG), deep fried, and served with rice and pickles.

Day 6: Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, empanadas at Maji Square, burger at Meat Up

Feeling rejuvenated after a relatively easy day, on day 6, we headed to the Taipei Children’s Amusement Park.

Our kids were only allowed to go on a few rides since they are just over 90 cm, but the outdoor and indoor playgrounds were enjoyable. Since it was unbearably hot, we spent most of our time at the indoor playground on the second floor (Kawai Candy Land). I highly recommend this play area for younger children (the playground is meant for those under age 6), as the play area is extremely clean, and there are lots of activities (ball pits, slides, play cars, pretend grocery store, kinetic sand). Each play session is for 1 hour and 50 minutes, and the staff spend 10 minutes cleaning in between sessions.

After our session was over, we headed to Maji Square for tacos. The tacos were decent with a respectable corn tortilla, but the empanadas at Mecato were absolutely amazing (FYI, empanadas are like curry puffs but with a crispier pastry dough and meatier filling). Maji Square also has food from other cultures, but we were floored by the empanadas! We enjoyed them with a fruity beer from the nearby deli.

My husband and I discovered another food gem after our kids went to bed. We wandered around Ximending and found Meat Up, a burger / smoothie joint. The burger was customisable and delicious, and the smoothies were Instagram worthy.

Continue reading “Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 3 (Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Fu Hang Dou Jiang, Mid-Autumn Festival)”

Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 1 (helper visa, Airbnb, EVA Air flight, travel resources)

My husband and I uncharacteristically decided to book a last minute family vacation to Taipei, Taiwan with our twin toddlers a few weeks ago. We returned from our 8 day, 7 night trip last week. It was mostly exhausting with some fun in between. In this first post, I’ll outline our trip preparation and some general advice for traveling in Taipei. The next few posts will detail our itinerary, including our favorite restaurants and attractions.

The n+1 rule

When traveling with young children, I firmly believe in having n+1 caretakers, where n = the number of children. So my husband and I decided to bring our helper along for the trip.

We applied for our helper’s 30 day visa at the Taipei Representative Office of Singapore, which is located in the PSA Building on Alexandra Road. The visa cost $65 SGD and required 2 passport photos. I also had to sign a letter stating that I was responsible for my helper during the trip. Her visa was available the next afternoon.¬† You may also apply for a visa online. It takes about 3-4 working days (according to online forums).

Choosing an accommodation

We only booked our trip a week before the departure date. With 3 adults, 2 children, and a relatively tight budget, our accommodation choices were limited. Our only criteria were to have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and proximity to an MRT station.

We chose a two bedroom apartment near Ximen MRT, which had its advantages and disadvantages. We were close to the Ximending night market, countless shopping areas, and early morning breakfast spots. But our area was extremely polluted with cigarette smoke and motorbike exhaust. Our apartment was in a rundown building (government housing?) with a gambling parlor on the third floor, and cigarette smoke was always lingering in the air.

For families, I would recommend staying in a less congested part of Taipei, even if it is less central.

Flying to Taipei

Our 4-4.5 hour flight on EVA Air was relatively uneventful. Our kids were entertained by the in flight television and YouTube videos we had downloaded onto our iPhones. I also packed a small activity bag with Daiso magnetic doodle boards, Daiso stickers, crayons (ones with edges so they don’t roll off), and a homemade activity book (stapled A4 sheets of paper with drawings for coloring).

My husband and I each brought a bag of snacks, 5 diapers, wet wipes, bibs, empty water bottles (which we filled at the gate after going through security), kids’ headphones, and alcohol wipes to sanitise the airplane seats and tray.

Although our flight to Taipei was during their naptime, our kids enjoyed the flight and were relatively well behaved. They even managed to nap for almost an hour. On the way back, they had a few small meltdowns since we had to wake up early for our morning flight, but overall, they seemed to enjoy their airplane ride.

Traveling with a stroller

Whenever we travel, our twins become extremely timid and reluctant to walk longer distances, so we brought our Maclaren Twin Triumph stroller. It was a huge help for traversing through the airports and around the streets of Taipei.

We took our stroller everywhere in Taipei, since our Airbnb accommodation was about 600 meters from the MRT station. 600 meters doesn’t seem very far, but with cranky toddlers in 34 degree C heat and 80% humidity, a stroller was a must!

Taipei was relatively stroller friendly. Department stores and tourist landmarks had elevators, as did all MRT stations. But only certain MRT exits had elevators, while others had a combination of stairs and escalators. Most MRT elevators had a long queue, so we often had one caretaker fold the stroller and carry it out of the subway station, while the other two caretakers carried one child each.

Resources

Here are some helpful websites I used for planning our trip:

KKday – Offers discounted admission to tourist attractions, airport transfers, etc. We used KKday for traveling to and from Taoyuan Airport. For 200 NT (about $9 SGD), you can book car seats in advance. While booking online, request the seats in the comment section. KKday will message you requesting your child’s date of birth, height, and weight. The car seats aren’t in the best shape, but they served their purpose. The car seat fee should be paid in cash to the driver.

A Toddler in Taipei – Blog with activities categorised by age, location and occasion.

A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei – My favorite Taipei foodie blog with restaurant reviews. The author also indicates whether the restaurants she reviews are child friendly.

August, a month I’d like to forget

August has been one of our most challenging months so far. At 27 months, our twins dealt with:

2 year sleep regression

I was completely unprepared for this, as I thought that sleep regressions had faded away long ago. My daughter started crying for me 1-2 times a night, and I soon learned that the 2 year sleep regression is no joke. This lasted for nearly three weeks, and then we transitioned to…

Toddler beds

After much debate, I decided to transition our twins into toddler beds rather than adult sized beds. I thought that the next few years of potty training, vomiting, etc. would leave stained mattresses, so I opted for smaller beds that we could upgrade later.

The first few days were surprisingly peaceful, but the last few weeks have been awful. Both kids have refused to sleep during their usual 1pm nap time. They’ve been running around, pulling drawers, and fighting. We have had to barge into their room to remind them to sleep several times, but it has been tiring! Usually they end up skipping their nap entirely or falling asleep 2:30-3:15pm. *sigh*

Oh, and the worst part is that my daughter’s sleep regression reappeared for another week!

The return of HFMD

Finally, HFMD greeted us during the last week of the month. My twins had HFMD last February, and this time, we were more savvy in terms of how to contain it. My daughter had sores all over–her mouth, hands, feet (but relatively mild compared to usual cases), while my son only had one sore on his tongue.

We quarantined ourselves at home for 3 days and only went out to the park for some fresh air on day 4. Surprisingly, my twins enjoyed being home for so long. They love to color and paint, and they entertain themselves books and appliance catalogues (my son is currently obsessed with washing machines, vacuums, and air conditioners while my daughter is fixated on rabbits and Hello Kitty). But yes, YouTube also kept us sane during this period.

Yesterday my twins returned to school (after being cleared by their pediatrician the day before), and my mornings have been tranquil and productive again!