Top Tips: Helping your baby sleep on holiday.

Pre-children, the most I had to think about when preparing for a holiday was ‘have I got my passport?’, ‘have I packed enough swimsuits?’ and ‘how do we get to the hotel from the airport?’. Post-children, it’s a whole different ball game and there is a whole host of additional planning to do, even before booking the holiday. 

Sleep has always been a key focus for me when taking the children away. Holidays are meant to be fun, but they’re also meant to be restful to some extent! I want to know when I take the boys away, that they’re going to be comfortable at night, and can get the sleep they need to do all the fun activities planned for the next day. 

With the Summer holidays upon us, I thought it would be useful to share my top sleep tips for travelling with babies and children…

Top Sleep Tips For Travelling With Little Ones:

1. Bring along some home comforts:

No matter their age, children may feel apprehensive about staying in an unfamiliar setting. To make them feel more comfortable, I recommend bringing along some comforting items from home – including their comforter, a favourite blanket, their pillow (for older children) and some familiar bedtime stories. All these items should help your little one feel safe and secure in their new environment. I even bring my children’s worn sheets and PJs with me on holiday, so they have the smell of home with them too. 

2. Carefully consider the accommodation:

Do your research into the accommodation before booking. If your little one is used to sleeping in their own room at home, I would recommend trying to continue this whilst you’re away. Room sharing can lead to tough nights if your baby isn’t used to having you in their sleep space. 

If you’re staying in a hotel, try to book a room with a separate living area or an adjoining room. If that’s not possible, you could use the ensuite bathroom (if it has adequate circulation)! If you’re staying with friends or family, phone ahead and see if there’s a separate sleep space for your little one – a small study, for example. If you do have to share a room, try to provide a barrier. I’ve used a wardrobe door before (others have used sheets over roof beams or a clothes rack). If worse comes to worst, just ensure there’s a considerable distance between your bed and the travel cot. 

3. If needed, offer more comfort:

When in an unfamiliar location, it’s perfectly normal for little ones to need more comfort while falling asleep at bedtime (or when they wake in the night). Don’t shy away from giving them extra hugs if needed. However, do encourage them to fall asleep in the same way as they do at home – ideally, independently. 

4. Maintain your bedtime routine:

A familiar bedtime routine cues to your little one’s brain that sleepy time is coming. Continue to do your typical bedtime routine whilst you’re away. This predictable series of events reminds them that bedtime is coming, even if their surroundings are slightly different or if bedtime is later than normal. Consistency in this routine is key!

5. Try to get one good nap a day:

If your holidays are anything like mine, the days can often be filled with lots of energetic activities. Unfortunately, all this fun can turn into an absolute disaster if your little one refuses to nap – and you end up with an overtired, grump who isn’t able to enjoy the activities planned. If your little one is taking more than one nap a day, attempt to get a solid morning nap in their travel cot. Starting the day rested can allow future naps to happen in more flexibly (in the pram or car, for example). Remember, travelling can be tiring for a little one, and to some extent you will need to think about how your plans fit into your baby’s nap schedule. 

6. Create boundaries with family and friends:

While some parents are OK with later bedtimes and extra desserts on holiday, it can be stressful for other parents to veer so far off from their usual routines. If, like me, you’re in the latter group, be sure to communicate your expectations ahead of time with loved ones. Let them know that you will need to have early dinners, or don’t want them to buy ice cream for dessert.  

7. Recommit when you return home:

Travel can be challenging for families who have worked to improve sleep. In fact, it’s one of the top topics I discuss with my clients when we talk about future sleep challenges and how they can tackle them. Try not to get discouraged if you end up backsliding a bit on your progress. You can resume your usual routine when you return home. It may take a few days to get back into the swing of things, but with consistency, you’ll see the progress. 

8. Use my ‘Travel Checklist’ for maximum sleep:

Depending on your little one’s age, consider packing these items when you’re going to be away from home:

  • Favourite comforter (plus spare)
  • Swaddle, sleeping bag, PJs
  • White noise player
  • Toddler clock (Tommee Tippee Sleep Trainer clock)
  • Travel blackout blinds (or foil/bin bags)
  • Snoozeshade for pram
  • Travel cot
  • Travel cot mattress (especially if the one that comes with the cot is a bit hard and uncomfortable)
  • Inflatable bed rails (for older children)

Now for my final piece of advice: try to relax and have fun! I know travelling can be stressful and often means flexing your usual routines and ‘rules’. However, you’re going to be making memories you will cherish forever as a family. Don’t let the possibility of a few bad night’s sleep get in the way of making these special memories. Remember, you can get back on track when you get home. In order to do this, I recommend that you adopt your usual ‘rules’ and routines as soon as you get back, and try to leave behind any holiday ‘bad habits’. You should then find that within a few days, things are back to normal. 

If you would like to discuss this or any other sleep challenge, get in touch and book a free Discovery Call with me.