Vacation! It’s all we ever wanted, right?! But traveling with little ones can add in a whole different list of things to think and worry about. Car seats, packing enough bottles, and don’t forget the swim diapers!
But sleep…..many of us have worked hard to have the perfect bedtime routine and daily schedule to maximize sleep. And the thought of traveling with an overtired and cranky child almost makes the vacation not seem worth it. But never fear! Here are some tips to help you make it through vacation without too much stress.
- Fill Up That Sleep Bank! It is a good idea to make sure our children are nice and well rested before we go on vacation. It might sound simple but when overtired, children create a literal sleep debt. So hold off on the sleepovers and late nights right before the big trip. We want their sleep bank nice and full!
- Plan Ahead! If you are going to be staying in a hotel, try and make sure you are in a quiet area. Being next to the pool or elevator can add undue noise late at night. Many hotels will also rent out cribs, or know of companies who do. This can be very handy when you are flying to a location and don’t want to bring a pack n play.
- Practice! Children thrive on consistency! So if your child is going to be sleeping in a pack n play or somewhere different while traveling you might want to practice at home. Set up the pack n play and let them nap in it a few times or even sleep all night in it. This will make it much less scary during vacation.
- Keep Your Schedule In Mind! Try to stay as close as you can to your child’s normal schedule as possible, but also try to enjoy yourself. If you haven’t planned a vacation yet, but want to, I usually recommend that people try and stay in one place. It will be easier on your child if you stay in one place for 5 nights verses taking a road trip with stops at different hotels each night. Although, I am not a fan of car naps in general, sometimes it is the best you can do on vacation. So try and plan some of your driving around your child’s normal nap or bedtime.
- Consistency Wins the Day! When putting your child down for bedtime or naps, try and stick to your same routine. If this includes reading books, snuggles, singing etc. go ahead and do all of those things. Don’t forget your child’s sound machine and their favorite blanket, lovey or stuffed animal. This will give them some comfort and something familiar to take to bed with them.
- Don’t Let Jet Lag Get the Better of You! Changing time zones can be tricky for little ones. If you are staying for more than a day or two I recommend that you switch them over to the local time immediately. This requires waking them at their normal time and putting them to bed and down for naps at their normal time.
For example; If you are from California and your child normally gets up for the day at 7am and you travel to Florida then wake your child up for the day at 7am Eastern time. He may be a little groggy or even grumpy but nap time will fall earlier and it will sync pretty quickly.
Make sure your child is getting lots of sunshine to help set that body clock! And remember that you can always put your child to bed slightly earlier to compensate for when they are tired. Don’t forget that our kids get very simulated and excited on vacations, and rightfully so. But this is why we can’t throw their sleep needs completely out the window. If we do, we will end up with a very grumpy child who is unable to enjoy their vacation. Keep to their normal nap routine, even if they don’t act tired. Your little one isn’t going to let on that they need a nap when the mini golf course looks so appealing!
- Provide a Place! Sometimes during vacation you are going to be out all day! You want to get the most bang for your buck, especially at places like theme parks. So the thought of leaving to go put your child down for a nap, doesn’t sound like an option. So bring something for your child to nap in such as a stroller, carrier or backpack. At least they have somewhere to nod off for a bit. You can even get fancy covers for strollers and joggers to help darken out their little area.
- For International travel, do whatever you need to get through flight day. Use day one for recovery and day two start setting their clock to local time!
And an extra note for breastfeeding families: Traveling with an older EBF baby can be challenging. Milk production is pretty regulated on a 24 hour schedule. In addition to sleep, milk production needs to realign to a shifted 24 hour schedule. It happens pretty quickly, but just something to be aware of in the first day or two.When you return from vacation you might have a small adjustment time. This is normal and once we expect it, it usually isn’t bad. Just jump right back into your normal schedule and supplement with an early bedtime until they have caught up on any lost sleep.
Here are a couple of my favorite items that can make traveling with kids a bit easier!
Portable White Noise! This portable white noise machine has a clip that you can clip to a car seat, stroller or pack n play!
Travel Bed! If you are short on space this little pop up bed is perfect for toddlers!
Baby Jogger Cover! This cover not only protects from sun and bugs but also darkens out their space if they need to nap!
Snooze Shade Cover for a Pack N Play! This is one of my favorite products! I love a dark sleep environment and how can we get that while on vacation? Well this cover fits over most pack n plays and perfectly darkens out a baby’s sleep spot!
Travel Black out Shades! This is another item that can quickly darken out any sleep environment! This shade has Velcro and goes up in a matter of minutes!
And don’t forget! Have Fun!
Kerrin Edmonds a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and is the Owner of Meet you in Dreamland- Infant and Child Sleep Consulting. She lives in San Luis Obispo’s North County with her husband and three children.