Tip a
property

In our newest member interview we talk to travelbee, Susanne Willekes, the first certified Dutch child sleep coach, who shares her tips for family-friendly ski hotels in Austria. She also tells us more about The Sleep Agency, her sleep coaching business and gives us tips on how to make your kids sleep better.

As a hard working mum, you need to unwind some times. Holidays are a great way to do that. What are some of your favorite family-friendly ski hotels?

One of our favorite family friendly ski holiday hotels is Falkensteiners Hotel Cristallo in Katschberg. This place offers everything you could possibly want and need during your holiday! Family rooms, a gorgeous (kids!) spa, great food ánd it is located directly at the slopes. The hotel boasts a cinema, Kids club, full baby equipment and in-house ski rental.

The kids are taken to their lessons right after breakfast so we can have a peaceful cup of coffee before hitting the slopes ourselves; ending the day with a tasty Apérol Spritz while catching up with the kids is the best!

Susanne’s secret hideaway sans enfants is Das Posthotel in Zell am Ziller, a lovely boutique hotel that offers a superb spa (check those beauty treatments!) and organic and sustainable food, amongst many other things. Das Posthotel also welcomes families with children, so if you’re looking for a stylish boutique yet family friendly ski holiday hotel, this is the place for you.

 

What does your dream family holiday look like? 

Our favorite holidays are either spent in the mountains or at sea- that’s where we relax most. Sunshine is an absolute must! When booking a location and accommodation we always keep our kids in mind; we want them to be able to run around, play outside and practice sports. Food wise we are rather picky too: it needs to be fresh, healthy and delicious! Simplicity is key, so it could be a homemade pasta, or plain fish straight out of the ocean.

To what extent should it comply with TRVLBEES criteria (Stylish, Family friendly and Green)?

I am always on the lookout for stylish interiors, with a focus on beauty ánd simplicity. Whether we are camping with the kids (at the wonderful Het Betere Boerenbed) which means no electricity, preparing dishes using wood fires and sleeping in tents, or spending time in beautiful Mexico and staying at different places, all unique because of their style and beautiful simple interiors. So I would say we are always looking for a mix of luxury ánd basics!

Family-friendliness is another must; I absolutely detest staying at a place where children are clearly not welcome, as it makes us feel very embarrassed. In terms of green: aren’t we all a bit responsible? So, yes to organic food, waste management and solar panels!

What is your absolute favorite part of being a mom? And if you could take your 3 children anywhere in the world, where would that be?

That’s easy: the unconditional and eternal love you both feel for and receive from your kids. The endless cuddles, kisses and family time, the laughs…I think it’s so magical to watch my kids and recognize characteristics of both my husband and myself. Being a mom of three has brought me to the next level with regards to my own development as a person: to stay grounded,  realize what life really is about, and the fact that nothing else matters besides my kids’ health and happiness. Motherhood is so enriching!
I would love to take our kids to South Africa, to experience a long safari while crossing several countries. Same goes for the Australian east coast; a road trip is one of my dreams. When the kids are a bit older I’d love to visit New York City.

Your company The Sleep Agency is an awesome resource for parents with children who can’t sleep! How did you decide to start your business?

To be honest, every child and every sleep issue is different and personal, so I’d rather call it my practice! In short: after twelve long and challenging years within sales, marketing, events and pr, I longed for a better balance between motherhood and work because I was constantly feeling guilty and stressed. Moreover, I lacked a sense of fulfilment, of actually helping other people ánd I wanted to pursue a life long dream: to work with babies and kids.

So what made you decide to focus on Sleep Coaching? 

Our eldest son Viggo was a really bad sleeper and the enormous lack of sleep caused a postnatal depression, which had a huge impact on my physical and mental state, my job and relationship. While searching for solutions and guidelines I came across this thing called sleep coaching and that honestly was a life changing moment… This was exactly what I wanted to do! I am an expert on this subject, I have personally seen and felt the impact ánd it would mean I could coach kids and families. To deepen my knowledge I obtained an official degree as a Gentle Sleep Coach in the States (at Kim West) and started my own practice right after Bodhi, our youngest child, was born. As we speak I have coached around 500 families and even more kids and babies!

You recently also published a book. Please tell us more about it.

Basically I coach babies (as of 6 months) and kids up to 6 years of age, and I see it as my mission to help as many parents as I possibly can to deal with these challenging times because it has an impact on so many things, including your self esteem and a sense of failure. With this book I hope to offer parents actual and less expensive (book versus an entire course) help, tools, realistic expectations and practical tips. Plus I want to reach out to as many (new) parents as possible and tell them that a badly sleeping child is not solely their fault! So many children face sleep issues- it’s rather common and solutions doexist. So my book proves to be very important in proclaiming my message.

Which 3 tips would you offer parents to get their babies to sleep better?

To be honest, all kids and situations are different! So it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few tips. But these three rules always apply:

    • Routine. All kids thrive on rhythm and routine, as this brings predictability to their day, which offers a feeling of safety. That feeling ensures less tears ánd better naps. So try to use some sort of routine for feeding moments and naps. Which brings me to the following travel related tip:
      Jetlag. Travelling with small children is challenging. Even for me! Try to get your baby en synch with the local naptime as soon as possible; this also counts for bedtime at night. Even if it means waking them up after only ten minutes: try to hold on to your standard rhythm as much as you can, only convert it to local time.
    • Sleep enhances sleep. Whatever you do, don’t put your kid(s) down at a later hour or cut down on their naptime during the day to try and make them sleep longer during the night. Over-fatigue is a huge stressor when it comes to broken nights and early risings. So: naps during the day and early bedtime at night are key to make sure your child(ren) get(s) the amount of sleep that is needed at their age.  During our holidays we always pick an accommodation that helps us with this. While the kids sleep we can still relax outside, by the pool or in the gardens. Hurray for baby monitors! And loosen up a bit; everyone is on holiday and so are you. Beach naps are really not that bad (as long as you make up for lost sleep the following day)!
    • Use a sleeping bag! Up until they move to a junior bed. I think those are quite phenomenal, as it guarantees safe sleeping (don’t use a blanket or quilt!) and babies can determine their own sleeping position, plus you never have to doubt whether your kid is uncomfortable because of being either too warm or too cold. Simply use the four seasons version and you’re all set.

And a final tip for when you’re traveling by plane: Take Jetkids’ Bedbox with you to ensure better naps during the flight. 

Written by Contributing Editor, Felicia da Costa.