Planning a family holiday is exciting, but you may be feeling anxious about how your little ones will settle away from home and amongst all the excitement.
Here are our tips for beating the sleep-related anxiety!
The excitement of being away somewhere new can be very disruptive to their sleep routine. It can be difficult to stick to your usual routine when you’re busy having fun on holidays, but keeping your days somewhat predictable can make a big difference to your kids’ sleep.
Make sure your little one has the same number of naps throughout the day as they usually would at home and be mindful of appropriate wake windows for their age. Going way beyond a wake window is a recipe for a fussy baby while you’re trying to enjoy your day with them.
Prepare while at home
Ideally, you want your child to be a flexible sleeper for going on holiday. Meaning they don’t necessarily need their home sleep environment to fall asleep (eg. a pitch-black room at a certain temperature and their own cot/bed).
Start “training” a few weeks before you leave by having them take naps in their buggy or a travel cot in a different room in the house. Once they’ve had some exposure to sleeping in different environments, bring them out and about at naptime to try to get them accustomed to sleeping with different sounds around them. The goal: no over-tired meltdown when you attempt to put them to sleep at the pool or at a restaurant abroad.
Have realistic expectations
Some kids are set in their ways of sleeping – especially older kids who haven’t had much exposure to sleeping in different environments. Have contingency plans in place with your partner, or whoever you’re travelling with. So, if your little one is only able to sleep in a dark quiet room, you have to be ready to spend some time in the room, or sunbathing on the balcony, to allow your child to have their sleep. Take turns to ensure nobody is missing out too much.
Beware of bad habits
Keep in mind that sleep issues can become ingrained in as little as one to three days, with many parents reporting that they can trace their child’s sleep struggles back to a holiday where routine went out the window altogether. Although it’s cute that your toddler is dancing at the disco at 10 pm on holiday, it’s not so cute when they’re dancing in your sitting room at 10 pm a month later.
Travel in a group
If you’re thinking “sticking to routines and wake windows doesn’t sound like an enjoyable holiday” you may want to consider safety in numbers! Going away with grandparents or other families can offer more freedom because there are more adults around to help with looking after children. You may get to escape the balcony for a few nights as you’ve brought your own babysitters.
If you’ve never travelled with children before then it can be helpful to have some seasoned pros with you for advice and guidance.
Bring some familiar comforting items from home which will make sleeping easier while you’re away. Bring the cot/bed sheet from home so your child has a familiar smell when getting into bed. Bring along any books that you usually read before bed and any bath bubbles/body wash/body lotion to help them to get into a sleepy mood.
If your little one relies on any comforters, blankets, soothers, teddies, etc. to fall asleep, make sure to pack these in your carry-on luggage. Luggage can easily go missing along the journey and you don’t want to be without these important items.
Deal with night-wakings in the same way as you would at home. If you wouldn’t take them into your bed/offer a feed/rock them back to sleep at home, then don’t be tempted to do so whilst on holiday. Once you get home they will expect the extra interaction at night to continue.
Just as your child can learn a bad sleep habit so quickly, they can also go back to their good sleep habits quickly once you’re home. Go back to the tried and tested sleep routine when you’re back at home and the familiarity may help them to get back to their old selves in no time.
Above all, enjoy making special memories with your family!