How to get your children to sleep in a caravan!

You’d be amazed how many times we hear from parents that they don’t use their van as much as they would like to because their children won’t go to sleep! Firstly, HUGE DISCLAIMER, we are no parenting experts! Just like you, we are learning as we go and doing our best in the journey that is family life! We can however share with you what worked for our crew and hopefully our hard found tips might make your experience a little easier!

Create ownership & investment

We allowed our girls to choose their own doona covers and pillows. To be frank the result is that the back of our van looks a pale blue and glitter explosion from the movie Frozen. That said the girls love it. It’s their own specially created space that they can retreat to. The girls make their own beds, lay out their teddies and feel great ownership of their own space in the van.

bunks frozen


Allow the environment to become familiar

Before you even set off let the kids lie on their beds, read books in them, play in them etc. We did all of this while sat in our driveway! You can also have a backyard camp out, a literal practice run before you embark on a real expedition. This is great experience for the kids plus takes the thrill of a new destination out of the equation while they ‘learn’ to sleep in the van. An overnight practice is also a great way to initiate kids who might need to share a double and get them use to the wriggles, noises and shenanigans of a sibling bedmate. If siblings can’t stop the nonsense or get used to one another you can always adopt the good old fashioned, ‘top and tail’ position or stagger their bedtimes making one fall asleep before the other.

Stick with your routine

Big days of adventure and excitement makes for over tired children. Late dinners and late bed times can make for challenging nights. Of course breaking the routine can be part of your holiday fun but if this is leading to disastrous bedtimes there’s nothing fun about it for parents or kids! Be aware of your own kids’ needs and what works best for them.

Wind down time for the win!

If your kids need a little help in dozing off it might be beneficial for everyone if you pop your wine back in the fridge and dedicate that little window they need! I know on holidays I love to get into relaxation mode and expect the kids to climb into bed and just disappear into the land of nod but basically, that never happens! Give your kids notice that it’s bedtime soon, change into pyjamas and then have story time etc. If you need to lie with your kids for a short period, do so, it encourages them to be calm, sensible and relax. Your wine will be all the more delicious when you return,  just don’t fall asleep lying there with them – it’s a small investment of time for your sanity!

Helping babies

If you have a baby in a portacot taking familiar items from home (i.e. the same mobile from the cot at home) can assist with your little one feeling confident and happy at bedtime. An item of clothing that smells like Mum can also assist. Babies love routine so try and stick with what they are used to at home but don’t forget training a baby now will make for a caravan-friendly child in the longer term!

Enjoy your post bedtime time

The other wonderful thing about getting the kids off to sleep is that it allows for some lovely adult time. Everyone needs a break and there’s nothing selfish about enjoying this evening respite! Be it Mum and Dad having a date night under the stars (while the kids hopefully sleep soundly in the van!) or friends having a few wines, laughs and grown-up conversations, there is much to be enjoyed when the kids go to sleep!

From us at Caravanning with Kids to you – we wish you safe travels and good sleepers! Share with us your tips for getting kids to sleep in the van – if you know something we don’t, please let us know your secret!

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