Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Other Advice

We want to take a family holiday with our 18-month-old daughter

In August my husband and I will be taking Sophia, who will be 18mths, away with her half brothers and sister. They range in age from 7 to 11 years and don’t live with us full time. We plan to stay in a hotel near a theme park so the older children will be occupied. I am worrying about how we will be able to stay out all day with Sophia, who still takes a lunchtime nap in her cot. Can we expect the hotel to provide a cot and other equipment? Should I start to get her used to being somewhere different for her nap, like in her stroller? Does being away from home usually bother toddlers of this age? We have a nine-hour flight to get to our destination, so should I allow time for her to get over any jet lag?

How much Sophia is affected by being away from home will depend on the kind of child she is. Toddlers who are used to being with older siblings are usually good at adapting to a different pace of life, but be aware that if her sleep and appetite get too disrupted, she may get frustrated and be more liable to tears and tantrums.

Plan for the flight carefully, packing a bag with all her needs, which you can stow under the seat. Contact your airline in advance and ask for bulkhead seats, which will allow some space to play on the floor. Also check if you can take your buggy to the boarding gate, and if they stow it in the cabin rather than the hold.

Contact your hotel to check whether they have travel cots, highchairs, baby alarms or a listening service, so you can pack accordingly. Remember that any electrical equipment, such as a baby alarm, will need a converter plug outside of the UK. If you are hiring a car, check ahead to make sure an appropriate car seat will be fitted. If you decide to take your own, the airline may allow you to take it on board, which will provide a familiar place for Sophia to sit for short naps. Check this out when booking the flight.

How well Sophia copes with the flight depends on its timing. Most toddlers are less affected by jet lag than older children and adults. Try to keep to her sleep and meal times while flying and set the local time on landing. Depending what time it is, she may need a short nap on arrival to enable her to go to bed a few hours later than usual. Keep to her normal bedtime routine as much as possible. Remember to bring any special toy or comforter, and pack it in her hand luggage so it is accessible. Once she wakes in the morning, follow local time for her daily routine of naps and meals. If you manage to keep these roughly in place, she is likely to adapt well to being with her older siblings and with busy days.

By all means get her used to napping in her buggy before you leave, but also consider returning to the hotel on some days to let her have a proper lunchtime sleep in a cot. Sophia’s needs must be considered, as well as her brothers’ and sister’s, even though this is a special holiday time with their father. If you feel she is becoming tired and overwhelmed, have a quiet morning pottering around the hotel grounds and meet the others later in the day. It is better for you to miss a few of the treats with the older children, if it means that Sophia is not too overtired and difficult to handle as a result.

You might also consider using room service for breakfast some days, especially if the hotel is large and the dining room a long way from your room. The children can then eat breakfast and pack up for the day, without too many trips up and down in the lift. Turning to your evening meal, most hotels will accommodate small children needing to eat early. Some evenings, if Sophia is not too tired, you could all enjoy an early family dinner together. On other nights, feed her in the room and use a monitor or listening service to enjoy supper with the older children. Being flexible about arrangements will work best. Plan each day according to everyone’s preferences, but be willing to change the plan if Sophia seems exhausted, even if it means you have to split up for a while. Also, don’t try to do too much. Even older children appreciate breaks and quiet times when in a busy and exciting environment.

Pack healthy snacks and drinks for everyone each day, and include a few small toys and books for Sophia so you can find a quiet spot to rest, if needed, or amuse her in restaurants. Before you leave for your holiday, download and print colouring pictures from children’s websites. Take three or four each day with a small pack of crayons to give her something to do if she gets bored while waiting in queues or for food to arrive at the table. Her brothers and sister can join in too. They make instant place mats, which can be thrown away when finished.

Taking children of different ages on holiday can work well, as often the older children enjoy the company and simple pleasures that a smaller child can bring. Allowing for time together and time apart will ensure that everyone’s needs are catered for, with the result that it should be a happy holiday for all.