By Jolandi Becker – Good Night MD
It is the season to be jolly but for many parents the idea of family or travel can be daunting with young ones in tow. There are many factors to consider and anything could go wrong….
Here are some tips and notes to help you get through it and hopefully, you’ll get some much-needed rest:
This is an art, especially when flying. Remember, that unless you are traveling to the middle of nowhere most things can be bought or replaced. So, don’t break out in a sweat if you forget something.
However, don’t leave packing for the last minute. Save yourself unnecessary stress by starting early. Some things cannot be packed in advance though. Make a list of all the last-minute things that you need to pack…. These include things like a baby monitor, your baby’s lovey or favourite toy, pillow or blanket and night light.
Remember to take with all the things you need for your bedtime routine (books, lovey, white noise). You can also download white noise apps on your tablet of spare phone. Most hotels and guest houses have cots, you just need to ask for one.
Your carry-on bag will be one of the most important things to pack. I find that a backpack works best, it might not look as great, but it makes a big difference especially when flying as you always have your hands free to either carry baby or catch a running toddler. There is a lot of walking and waiting involved at the airport so have snacks and water on hand. Make sure to pack extra clothes for your children but also for you. Have their favourite toy/lovey with you as well as diapers, wipes (packets and packets of wipes), dummies and formula. If you use cloth nappies, I would suggest leaving those for when you arrive at your destination, and refrain from using them when you are on the go.
Have realistic expectations. Know that whether you travel by car, plane or boat your child will miss some sleep. They might go to sleep only later when flying abroad or they might miss a nap. In the car, their naps or sleep often can be short. You will survive and remember that you will eventually get to your destination. With toddlers and older children also remember to prepare them and set their expectations for the journey.
Plan, plan and plan some more. We often think of only the car ride and the plane ride but forget the bits in-between. Charge all the necessary toys, iPads, and portable televisions the day before. Power banks are handy when traveling.
At airports you will go through security and passport control. Plan enough time for all of this and ask to skip the line. Most airports will allow you to go to the front with small children. You are also allowed to take a stroller and car seat with you. Most of the time, you can push the stroller all the way till you board the plane. Try to book long flights overnight and shorter flights that will fall over nap time.
When traveling in a car you will have to plan regular stops that might take a while. If your child sleeps well in the car it can be helpful to travel during the night. Keep your children safe in a car seat. If they are crying rather stop and pull over; don’t take them out of their safety seat while driving. Have activities, water and snacks galore.
Once you there
Try to keep to normal routines, especially bedtime routines as far as possible. The younger your kids are, the more you need to stick to them. Of course, you’ll be out and about some days but try not to overschedule and over plan every day. Try to give your child the opportunity to have at least one nap a day in the cot, and remember that one nap on the go (in a sling, stroller or car) will not throw everything out. It’s your holiday and you need to try and enjoy it.
Try to recreate their sleep space so that is it like home. Bring with their sheets, bedding and pillow. If your toddler sleeps with a night light or white noise take it with to your destination.
Most often we must share rooms with our children on holiday. If you normally share a room of course this is not a problem but if not, you should not stress too much about it. They can sleep just as well with you in the room. Try to keep their sleep space separate though by putting the cot or bed as far away from your bed as possible. White noise can also be helpful when you need to go in the room later, or if you need to wake-up early the next day.
If only your kids share a room, try to split their bedtime. Put the younger one to bed first and about 20 to 30 minutes later, explain to the older one that it is a privilege to stay awake later and they should sneak into the room like a ninja and not wake the younger one up.
A common cause for concern is when you travel to somewhere, where the sun goes down later. Always remember that small children and babies have no concept of time so unless you make it an issue they won’t mind going to bed at their normal time. It can be helpful to travel with a dark sheet which you can hang over the window to help darken the room.
Sweets are part of holiday but try to limit sugar and TV time before bed.
Travel safe and try to get some rest and remember that even if things go completely pear-shaped while you’re away, you should be able to get right back on track once you are home.