There’s a point in our lives when the way in which we travel changes. In our late twenties or early thirties, we move from the classic scruffy backpacker, who lives in dorm rooms and survives on a diet of fried noodles to more of a “flashbacker”, who can be seen typing away on a teeny laptop in fancy cafes before retiring to a (private) room in a mid-range guesthouse.
At one point we admit that we simply don’t have the energy or the inclination to remain the kind of traveller we set out as originally!
Similarly, everything changes when you become a mum. Because you don’t just have yourself and your own comfort to worry about – now there’s a little person depending on you, too. So while delayed transport and crappy accommodation may not have bothered you in the past, it’s a whole different ballgame once you’ve got a family in tow.
Because let’s face it – sure, travelling with your little one can be a wonderful experience and you’ll truly cherish the memories you share together…but it can be pretty damn exhausting! Not only will your baby be unsettled in a new, unfamiliar place but he/she may take a long time to readjust when you return home. Those months of careful scheduling and good sleep habits fly right out the window. To the point where you wish you’d never taken that holiday in the first place.
Fear not…I’ve got some handy tips to help you keep your baby – and you – well-rested while travelling.
1. Bring a piece of home away
To help your baby feel less anxious in a new environment, bring as much of their bedroom with you as your case will allow. Sleep sacks and swaddles, white noise machines and night lights, you name it…whatever works to help you recreate their usual sleep environment. Consistency and comfort are key.
2. Stick to routines when possible
If your baby’s bedtime is 7pm and suddenly they find themselves out for a big family meal until 11pm, well, no wonder they’ll be cranky! It might not be easy but try to stick to the naptimes and feeding times you’ve set at home (when you can). Of course, this may clash with your holiday plans from time to time and that’s ok. But just try to incorporate even a little of your routine on your travels and you’ll have a much easier time of it when it comes to returning home.
Speaking of routines, fake it til you make it with your pre-bedtime one. Baths are great sleep cues for little ones but of course, they aren’t always possible on the road. But you can stimulate one with a warm, damp cloth and a nice follow-up massage with some baby oil. Your child will feel rested and secure, even in this unfamiliar environment, and is more likely to drift off without fuss.
3. Plan your journey around sleep
This can save you a few hellish plane trips, let me tell you! In my experience, it’s better to be on a plane with an alert, playful baby than a screaming, overtired one whom you can’t get to rest. So instead of booking your flight (or planning that drive, train ride etc) for a time when you expect your baby to nap, purposefully schedule it for when they’re awake instead. That way, by the time you get to your destination, you’ll all get the great sleep you deserve!
Bonus tip: Try and get an early check-in at your hotel so your baby can have an afternoon nap when you arrive. If this isn’t possible, take them for a short drive or a push in the stroller when you arrive and let them catch up on some zzs while you drink in the views. But don’t stress if they skip their nap on the day of travel; it is, after all, just one day and they will catch up when they need to.
4. Do whatever it takes
Sometimes you just have to give in. If your baby refuses to sleep in their travel cot, or in whatever one your hotel provides, you might just have to bring him/her into bed with you. Your mum friends back home might tut and say you’re a pushover but honestly, if it saves you several sleepless nights when you’re supposed to be on holiday, so be it!
Just make sure that you go back to your normal sleep routines as soon as you get home. This might mean a couple of tricky nights while bubs gets used to being alone again. But stick with it…those tears will cease!
There should be no reason to dread bringing your baby away – just bring a little of the familiar with you, stick to a bit of a routine when you can and prepare to give in! Follow these tips and you’re guaranteed a happier, more restful holiday. And above all, make sure you get enough sleep yourself. Similarly, take the right props, listen to your body and nap whenever you need to. That way, when you do arrive home, you won’t feel like you’re in need of a holiday. 😉