Have you ever had even just a little anxiety around traveling somewhere and what it might do to your child’s sleep?… I think we all have!! Unless your child is a unicorn sleeper, sleeps well anywhere and no amount of traveling disrupts their sleep. In that case… good for you!!
But for most of us travel and sleep do not seem to go hand in hand, but I’d like to offer that they could!!
Travel always seems to be a tricky endeavor where naps and nighttime sleep can get a little (or a lot) wonky. There’s always something exciting going on… maybe friends and relatives who are anxious to see the baby, or maybe once you arrive at your destination there’s too much to do/see, or maybe you’re just throwing caution to the wind with no sleep plan during your travel/vacation times. But you might find that your child’s sleep never really returns back to what it was pre-travel.
So here are some sleep tips you can take with you in planning for your trip, once you are at your destination and once you have returned home that will help ease the sleep hiccup that is travel:
Building up to travel
1. Don’t over-pack, but don’t under-pack either
Bring along baby’s blanket, lovie and sleeping clothes. Anything that smells familiar and reminds them of their home sleeping environment will help them get to sleep in their new surroundings.
And if you can, even bring a Pack&Play, your own white noise machine (or free app), and monitor. Ok, so this might feel like overpacking, but you’ll thank me later… I promise! And having the monitor might allow you to grab some dinner down the hall if you’re staying at a hotel. My husband and I have done this MANY times, which was great because we didn’t feel stuck in the room once our boys were laid down.
Travel day has arrived!
2. Plan to start driving around a nap
This will depend on age, because at some point you need to just get in the car and get going, but for younger babes taking multiple naps… hop in the car right when they would normally go down for a nap. Often-times babes will sleep better from the motion in the car, but this might buy you a couple hours of quiet before babe wakes up and wants to play, or eat, or the worst kind… wants to get out because they decided they hate the car seat!
Once you’re there
3. Try to maintain your home schedule as best you can
Changes in the routine are the quickest way to end up with an overtired child. And if you had a great sleeper before, overtiredness will almost undoubtedly cause a reemergence of any bad sleep habits you’ve worked so hard to prevent.
If your child is tired and cranky, you’re going to have a lousy time. Sticking to the schedule and keeping babe well-rested will assure that the time you do get to spend with friends and family is fun, happy and relaxed.
4. Don’t skip naps, or push bedtime to later
As tempting as it may be to let your child skip a nap (if he/she is still taking them), or let bedtime fall back an hour or two, so that you can fit extra activities in, I highly recommend you resist the temptation and stick to the schedule you’ve kept at home. Overtired could definitely rear its ugly head here, too.
5. Create your child’s own space within yours
If you must share a room with your little one, try to create babe’s own space within yours. So, use furniture to your advantage, a partition in the room, get creative… whatever it takes so that babe can’t see you from their Pack&Play/crib.
And don’t bring them into bed with you if you can avoid it. It will be much harder to return to independent sleep once home, if you weren’t doing this before you left.
Once you’re back home
6. Right back to the same routine before you left
Bounce back into your old routine like you never left. If babe knew a good solid routine and schedule before-hand, there’s comfort in the familiar and it will make returning home that much easier.
Some might argue… we’re on vacation and we’re going to have fun! TOTALLY! DO IT!! But the wheels might fall off too much while being away from home; this is often where I hear problems occurring. Families get back from travel and they just can’t get back to the way sleep was before they left and they just end up dealing with the night wakings, or co-sleeping (where they didn’t do that before). So just know that you can absolutely get back into some good solid sleep habits, even if your child wasn’t the greatest sleeper before you left.
If you need some sleep help, I’d be happy to guide you from a space of exhaustion and possible frustration, to knowing EXACTLY what to do in all sleep situations (travel included) and feeling much more well rested!