While 3 kids, a husband, a caravan, and a certified sleep consultant does sound like the start of some whacky joke, this has actually been my reality for the past few months!
In case you missed it over on The Sleep Teacher Instagram, my beautifully crazy family of 5 have embarked on the adventure of a lifetime – a 6 month road trip around Australia! From outback showers under the stars to deep diving in the Great Barrier Reef, we are doing it all.
As we venture into month 5 of our trip, I thought now would be the best time to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I get about family life on the road. I hope my answers below inspire you to take the plunge, embrace van life and embark on one unforgettable adventure!
Q.) Why did you decide to take your family on the road?
We have always had a caravan, so the idea has been there for some time. That was mainly because we wanted to see Australia and do “a lap”, but then COVID hit and our reasons changed. We honestly just felt we needed a reset and to reassess the way we were living our day-to-day lives.
Q.) What’s the best way to acclimate little ones when sleeping in unfamiliar places?
I would definitely get them used to sleeping in the caravan/tent before you go. You also want to make sure you have any sleep issues sorted before you go, because trying to deal with them when you are crammed into a caravan park isn’t ideal. So, if you can lay the foundations for good sleep beforehand, you will find your little one will be fairly adaptable, and you can nail sleep anywhere you go.
Q.) What advice do you have for parents that are thinking about embarking on a long-distance road trip but are hesitant?
I couldn’t recommend this highly enough; it is a MUST! I would advise waiting until your little ones are no longer taking day naps and are able to walk long distances. There is so much more you can see if you can get “off the beaten track” and I think it would be a little difficult with younger children. There are plenty of families on the road with younger babies, and they still have an amazing time, but it just means there are certain things you can’t do.
Q.) What sleep challenges have you faced while on the road?
My girls are obviously a little older now than the clients I work with, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have sleep challenges. Some of the ones we have faced have been time differences and sunlight. Some states have crazy amounts of sunlight, so this was the biggest challenge, as naturally, the girls wanted to start the day earlier than normal. We have also had some days where we have had to wake the girls super early to be able to get to our next destination. They then don’t understand why they need to have an earlier night because of this.
Q.) How have you dealt with night wakes; does being in such close quarters affect the entire family?
Night wakes aren’t too bad now that the girls are older, but when they were little, it was a nightmare. I did find white noise was my BFF! And to this day, we still use it in the caravan.
Q.) Has it been harder than you anticipated to stick to a regular sleep schedule?
Not really. The hardest thing has been adjusting to different timezones all the time. There have been days where we had to start super early or nights that were later than I would have liked, but it’s part of the experience.
Q.) Do you wish you had done this sooner, or are you glad you waited until your girls were a little older?
We were meant to go 2 years ago, but then COVID hit. We were initially really disappointed, but we are so grateful we were made to wait.
Q.) What is the best tip for surviving long drives?
Doing a trip like this, regardless of how much time you have, there will be long drives. It’s just the way it is. But I think if you find things are starting to get a little tense or someone is starting to whine, just pull over and have a break. Even if it is 5 minutes at a playground or some drawing with chalk on the footpath, everyone will feel 1000x better and refreshed for another leg of driving. Don’t let it get to breaking point because you don’t want to arrive at your destination with a sour taste in your mouth. It will ruin your feelings for the place you are staying.
Q.) What has been your favourite memory of the trip so far?
Even with all the amazing sight-seeing we have done, my favourite memories are the “small” ones; playing Uno as a family and watching the sunset; teaching the girls to do cartwheels; playing hide and seek at the Pinnacles; and just being together 24/7. At times, I definitely need a break from them all (Mitch included), but I am also so mindful that we are very blessed to be able to do this and spend this time together.
Q.) What is something you wish you had known before you started life on the road with your family?
It will be the best thing you ever do! The long days will be far outweighed by the memories you get to make at your destination, so strap in and enjoy the drive. After all, you are blessed to be spending this time with your family as opposed to being in the office.