Going on a holiday as a family is always fun. There’s the excitement of planning for the trip, and then all the new experiences which you get to have together. Even if it’s not the first time for you, seeing snow, or for that matter, anything else, for the first time with your kids makes it special all over again.

However, many parents struggle with the need to balance sleep and nap routines with the opportunity to travel together. Whilst it might be tempting to plan activities for every moment of the trip and to forego your usual sleep routines, it might not be such a good idea. Children, and especially toddlers need their sleep, and a travel routine which doesn’t take that into account will leave them cranky and difficult. The lack of rest may also affect not only their appetite, but also their health as they are more likely to fall sick if they don’t get the right amount of rest.

With proper planning and an awareness of your toddler’s routines, you can however have a great family holiday which strikes a nice balance between rest and activity for you and your kids.

1. Understand Your Toddlers’ Sleep Routine

Before going on your trip, understand the sleep routine of your toddlers. Do they nap in the morning or after lunch? Feel sleepy around 9.30pm after dinner? Figure out how much time they sleep and when on a regular basis. Knowing this will help you plan your activities. 

If you know your kids sleep in the afternoon, divide your activities into morning and late afternoon. Plan to return to your hotel room after lunch to give your kids a chance to lie down. If that’s not possible, try and see if you can do something quieter like visit a museum in the afternoon and allow them to sleep in their strollers.

2. Arrive Before Bedtime

If possible, time your arrival at your holiday destination before bedtime. Doing so will allow you to let your kids go to bed at their usual time. If you arrive later, they will have gone past their bedtime and will likely be awake and unable to sleep for most of the night.

3. Dealing with Jet Lag

Jet lag is especially hard to manage. If you are travelling to a location which has a less than 3 hour time difference from home, follow local times once you arrive. So have your kids nap and go to sleep at the same local times that they would at home.

If the time difference is greater, you can expect that it will take about 4 to 5 days for them (and you!) to adjust to the new time zone. In this case, expect that there will be longer naps during the day and that you may be up more in the evenings. 

4. Follow Your Usual Bedtime Routines

Recreate the routines you have at home. If your kids have a bath before bedtime, do that also on your holiday. If you always read a book to them, pack a few favourite books and read them to them. Following the routine itself will prepare your kids psychologically for sleep.

5. Bring Along Their Favourite Bedtime Toys, Pillows and Sheets 

Bring along their favourite toys, consider also packing their bedsheets. Sometimes, falling asleep on a familiar pillow and using a favourite blanket whilst hugging a special toy, will make your kids forget that they are in unfamiliar surroundings and allow them to sleep more easily.

6. Expect the Unexpected

Don’t be too hard on yourself or your kids if you are unable to get their sleep routines down perfectly. Going on holiday will mean a lower quality of sleep not only for your kids, but also for you. Sleeping in unfamiliar rooms, missing nap times, going to bed late because you went to watch the fireworks at the theme park are all part of the holiday experience.