School holiday travel and sleep
It’s that time again, one when you might be considering school holiday travel. And sleep still needs to happen when you’re away (despite what your kids may say). For some, school holidays are the ideal time for a mid-year break, for others it’s a chance to blob out at home, while for others it’s a continuation of normal (sorry). Whatever you’re doing, have you considered how school holidays may impact on your child’s sleep?
Overtired happens quickly for young ones
If this is the first time away with baby, just remember you now have a baby on board. Try not to overschedule. The reality is you just won’t be able to do what you use to do child free. Young babies can easily get overstimulated in new locations. As a rule of thumb, the younger your baby or child, the more quickly they can get overtired, and that means more crying, they’re harder to settle, won’t sleep well and it’s just not fun. For anyone! Holidays are one of the easiest ways to get off track. But just because it can be easy to get off schedule, it doesn’t mean you have to. With some strategic planning you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home. Here are some quick tips:
Travelling to your destination:
If you’re driving, schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal (I call them “junk sleeps”), but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by far. So, get on the road when your child would normally be taking their nap. If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route so you can stop for some fun when baby gets up. It’s a great chance to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make the next nap that much easier too.
If you’re flying, well, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. It’s no secret that babies and planes don’t seem to like each other, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll hear me say this) that you do whatever you need to do while onboard.
The goal is to get through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do if it’s going to keep them entertained and calm. The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for you and your child (and most likely, the passengers around you).
Hopefully you manage to maintain some degree of sanity in the air. And then you arrive at your destination.
Recreate the sleep environment
Sometimes it is easy to forget that your child may not settle as well in an unfamiliar place and unfamiliar bed. Recreating their sleep environment can help prevent restless nights for everyone. This may mean no more co-sleeping if your child is used to independent sleep in their own space. Allow for this when booking accommodation. In addition: bring their usual sleep sack, some used sheets from home, or, if older, their sleep toy, pillow or blanket. A white noise machine can also be handy to block unfamiliar noises (this one works for ALL ages, even adults).
Recreate the bedtime routine
Children thrive on routine and structure, so don’t skip the bedtime routine, just because you’re away. Recreating that pre-bed ritual can help calm and relax them after a busy day and it will be much easier for them to drift off to sleep that way.
If your days are super busy and stimulating, include some quiet time in the afternoon and early evening to conserve energy and assist with the wind down.
Dealing with friends and family
Consider your child’s tolerance level. The younger the child, the lower their tolerance for being awake. If you have friends and family who want baby to wake so they can play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously over stimulated, it can get awkward. It’s not easy to tell these people that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to go to sleep. But I’m giving you permission to do just that!
Think about it. Your family wouldn’t expect baby to miss a meal and go hungry just so they could see him, right? So, there’s really no need to miss a nap and let your baby get overtired for the same reason. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the “I’ll just sneak in and a take a quick peek,” routine that your baby needs to sleep and you’re not taking any chances on waking them. Let them know when baby will be getting up and tell them to wait around, come back, or catch you next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some baby time based on your baby’s schedule.
This goes for older children too. If your 7-year old will struggle to stay up late, rearrange your schedule or pop in a prophylactic nap or quiet time beforehand. Life is for living but living gets painful with a tired whinging child tagging along. If there are some nights that sleep is missing, try and make up with a few quieter days and earlier nights later. Sleep debt is a real thing, and all children need at least 10 hours sleep a night until their teens. Yes, really!
Personality plays a part
If your child is older than a year and you’ve travelled before, you’ll likely know if they can go with the flow without getting off track, or whether you do need to be a little firmer and keep those boundaries in place. With toddler’s especially (who typically don’t like change), giving in a little too much can be a slippery slope to bad behaviour and pushing more limits. If this is your child, stick to what they know as much as possible, as this is their security.
However, if your child is laid back or older, chances are they will realise that a holiday can mean different rules to home. In these instances, you can relax a bit more while away, and then tighten up again when you get home with no drama. The best of both worlds!
If you’re not sure, you may just want to stick with what you know, just in case.
And if you’ve worked with me and you have got a little off track, rest assured you have the tools to get right back on track when you’re home too (but yes, you can always book in a call or refresher package if you want to)!
Because everyone needs a good night’s sleep – even during the school holidays!