We had a great response to our first blog on How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Whilst Travelling, along with many other questions! We all know the secret to a great family-friendly holiday is to keep your kids happy and busy, so to keep baby entertained whilst travelling whether in a car, on a plane or on a day trip be sure to read our top 10 tips for parents:
1. What Are Good Travel Games For Kids?
If your child can talk, every parent fears the dreaded words ‘Are we there yet?’ and with good reason, as it usually comes before we have even left our home town. Try beginning the journey with some game instructions rather than desperately scrambling once you’re already in transit. You might suggest they look for a yellow car (more popular now than when we used to play as children!) or older children might keep a tally chart with points for each colour, which I used to play with my children when we travelled to Europe in the summer.
You could create a scavenger hunt game in advance for spotting landmarks or silly items/features throughout the journey. If you have multiple children then you could also add a touch of competitiveness such as ‘first to see the sea…’ wins a simple choice prize which might be picking their room first when you arrive or selecting where you eat out for tea.
Other suggestions include:
I spy with my little eye
Spelling games – Say a word based on a theme that starts with the last word’s last letter. E.g, Sandwich, Ham, Mango, Orange etc.
Memory games – Such as ‘My Gran went on holiday and in her suitcase, she packed…’ and then you list all the items that came before yours. Name that Tune – Hum or tap a song and the rest of the group tries to guess what it is. If you think your children would struggle with songs you could use the theme ‘Disney movies’
Heads Up – Take a pack of post-it notes and write characters or famous people on them. The player sticks it on their forehead and asks yes or no questions to guess who it is – we suggest limiting it to 15 questions! There is also an app that does this using your phone.
Audio Stories are great for helping excited toddlers calm down and maybe even have a quick snooze for the remaining journey.
Whilst we have spoken before about how blue light can affect our little ones, it’s all about balance – so don’t be ashamed to pull out the tablet or phone to let your little ones enjoy some screen-time.
2. What Is The Best Way To Stick To A Sleep Routine On Vacation?
You probably have a pretty good idea of whether your little one is likely to fall asleep whilst travelling by now. If they do fall asleep whilst travelling then try to plan journeys at naptime or night-time wherever possible. Don’t forget a blanket to stay cosy but be sure to follow safe sleep guidelines and only use a blanket on the baby that isn’t going to end up covering their face! If the baby is the only child travelling in a car and there are two adults, we recommend an adult sitting in the back to keep an eye on the baby’s wants and needs.
If your baby or child doesn’t nap during journeys, firstly we send our sympathies! Try to arrange journey times for when they have just woken up and try to avoid night-time travelling where at all possible. The last thing you want on your first day of the holiday is a child who has been awake all night on a plane!
Try not to worry about nap times too much if it is making your journey more difficult though. Your little one will sleep eventually and it might be useful to have a lazy first day to catch up on sleep and come to grips with where you’re staying.
We have a full blog on how to help baby sleep whilst travelling right here!
3. How Do You Fly With A Baby (Or Young Child)?
There are countless online articles about helping your young child on a plane, but I think a lot of them just add unnecessary stress to the run-up to your holiday. Follow the above guidelines in terms of keeping them entertained, don’t feel ashamed to use screen-time or audiobooks to try and keep them distracted. Some plane companies offer cots for babies so don’t forget to look into what’s available and ask in advance.
When the plane sets off, give your baby either a milk feed or a dummy (if they use one – have questions about using a dummy? Check out this blog) as the sucking motion helps to soothe the ear pressure and popping. If your child is older either give them a drink or a sweet to suck on (if they can be trusted not to swallow it whole!).
Often ‘under 3’s go free’ on a plane, but consider whether your journey would be easier and more enjoyable for everyone if you paid for their own seat. At 2, my children would not have been happy to sit on my lap for over an hour and I can’t say I would have enjoyed the experience myself either.
Don’t feel embarrassed about the way your children behave on a plane, especially if it is your first time travelling as a family. Take them up and down the aisle if it’s a long flight to stretch their legs, you’ll probably brighten a few peoples journey if your little one is chatty and wants to make lots of new friends! As long as you are trying to control the situation through distraction and calming methods then you have nothing to be ashamed of, it is very common for children to be upset or more frustrated whilst travelling – us adults are too.
4. What Should You Pack In Your Carry On Luggage For Your Child?
If you’re packing a carry on bag for a child, it’s important to get the essentials in first:
Take plenty of snacks and make sure they aren’t going to be super messy and end up needing to change their clothes during a flight
Drinks – whether they are on milk (which you can take on with you, if it’s pre-made they might make you sample some) or water make sure you have plenty!
Medication – A lot of the main medication companies, such as Calpol, offer travel size sachets. If your child takes unwell during the flight you’ll be grateful you had some with you. It can also help a younger child feel a placebo effect if their ears have popped due to pressure.
Sleeping Bag or Blanket (for older children) if you’re wanting them to sleep during the flight
Lots of baby wipes
If they weaning then be sure to pack their favourite foods.
Entertainment – favourite books, toys, drawing etc.
For long-haul flights, try to travel at night time so that the whole family can try to have a sleep and help adjust their body clocks – remember this for the journey home as well!
5. How Should I Plan Mealtimes On Holiday With A Baby Or Toddler?
As adults, we usually indulge on holiday so don’t feel too bad if your little one does as well. Just ensure you don’t introduce new allergens whilst away as you don’t want them needing medical attention if you’re in a different country. Foods such as seafood, which are more popular by the sea, are a common allergen that a lot of children may not have tried before – just because your child is fine with fish does not mean they can eat prawns or other seafood without a reaction.
