Those of you who follow this blog will know that kids I do not have, but friends with kids I do! So to give you the best advice on travelling with your little ones, I asked the experts…
Nicky and Amanda own Little Ones – a highly successful business that specialises in baby sleep. Their instantly downloadable Sleep Guides have helped thousands of parents all over the world get their babies and toddlers into more regular sleep patterns, meaning better sleep for everyone! Click here if you need sleep!
Are you thinking about a road trip with your WHOLE family? Or maybe you’ve simply got a two-hour journey coming up to visit relatives in another town… Either way, if you’re travelling with kids it can be stressful and it involves a lot of planning.
What my husband can never get his head around is why it takes me so darn long to “get organised” for our family excursions. Gone are the days of simply throwing a few things in a bag, jumping in the car and driving off into the sunset.
Here is my best advice, how WE go away somewhere, anywhere, these days, with kids. And a baby. And sometimes the cat.
Lists will save you!
I cannot stress this enough. You will probably still forget something with a list, but you will definitely forget something if you don’t have a list. I like to write several separate lists in the following categories:
- BIG KIDS
The baby’s list is always the longest.
The husband can, presumably, take care of his own packing.
Write these lists well in advance because you’ll always have stuff to add to them as you remember it. Then, logically, as you pack, cross off the items. I’m not going to tell you to pack the obvious stuff like clothes and diapers, but here are a few crucial, often overlooked items:
- baby monitor AND BASE
- white noise machine/paraphernalia and power cable
- pacifier (and spares)
- medicine syringe
- diaper cream
- sleep sack x2
- baby spoons
- bottle brush
- portable blackout blind
- portable highchair
- medicine cup
- drink bottles
- sunhats & sunscreen
- band aids (essential when you have a boy)
- hair ties and clips (essential when you have a girl)
- phone & charger
- baby monitor parent unit and cable
- food. Especially if you’ll be driving for a while. Especially if you have MY kids.
- paper towels. Especially if you’ll be driving for a while. Especially if you have MY kids.
- small electric fan
- plastic bags
- multi-boards or spare power plugs/extension cables
The packing part
So after you’ve got your lists up and running, you actually have to pack!
Definitely pack each kid’s stuff in a separate bag and keep the things you’ll need to access first on top (like PJs or cuddlies). Frustratingly, with a baby, often a lot of the packing has to come at the last minute – things like baby monitors or diaper cream or pacifiers. This is why a list is SO crucial; your entire day in the lead-up to departure will be timed around the baby and your list. WITH MILITARY PRECISION.
When packing your gear into the car bear in mind some stuff will need to be accessible on the journey – food, usually, in my case, but also potentially nappies, baby wipes, an extra change of clothes. Having these things buried at the bottom of the boot won’t help one bit when you’re on the side of the main highway with a pooping baby or a spewing toddler.
Plan your journey
Know your route. Know your distances and timings. Know your toddler’s bladder limitations. Everything will hinge around this last factor.
If your kids usually nap, time your trip so they can nap in the car at their normal nap time. This will make it easier (and more peaceful) for everyone – especially you! If you’re travelling with a baby who needs to nap, put a dark sheet or blanket over their carseat/capsule so they won’t be too stimulated by the outside world and will happily go to sleep. I always have my iPad, playing my baby’s white noise sound, literally inside her capsule with her to guarantee she sleeps well!
Oh and TAKE SNACKS for your kids. Just no water. Or liquid of any kind, or you’ll be stopping every ten minutes and the baby will DEFINITELY wake up.
Avoid waking the baby up at all costs.
Talk them through it
Kids have a really bad concept of time. Two hours in the car will feel like a lifetime to them, so make sure you do a talk-through well ahead of time. Tell them where you’re going and that it will take a long time. Tell them what you expect of them (behaviour-wise). Give them time to think about it and ask questions. Remind them constantly of the impending adventure. Get them to problem-solve ways they can keep themselves amused on the trip; books, toys, games etc. Then actually pack these things for them to have in the car. JUST, NO WATER.
In the car
Theoretically you’ve planned for any situation. Having snacks and activities at the ready for the kids is essential. A pre-schooler can last hours listening to music with headphones on, or watching Peppa Pig on repeat on the iPad. If I haven’t mentioned it earlier, DON’T GIVE THEM UNLIMITED ACCESS TO LIQUID. Their bladders will either make or break your whole journey. If you’re using white noise for the baby, keep it loud and continuous. Try not to stop if you can help it. Unless of course your journey is really long (over three hours), in which case the kids will probably need to stretch their legs at some point. And you will need a caffeine hit (to say the least!).
Once you’ve made it to your destination give yourself a giant pat on the back! The worst is over… (apart from the drive home).
If you’re setting up your kid’s/baby’s room remember that the more you can make it like their normal room the better, so if they’re used to sleeping in total darkness, put up blackout blinds. Use the sheets from their own bed on their holiday beds. Have familiar sights, like a favourite mobile. Strangely, even having their cot facing the same way as their usual room can help. If your older kids have any specific sleep aids like a sleep training clock, or a particular bedtime story, use them. You don’t want to risk ANYTHING when it comes to sleep.
It is important to try and keep your baby/toddler in the same sleep pattern they’d normally have at home, so as to minimise the disruption. If your kids aren’t sleeping, NO ONE is sleeping! Anything you change while on holiday can take ages to un-change once you get home!
In saying that, be prepared for a bit of flexibility; kids get excited by new places and might not do exactly what you want them to when you want them to do it. Especially if you have MY kids.
I hope these tips help you plan your next wee vacation. Nothing to fear. A bit of organisation and you’ll be fine. At the very least it can’t be worse than when I was on a car journey ALONE with two vomiting pre-schoolers, a grumpy baby and a thoroughly unimpressed cat…
For more information on establishing good sleep patterns with your baby/toddler, whether you’re home or away, our Baby Sleep Packages have everything you need!