5 tips for getting the kids to sleep on holiday

Holidays are big business for parents taking their kids away, with the average family enjoying more than four each year (ABTA). And, with the schools off for their Easter break, we’re entering one of the busiest times of the year for families taking a trip.

Family holidays are essential for getting away from it all and spending time together, but they can also pose some problems for sleep, especially when it comes to little ones. Whether you have trouble getting your kids to snooze on the plane or the time difference is playing havoc with their sleeping patterns, excursions abroad can be a minefield if you’re not careful.

In preparation for the holiday season, we’ve put together five tips for getting the kids to sleep when you’re away. Read on to find out more.

Make sure children are well-rested

As you’re probably aware, transit by plane, train, or automobile can hamper sleep in even the most experienced traveller, but the effects apply tenfold in small children. Unlike adults, who can shrug off a lack of rest for longer, kids will develop a sleep debt quickly, causing them to become overtired.

Therefore, it’s essential for your children have had enough rest in the days leading up to departure. A child who has banked more sleep before a short period of disturbance, like travelling, will be able to adapt better than one who is already tired to begin with. So, make sure the kids are sleeping well in the week before you travel, especially in the 24 hours before.


Travelling to a new location can be incredibly exciting for a child, which can make it difficult to get them to sleep when you’re in transit. However, you can use the power of nap time to your advantage and plan your schedule to ensure your kids will be as well-rested as possible. By setting your departure soon after a nap, your child will be rejuvenated and ready to travel.

This is especially true for morning naps, which are the most restorative, according to this article by Baby Sleep Site. Though you might be tempted to get an early start to get travel over with sooner, it can pay to wait until after your little one’s first nap of the day, as it will curb any overtiredness later.

Help them adjust to time differences

If you’re jetting off to somewhere that is a few hours ahead or behind the time back home, you will need to help your kids adjust. You’ll have to get them onto the schedule of the new time zone, as well as getting them settled back into their old routine when you’re back home.

Just a few hours ahead

When you’re off to a location in a new time zone that’s only a few hours ahead, you’ll need to slowly transition your kids, which is best done at home in the run-up to departure. To do so, find out how many hours ahead or behind they need to be, then begin modifying your child’s sleeping and eating routines by 15 minutes each day. Remember to plan how many days in advance you will need to do this to reach the desired time.

Should you only be travelling across a time zone and back again for a few days, it’s usually better just to maintain the same routine that you follow at home, as it’s not really worth changing things up.

Many hours ahead

If you are travelling a long distance so that adjustment isn’t really possible, you are best getting them into the new routine from day one of the trip. Try to wake your child as early as possible in the new time zone, then aim for their usual nap and bed times at the local time. It might be rough at first, but kids can often adapt a lot more quickly than adults.

Research your accommodation in advance

Even when you’ve reached your destination, there are still sleep hurdles to overcome. If your kids are used to having their own rooms, it can be a challenge to get them settled when everyone is piled into a hotel room. That’s why it pays to do your research in advance and book somewhere that can work for everyone. For instance, hiring a villa or hotel room with separate bedrooms can go a long way towards maintaining your regular sleep set-up.

However, if there is only a one-room option available, all is not lost. You can still give the kids a sense of their own space by booking somewhere with additional beds or pull-outs. For babies, you can position a travel crib away from your own sleeping spot, though you should make sure your hotel has one available before you arrive.

Try and stick to routines as much as possible


Children are creatures of habit and, even though you’re away from home, sticking to the same routine can ease the transition and aid their sleep. If you have a bedtime routine, whether it’s a story, a bath, or something else, be sure to recreate what you do at home as closely as possible. Not only will this help to add familiarity, it will signal to your little one’s brains that sleep is close, and they should be ready for bed.

Even through the day, you should try your best to recreate any sleep routines, especially napping. Though it can be tempting to plough through and get the most out of the day, try to take a siesta at the usual time to avoid a sleep debt building up. If skipping a nap is unavoidable, you can compensate with a lighter schedule the next day and an earlier bedtime to make sure your little one doesn’t become exhausted.

Follow these tips and you and your kids will be able to enjoy much better sleep when you’re on holiday. For more great sleep tips, take a look at the rest of our blog, as well as our advice centre. Don’t hesitate to get in touch in touch if you have any questions.

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