Other suggestions include taking flasks to use on the move, especially if you’re using formula powder. Look up and trial ways using a flask before you go – you can always ask a cafe for a flask of boiling water whilst you have a coffee! Alternatively, you can buy pre-made formula, these are more expensive than a tub of formula but for the ease of not carrying a large flask, it could be worth it. Be sure to bring enough formula for the whole of your holiday as if you are in another country it could be difficult to source your brand – and some babies won’t drink other brands!
If you’re eating out, a lot of restaurants will blend foods for a baby or, if the kids’ menu doesn’t appeal, try to request one of the adult meals on a smaller scale. You would be surprised how accommodating they will be.
With non-weaned babies, you might consider trying to eat around their nap-time so they can sleep in the pram, or past their bedtime, if you’re out for the evening, whereas with toddlers or older children try to stick to the usual food times when possible.
If you are close to the hotel, going back for a nap in a cooler room would probably help your baby to sleep. However, it’s perfectly fine for them to nap in the buggy or the travel cot (if you took it to the beach) just make sure it is well shaded, and keep checking the sun hasn’t moved onto them, don’t cover with towels or muslins as this can create a dangerously high level of heat. Check out the summer guidance from the Lullaby Trust.
7. Choosing The Hotel And Activities. Where Should You Stay?
Before baby was born you might have selected the hotel based on the price and its proximity to the local nightlife, but now is the time to accept that holiday prices rise with children even if where you’re staying is not as luxurious. If you don’t have school-age children then definitely select term-time dates to keep those prices lower! It also means that the majority of children at your resort will be of a similar age and you can worry less about ‘big kids’ interrupting activities or play.
Whilst you may cringe at the concept of ‘kids entertainment’ at your hotel, you will likely find this a life-saver if your children are old enough to engage. If you plan to leave your little one in kids clubs for any period of time, we recommend checking the hotel’s reviews and credentials – and always ensure the staff know you are leaving! We recommend staying by the pool if they are joining in those activities or, even better, join in yourself as it’s a great bonding exercise.
When it comes to beds, a mattress on the floor is safer than a bed for toddlers and babies – even if the toddler has had the walls of their crib removed! Chances are this bed is a lot higher and in warm countries, the floors are often firm tiles as opposed to carpeting. If your little one is small enough still, don’t forget to request a travel cot, even if you can’t see the option when booking this doesn’t mean they aren’t available.
8. Other Things To Consider Booking/Are Included With Your Room Are:
Fridge for food/snacks/drinks/milk
Pram Accessible (or at least a lift so you don’t have to carry the pram up flights of stairs).
Stairgate (if it is a multi-level apartment)
Safety doors/latches if there is a balcony or similar.
If Camping, being in the tent might be a bit tricky with babies but lots of fun for toddlers and older children who will find it exciting.
9. Who Should I Bring With Me On Holiday?
The idea of child-care whilst away, from a trusted friend or relative, is highly appealing. The chances are that the grandparents would be chomping at the bit to join you but take into consideration what this means and set boundaries and guidelines beforehand. It’s worth setting out if you’re wanting some ‘just you’ time with your family when away, whether you’d prefer them to be staying in a room at the opposite side of the hotel and if you’re expecting all meal-times to be together. To you, they might be coming along as babysitters for the evening so you and your partner can enjoy some time together alone, but if they are seeing it as a non-stop family-fun festival they are participating in, toes can easily be trodden on.
You may also want to consider that if one set of grandparents comes away, the others might try to book a holiday with yourselves as well which may or may not be a good thing. If you have a nanny, consider bringing them with you or if you don’t want to bring a relative but still need the help, there are travel nannies available for short term contracts.
10. Should I Stick To My Night-Time Routine On Holiday?
Where possible, try to keep the night-time routine similar such as bath, book and bed. If you do need to adjust bedtimes to make the most of your time away then don’t panic too much – it shouldn’t harm your usual routine when you return! Just make sure that on your return home you go straight back to the usual bedtime. This will help differentiate between ‘holiday bedtime’ and ‘home bedtime’. I have fond memories of the excitement of staying up past bedtime when on holiday as an older child! It is common to find that holiday excitement, activities and sunshine tire your children out quicker.
You know your child and how they will cope best however, we would recommend if you are staying up later to try and be near to your hotel room. That way should the signs of over-tiredness begin to creep up you can quickly get them to bed.
As mentioned before they can start the night sleep in the pram and when you get them home just transfer them in their bed
If you have a toddler, consider whether they would be best placed sleeping on the mattress on the floor, especially as some hotel rooms abroad can be on harder surfaces than your nursery carpet. Hotels tend to provide travel cots but they can be quite uncomfortable so consider putting flattened towels underneath the mattress to soften it slightly – just remember that baby needs a flat surface. If you have a white noise machine at home, don’t forget to bring it with you.
You probably need this holiday more than the little ones do, especially after 2020! Take the time to enjoy yourselves as a family, make sure you’re in the photos as well (does anyone else seem to find that they have few photos of them and baby?) If you’re feeling particularly stressed, maybe consider going for a short break with a friend or partner whilst a relative looks after baby for one or two nights. Parents can’t run on empty and self-care is very important!
So there we have our top ten FAQ’s answered! If you have any suggestions of your own please suggest them in the comments, don’t forget to check out our blog on how to help your baby sleep whilst travelling.
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For more advice on how to help your baby sleep and find a baby sleep solution that works for you and your family, you can check out our 1 : 1 consultation services or our new baby sleep guides which come with free access to my Sleepy Village Facebook community for easy access to get your questions answered.