5 tips on how to maintain your baby or toddler’s sleep routine on holiday (and still have fun!)
Travelling with a baby or toddler can be a daunting prospect, even if it’s not your first time. Whether you’re just visiting your parents for the weekend, escaping to a cosy farm cottage for a week, or traveling overseas to soak up some sunshine on a beach, and staying in a resort..there’s so much to consider before you even start packing.
One of the biggest concerns for parents preparing to go on holiday with babies or toddlers (or both!) is sleep. You’ve worked hard to establish a good bedtime routine with your bub, and they’re finally taking consistent naps. The last thing you want to do is mess it all up when you’re out of your familiar surroundings.
Maintaining your child’s sleep patterns is important for them, but let’s be honest here...getting that all-important quiet time when they’re napping is sanity-saving for you! And, having an evening to unwind makes you a better parent, right?
Even if your little person’s sleep is slightly, shall we say - unpredictable, you might be worried that their sleep will become completely disastrous. It’s supposed to be a holiday, after all. You deserve this escape from reality, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get some long overdue rest.
On the other hand, you don’t want to sacrifice your fun and completely revolve around a schedule, where you’re rushing back to your accommodation for naps, shushing, patting, settling, and resettling. Otherwise you may as well stay at home!
So, here are 5 tips to maintaining your baby or toddler’s sleep routine when you go on your next holiday:
Recreate the holiday sleep environment at home
In the days and even two weeks leading up to your holiday, you can introduce them to whatever they’ll be sleeping in there. That way they adjust to their new sleep environment whilst in the comfort and familiarity of home. Set up the travel cot and put them in it for at least one nap a day - you can premium ones like the Baby Bjorn Travel Cot Light from Tree Hut Village for a fraction of the price of buying it. If you prefer your baby to nap in the pram every day, so that you don’t have to come back to your accommodation multiple times a day, start to encourage on-the-go naps before you leave. Prefer to pack light and want them to nap in the baby carrier so you can conveniently explore your new surroundings? Pop your baby in the carrier as often as possible before you leave (you may already be doing that, which will make it easier).
Pack the items that promote sleep
Don’t forget to pack their comforter (with backups!), their swaddles, sleeping bags, and dummies. Bring the shade cover or muslin wrap to cover the pram, the baby carrier, and white noise machine or lullabies on your phone. It’s a fantastic idea to pack travel blockout blinds because not all bedrooms will be dark enough - you can get those from as little as $2 per day for 14 days when you hire them from another mum. A new place will be very interesting, and possibly keep your child awake as they look around. Ensuring it’s as dark as possible will help to make it less stimulating.
Make it feel like home
Some babies and toddlers are slow to adjust to new surroundings and routines, so packing (if you’ve got space in your luggage!) a few familiar things from home is a great idea. Take their favourite books, even their sheets which smell like home, and a couple of toys that are usually in their bedroom. It might seem excessive, but all of these little steps help to reassure kids, making them feel safe and secure.
Stick to your routine as much as possible
This isn’t always easy if you’re in another time zone. It will take a couple of days to gradually adjust to the new time, so continuing with your usual pattern of wake, eat, play, sleep, and so on at the typical intervals (rather than by the clock) will ensure that the routine starts to fall in place. You can finetune the times by fifteen minutes each day, because ultimately you want to avoid a tired, cranky, overtired bub.
Try to plan your activities around nap times, but don’t be a slave to the schedule. You could even plan to take it in turns to stay with your child while they nap. Divide and conquer! On our recent holiday, I would stay at the hotel with my toddler and we’d both nap. My husband would then take my preschooler to the beach or the pool.
Remind yourself that it will probably go pear-shaped
You can do everything within your power to maintain their routines, but kids usually have other ideas. You don’t want to ruin your holiday obsessing over their sleep (or your lack of it). Try to be flexible, attempt naptime again in an hour or two, or cuddle up in bed and have a nap together if that works. Get yourself an extra coffee, fight through the tiredness (you’re probably an expert at that), and try to get some time just for you.
You can get everything back on track when you get home, but for now, you’ll have to take each day as it comes. Remember that this big change is hard for them, too. Making memories together is what’s important, so deep breaths and try to enjoy yourself. Have some lazy days as well - you don’t want to all get back home needing a holiday after your holiday!
This article was contributed by Kara Wilson. She is a mama to two, a parenting writer, magazine editor, and a gentle and holistic sleep specialist. She’s consulted with countless families around the world, spanning almost 20 years...but her own baby was her most challenging sleeper yet! Experiencing the torture that is sleep deprivation, Kara offers empathy and understanding to the families she works with. You can join her new Facebook group called Solids and Sleep for support and sleep tips, or check out her other published articles at www.kara-wilson.com.