I remember my first holiday as a family very well. Alice was 4 months old, had untreated colic and reflux and was slap bang in the middle of the 4 month milestone. We had to take a lorry load of baby stuff with us, and we only went to Center Parcs for 4 days! The following year we went to France, sleep was better and we travelled a little lighter. This year I am approaching it like a seasoned pro.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your holiday, whilst ensuring your kiddies get the sleep they need. Enough sleep can help everyone kick back, be happy and have the energy to enjoy all the wonderful adventures that await them.
1. PRIOR PREP PREVENTS SLEEP MELTDOWNS! – Make your holiday as hassle free as possible by planning your logistics in advance. Find out what facilities the place you are staying at have. Some places enable you to hire things like baby monitors to help you travel lighter. The company Baby Friendly Bolt Holes have holidays specifically for parents who want the hassle taken away. If you are flying, plan things into your journey that mean you can all relax and your little ones can nap on the way. Flight Hotel Reservations are a one stop shop for seam free travel. You can sort your airport hotels and parking, and relax by booking a family friendly lounge to nap, play and eat in a relaxed surrounding before you travel. Check out www.bookfhr.com
2. TERRIFIC TIME ZONES – When travelling across time zones, the whole family should get straight onto the time zone of the destination as soon as possible. It is always best to have one catch up day to get settled, but the next day, hop right into routine mode and adhere to nap and bedtime schedules for the correct timezone. For example, if you go on holiday to Florida (5 hours behind) the day you arrive you can all get over your journey and bed time might be a bit higgledy piggledy. The next day, if your child has one nap at 12.30 UK time, then you would try to put them down at 12.30 US time, even though it is 5 hours behind the UK. This will ensure rhythms adjust as quickly as possible.
3. REPLICATE THE SLUMBER ZONE – When you travel as a family, it’s hard to travel light, and you may think that leaving things behind will prevent the embarrassing moment as the big orange ‘heavy load’ sticker gets slapped all over your luggage! If at all possible though, prioritise you child’s sleep needs over two extra pairs of shoes. Recreating the sleep environment can really pave the way to sounder holiday sleep. Take your babies’ unwashed cot sheet to provide familiar comfort in the night. We got Alice a small poster of a lion before we went away and put it on the wall by her cot, then we took it with us to provide familiarity in an unknown room. Darkness is another essential and Gro anywhere black out blinds are excellent for this. They have sucker pads that can adjust to any size of window. If you don’t want to invest, then tack a dark sheet to the window behind the curtain or bin bags can work too!
4. RIDE THE SLEEP WAVE INTO SHORE – Being on holiday is super exciting. There are new friends to make and places to explore. At the end of each day, spend a little extra time winding down from the day’s activities. This could mean for your older child some calming activities like sand or water play, and for your younger baby some quiet time with sensory toys. Then stick to routines as much as possible. Pushing back bedtimes can work for some children, but for those who have a tricky time with sleep it is best stick to usual times to ensure a restful night for everyone. If this means that you are stuck in of an evening, then perhaps think about some things you can do for entertainment, take a board game with you, watch a movie, or take the baby monitor outside whilst you eat your dinner.
5. GET CREATIVE WITH NAPS – Naps are essential for good night sleep in children right up to around 4 years of age, and then from 4 onwards quiet time is equally important during the day. If you are able to have one (or more if needed) naps at home whilst away, you can plan your trips around wakeful times. If you want to go out for the day, then go with it, and plan your car or walk around sleep times. It’s only for a short period of time and a nap is better than no nap at all.
6. A FEW STEPS BACK IS OK – If you were working on sleep before you went away and had got things to a good place, be mindful that things may regress slightly, and if they do, try not to go all the way back to where you were at the beginning. If they go half way back this is ok. For example, if you were co sleeping and had moved your child to their own room because you wanted to do this, and then you go on holiday and they have trouble sleeping, try and help them get to sleep in their own room rather than bringing them in with you.
7. GET RIGHT BACK ON TRACK – When you get home from holiday, it is always useful to have a few days of down time at home, so that you can support your child in getting back into the sleep groove as quickly as possible. You can support them by staying by them until they fall asleep for a few nights if needed.
8. HAVE FUN! Being a parent can be tough, and you deserve some time away. Try to make it feel like a real break, rather than just moving your home to another location for a week. Relax, do things you wouldn’t normally do, and go with the flow as much as possible, whilst keeping an eye on your kiddies to watch for sleepy signs. Enjoy!