Travel tips for Babies and Toddlers: Sleep
You know by now that I love to travel.
I never let the fact that I had kids, even young kids, stop me from showing them the world. But not everyone shares my views. One time a friend of mine said that traveling with kids was like asking for punishment, you still have to deal with the day to day annoyances of having a baby/toddler/grumpy teenager, but worse yet—you have to do it in an unknown place without the conveniences home.
While that can be true, I have never let having a two month old, a two year old (or an emotional pre-teen) stop us from traveling. Yes, there are adjustments to be made, and over the years I have experimented with lots of different ways to make traveling with babies, toddlers, and children easier. In this 3-part series, we’ll dive into stuff we can do to make life easier when traveling with youngsters in tow.
Part 1: Sleep!
Today it’s the dreaded word - sleep.
Every parent has suffered sleep deprivation and has been subjected to opinions and questions from practically everyone they know on how do do it better.
“Does your baby sleep through the night?”
“Does your toddler still nap?”
“This is what you definitely need to do to get your kid to sleep.”
It is hard enough for everyone to get sufficient sleep in the early years, so taking your baby or toddler out of their comfort zone and their sleeping routine may be the last thing you want to do. And I get it - without enough sleep, they are just plain miserable. Me too! Without enough sleep I am not a nice person. I need 8 hours of good quality sleep every night for me to function as a happy person - and when I don't get it - watch out world.
But I really believe, despite this hurdle, traveling with babies and toddlers can be rewarding. Sometimes a change of scenery can do everyone the world of good, especially the parents. So if you are ready to jump and book that summer holiday, or perhaps experiment with a long weekend first, here are some tips to help everyone get better sleep.
1. Flying Times
Most flying tips for young children suggest to fly at a suitable time for your child and avoiding nap time. I’ve found that this tip works for short haul travel when the flight is only a couple of hours long. Flying with a happy well rested baby in the morning is much easier than flying exactly at the time of their lunchtime nap. However I have found that this doesn't apply to long haul flights.
When we fly to Australia from Switzerland, our flying time is 11am out of Zürich which arrives the next day into Brisbane at 7pm. With 24 hour traveling time, everyone will be exhausted no matter what time we fly.
2. Book a Basinet
If you are flying with a baby, book a basinet directly with your airline directly after you book your flights. There are only a certain number of basinets available and with more and more families traveling, its best to make sure yours is reserved early. Basinets are located in the front row of each cabin in Economy, Business, and First Class. Check with you air line directly about their restrictions on age and weight when it comes to using the basinet, as well, some are restricted to very young ages and weights.
This is probably what you are dreading most, am I right? If you live in Europe like we do, there are so many options for holidays where the time zone change isn’t too tough. However, if you are brave and head further a field (we often travel between Zürich and Brisbane) jet lag is something you will have to deal with. Our best tip for dealing with jet lag is water, fresh air and sunshine. On a plane, the kids and I drink a lot of water. Also in the days leading up to and after the flight we drink a lot more water.
Fresh air and sunshine is also very important. Get outside as soon as you arrive, not only will fresh air and sunshine feel awesome after being stuck in the airplane for hours, the sunshine helps you all to readjust your internal clock. Especially if you have arrived early morning, head outside after lunch instead of taking a nap.
We have been known to go on an easy hike the day we land back from Australia. A friend of mine goes shopping as soon as she lands every time she travels to Los Angeles. Getting out and doing something is the key, and not sitting in the hotel where you will be tempted to take that “little nap” which, if you’re not careful, could turn into several hours.
My best piece of advice is to work with the new time zone as soon as you land. Eat at lunch time, even if you aren't hungry, and don’t be afraid to wake the kids from a nap.
4. Gro Company Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind
My kids, are very sensitive to light during the sleeping hours. This was true particularly when they were younger. We have black-out blinds in their bedrooms at home and so when traveling we used to get so frustrated how early the kids would wake up without them.
I tried to avoid buying something, but while staying in northern Germany after the first 5am wake up call, we got straight on to Amazon.de and express shipped a Gro Company Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind to the hotel. It arrived the next day and we were easily able to attach it to the bedroom window with the suction cups on the blind. The next morning we all enjoyed a sleep in!
Since then we have taken the blackout blind with us everywhere - just in case! The only place we haven't need the black out blinds was in Singapore - were the sun rises at 7am and sets at 7pm every day!
5. Muslin Square
You will not regret bringing along a big muslin square! It can be used in so many different ways, but today I will focus on it’s handy use to help with sleeping. First, we use it onboard airplanes to avoid the glare when the cabin lights come on unexpectedly (in our case, usually right as you have gotten our little one to sleep). We just tuck it between the child’s seat and the one to the front of the child and it creates a little tent. If we haven’t already used it for a tent, we use the Muslin Square to wrap them up to sleep so they can smell home and use the blanket provided to drape over them. A Muslin Square is also very practical for draping over the stroller when back on the ground to keep the sunshine off their little faces. We used the Aden and Anais brand, but there are so many others great ones on the market these days.
However since my children were little, there has been a fabulous product on the market that I wish I had 12 years ago.
Which brings me to my next point
CoziGo was Developed out of one mum's frustration about her overtired daughter having disrupted sleep on frequent flights between Sydney and London. The CoziGo blocks out 97% of light to enable baby to have a settled sleep and is able to be fitted on to both prams and airline basinets. I only came across this product a couple of months ago, and unfortunately my youngest is now too big to try it out - but I love the look of this product and can imagine it works wonderfully.
I vividly remember whenflying with 10 month old baby Z to Singapore and she was constantly interrupted by the crew who were getting things out of the overhead bin above her. I can imagine the CoziGo would of helped out with this - and for when they turn on the dreaded Cabin lights just as you have gotten your baby settled.
Hopefully with either one of these things you will have a well rested baby at the end of a flight.
7. Limit Technology
Its a huge blessing now having such great entertainment systems built into the back on most long haul airplane seats or how portable iPads are that you can bring them everywhere with you. And although they keep your kids entertained for hours (it is after all, on a plane where little Z discovered her much beloved Peppa Pig), those bright screens can interfere with everyone’s sleep.
They’re great at keeping everyone awake (another help with jetlag!), but not so good when all you want is for your little one to go to sleep. So why not experiment with turning the screen off before you want your kid to sleep, this also applies when you arrive at your destination. The bright lights of the screen tells our bodies that it is day time and sleep is more difficult.
If I didn’t turn the screen off for my 9 year old, he would watch movies the entire 24 hours to Australia. Get agreements before you fly about when your kids will watch and when they will turn it off. If they are too little, just make a point of turning it off and switching to a book or a game, well before you want them to sleep.
8. Plane Pal
Also new on the market, is the Plane Pal, an inflatable pillow that when blown up and placed on the floor makes a little bed for those legs to stretch out when in economy class. No more lounging across me! At 1.3kg when in its bag with the pump, the Plane Pal is officially approved for use on big airlines like Singapore Airlines, Maylasian and Cathay Pacific but people have used them on other airline carriers as well. Currently in Europe you can purchase one of these through Travel Mad Mum’s shop. We have yet to try one of these out, but would love to try them for our next long haul with Singapore Airlines to Australia in 2018.
Please get in touch with me if you have personally tried either the CoziGo or Plane pal. I would love to feature you and the Plane Pal here on the blog.