Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
There will come a time in your life when you will want to go away with your kids. This may only be a weekend trip to visit family in another town, or an extended holiday. The weekend option is all I’m brave enough to manage with my tribe these days. What my husband can never get his head around is why it takes me so darn long to “get organised” for our family excursion and why I’m always frantic about it right up till the last minute. Gone are the days of simply throwing a few things in a bag, jumping in the car and driving off into the sunset.
So here, ladies (and gentlemen), is how WE go away somewhere, anywhere, these days, with kids. And a baby. And sometimes the cat.
WRITE A LIST
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 am a list-geek so I like to write several separate lists in the following categories:
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 nappies, but here are a few crucial, often overlooked items:
- baby monitor AND BASE
- iPod (with white noise track)
- speaker and POWER CABLE
- pacifier (and spares)
- medicine syringe
- sleeping bag 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/iPad 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
So after you’ve got your lists up and running, you actually have to pack. I hate packing, but not as much as I hate unpacking. 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 nappy 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 holed up on the side of the main highway with a pooing baby or a spewing toddler.
PLAN THE 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 naptime. 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.
DO A TALK-THROUGH
Kids have a really bad concept of time. 2 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 (with headphones on). 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 3 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!).
WHEN YOU GET THERE
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 keep your baby/toddlers in the same sleep pattern they’d normally have at home, so as to minimise the disruption. Anything you change while on holiday can take ages to un-change once you get home! In saying that, be prepared for some 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.
So now relax, enjoy your holiday…
…and good luck with constantly trying to steer a crawling baby out of the sea or keep a charged-up toddler from practising his Olympic dive stunts off the edge of the balcony.