Pack the bags, pack the car, it’s time to head off on a family holiday. Before you begin your travels, here’s ten sleep tips to help ensure your baby or toddler receives the sleep they need whilst travelling, plus we look at how to smoothly return to your normal sleep routine once home again.
Whether you’re the parent who plans a full itinerary for every day of your holiday, the go with the flow parent or one who falls somewhere in between, we can all agree sleep can be unpredictable when holidaying with babies and toddlers.
With a different environment and the weekly routine thrown out the window it’s enough to make some babies and toddlers lose their sleep rhythm. We know that babies thrive on routine and consistency but this doesn’t have to come at the cost of missing out on opportunities.
Thankfully with a little bit of awareness and education as well as bringing along some handy sleep aids, holidays don’t have to make your baby or toddler totally sleep deprived for the long-term.
Ten Sleep Tips To Enjoy Holidays whilst still respecting your little one’s need for sleep.
Pack positive sleep associations from home
- A white noise machine– a great way to buffer all the extra activity in and around accomodation. My recommendation for white noise machine
- Your baby or toddlers sleeping bag, don’t forget to pack different TOG for the weather
- Port-a-cot – separate safe sleep space for your baby or toddler
- Pram sleeping bags can be safely used with a 5 point harness if they have legs or a seatbelt hole (be mindful of using a lighter TOG rating)
- Comforter – a familiar sleeping companion and positive sleep association, my favourite – Kippins
- Dummy for security if they are already using one
If you’re going camping, I have a blog dedicated to all things camping (including a list of everything you must take to aid with baby and toddler sleep). Find the camping blog here
If travelling by car, time the trip to coincide with nap time
Whether driving to your destination or heading out in the car whilst away, use the car ride to work in your favour. This may mean leaving a little earlier or later to accommodate your little one’s regular sleep schedule.
I recommend leaving around 10-15 minutes before the nap is due and work around how you can maximise this time on the road – do you need to do a drive through coffee on the way, take the scenic route or pull up and park in the shade with the engine running to enjoy a moment’s peace so they can also finish their nap.
Sleeping away from home in the port-a-cot
I recommend Snooze shade port-a-cot cover or block out blinds depending on your accommodation. In summer, the days are much longer and it can make it harder for your little one to wind down and switch off. Your little one will also be adjusting to a new environment with extra stimulation, especially if staying with family and friends or noisy neighbours close by.
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Plan one nap at your accommodation
If your baby is on two or more naps a day, focus on one nap occurring in the port-a-cot where you’re staying. You can change between the first and second nap depending on your planned activities for the day, but this gives your baby at least one opportunity for a longer and more restful sleep each day. This will assist to balance their sleep hormones over a 24 hour period and reduce the opportunity to get overtired and release excess adrenaline fuelling those dreaded night wakes.
Wind down routines are important
Try to remember to still allow time for your normal bedtime routine to occur. This means stepping away for 5-10 minutes for naps or 20-30 minutes at bedtime to help your little one shift gears ready to prepare for sleep. They need time and verbal and non-verbal cues for sleep too.
If you’ve had a big day out, don’t be afraid to bring bedtime forward to compensate for lost sleep. A good rule is half what your baby lost. So if they lost 1 hours total day sleep this may mean 30 minutes earlier (I wouldn’t go earlier than 5:45/6:00pm).
For babies under 6 months, add an extra power nap to get them through to bedtime. And one myth you may have heard is earlier bedtimes equals an earlier rise, but this is not necessarily the case when your child has missed their regular day sleep.
Expert Insight: Overtired babies release adrenaline which makes it harder to go to sleep, but also to stay asleep.
Offer additional support if needed
Whilst I definitely encourage you to give your baby an opportunity/benefit of the doubt with their regular settling for sleep, don’t panic if you need to offer some extra assistance, especially on the first night.
It can be overwhelming for them to settle in a new sleep environment, but to maintain healthy sleep foundations we just want to keep on top of sleep debt whilst we enjoy being away and get back to basics when we get home again.
Flexible routines on holidays are important, they are holidays after all. Try not to skip naps, but know that they may take a little longer to fall asleep or naps may be shorter in duration. This won’t be the undoing of all your hard work.
What happens on holidays stays on holidays
Have a “rule” that once you get home you go straight back to the regular routine and settling. This ensures that you don’t give your baby 2-3 days to adjust and then it’s harder to transition back to independent sleep as they have now become accommodated to the new extra support.
Get back to your regular routine
I have a comprehensive nap routine guide from 6 weeks through to 4 years to provide you with age appropriate nap expectations including awake times, sleep structure, milks and solids timings and two different nap routines to work with your individual family. Download your copy here
When it’s all said and done, holidays are those unique times where so much life is lived in the space of a short time. These are the times you will look back on affectionately and life will go back to normal when you get home so make the most of enjoying yourself and being that little more flexible and relaxed when sleep doesn’t go exactly as planned.
Are sleepless nights the norm in your home? Does your baby or toddler have you up all night and you’re unsure how to navigate through it. Or maybe you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll never sleep again.
You and your baby CAN start getting more of the quality and consolidated sleep you need right away. Let’s arrange a time to talk about how I can help you help your baby with sleep. Say hi here.