We got the call a whole month early that my son would be born the following morning. To say we were unprepared was an understatement. We had 12 hours to find childcare for our four children, accommodations two states away, and plan for an ICPC stay of a week or even weeks. This was the first time we had encountered an ICPC situation and admittedly did not do enough research. We had an AirBNB scheduled for the following month. Child care scheduled for the following month. A plan for the following month.

Our son’s earlier arrival found us bringing along our 18 month old daughter. She has always been very easy going but was a toddler with toddler needs nonetheless. To make matters worse, my husband had to go back to work about 3 days into our week long ICPC stay due to the sudden nature of our son’s birth. This left me going from hotel to hotel for a week with a newborn and a two year old in tow. Oh, how I would do things differently if we could go back! Here are four things I learned about how to manage an ICPC stay with a toddler:

  1. Expect the Unexpected

In our case, the due date for our son had been pushed up and we simply were not informed due a miscommunication. We knew we needed to plan for a week or two before or after the due date, but we never expected a whole month. Make sure you have on time plans and a backup plan that accounts for at least a month before and after the due date. Life happens. Due dates change. ICPC stays can include NICU stays as well. Prepare your employer, childcare, and family that the timeline may change drastically and plan accordingly.

  1. Bring Backup

In our haste to make it to the birth of our son, we didn’t even think about the fact that my husband would not be able to stay for the ICPC stay as expected. While I am used to taking care of four children day to day, taking care of a toddler and a newborn in a hotel is incredibly difficult. There is so much to be said about the comfort of one’s own home! While it is understandable that you may want to keep an ICPC stay between your immediate family, think through if there is a chance you may have to do your ICPC stay alone. Had I have known what I know now, I would have either planned better to not have to bring my toddler at all or I would have asked my mother or another relative to come stay with us when my husband had to return home.

  1. Get a Hotel or AirBNB with a Kitchen

Hotels are nice and fun for a night or two. Room service, housekeeping, and a pool are all fun and glamorous adult luxuries. Your two year old does not care about luxuries. A hotel room will feel like a prison for both them and you after a day or two has gone by. If you are able, book an AirBNB or similar situation. Having a yard and a kitchen would have been so helpful for us. My daughter was so bored and did not want to watch one more episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for quite a while after our stay. We couldn’t really go to the pool while having a newborn in tow. We were trapped in our nice room with tv and nothing else. I had to trek to trek out for every meal for food because I couldn’t cook and had only a mini fridge in the hotel. It felt a bit like having to scavenge for food which is close to torture with a newborn and toddler in two. That is something I definitely never want to do again!

  1. Research the Area

We knew very little about the area we would be staying and with this, had no idea what there was to do. I spent a few days simply putting the kids in the car and driving around just to get out of the hotel. I never expected to be there that early or without my husband, yet there we were. In a Denny’s parking lot just praying I would find something for us to do for even an hour or two. Your toddler doesn’t get that a newborn will need attention and more time at home. If you aren’t able to book an AirBNB with iminities, search for light activities you can do in the area to pass the time. If you have family even close to the area, plan a visit. You will want the company after a few days.

ICPC stays are normally met with much chagrin. Most simply want to get home and not knowing when that will happen is daunting. Having a toddler in tow can only add to the stress and pile on the guilt of having their life in the chaos of the unknown. If your circumstances prevent you from leaving your toddler home during your stay, try your best to be as prepared as possible and seek comforting accommodations that feel more like home away from home.