One of the biggest concerns for parents traveling with babies or young children is how to keep them well-rested during the trip. A disrupted sleep routine while traveling can lead to cranky and irritable children, which is not a good thing while on vacation. It can be especially hard to protect a child’s sleep routine if you are flying across several time zones, staying in a hotel or Airbnb, and most importantly, planning lots of fun activities! But here is the bottom line, no one will be having any fun if you completely forgo any or most of your child’s day-to-day structure in the name of fun. Just like we get tired when traveling, they will too but they cannot rally without having some serious meltdowns along the way. And if you are anything like me, I try to avoid the meltdowns whenever possible especially if they are preventable with a little planning.
In this blog post, we will share some tips on how to protect your child’s sleep when traveling, so you can ALL enjoy your summer vacation.
Stick to Your Child’s Sleep Routine
I am saying it again…because it is that important! The first and most important thing to do when traveling with kids is to stick to their sleep routine as much as possible. Try to schedule your flights and travel times around their sleep schedule. If your child usually takes a nap at noon, look for a flight that leaves after that time. The only caveat to this is try and avoid a red-eye flight if possible. The quality of sleep will be significantly less than if at home and going into your first full day of vacation with a cranky child will not end well.
Follow the 70/30 Rule with Sleep
Try to plan activities in a way that allows your little one to stick to their normal bedtime or nap schedule 70% of the time. I like to use the 70/30 rule where I stick to my child’s normal routine 70% of the time but 30% of the time we may doing something that disrupts their normal schedule. This allows us to have some flexibility during bedtime and naptime outings but still prioritize sleep for our kids.
Bring Along Familiar Sleep Items
To help your child sleep better in new surroundings, pack sleep items that your child is familiar with. Maybe they have a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or lullaby that helps them prepare for sleep. These familiar items or routines can provide a sense of comfort and security in an unfamiliar environment. One item I will NOT leave home without when traveling is my sound machine. This is the magic sauce for our family. When the sound machine turns on, everyone knows it’s time for bed and their little bodies begin to prepare for sleep.
Choose Accommodations with Sleep in Mind
I talked about this in a previous blog and I feel that it is worth mentioning again. When planning for your vacation, if at all possible, really consider how the sleep arrangements will look for everyone. This can have such a huge impact on how smoothly sleep will go for your little one. Opt for a hotel or Airbnb with a separate room, a quiet location, and comfortable beds. If you are not able to have a separate room, consider using a large closet or even the bathroom. Another great option is bringing along a SlumberPod. These amazing, packable private sleep pod for infants and toddlers is the perfect solution to creating an on-the-go private sleep space that comes with dark fabric, a place for your baby monitor, and a spot for a fan. (Code: newleafsleep for a discount with SlumberPod!)
If you are not using the SlumberPod, check whether the hotel offers blackout curtains or noise-reducing windows to create a dark and quiet sleeping environment.
Maintain Consistency During the Trip
Our family took a trip to Hawaii last fall and we had some outings planned where we were going to disrupt our toddler’s nap time or maybe push his bedtimes back a little later. I was ok with that as long as we were making up for the lost sleep the next day. This would look like a short car nap because we were out during naptime, followed by a slightly earlier bedtime, with the next day being a quieter day where we could take a nap at the house. As important as sticking to your child’s sleep routine is, it’s often hard to do but you have to compromise on some activities to still get your kids the sleep they need. Remember, a happy well rested child means a far more enjoyable time for you!
Be Prepared to Adapt
Keep in mind that traveling with kids can be unpredictable, and you may need to be prepared to adapt your plan based on your child’s needs and preferences. Be flexible and make sure you have enough spare time for delays, rest, or extra time for your little one to adjust to their new surroundings. Also, try to be patient with your child and remember that traveling can be overwhelming even for adults.
Protecting your child’s sleep when traveling requires planning, preparation, and flexibility. Stick to your child’s usual sleep routine as much as possible, bring familiar sleep aids, and choose accommodations with sleep-friendly features. Maintain consistency during the trip but be prepared to adapt your plans based on your child’s needs. With these tips, you can ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep while on vacation, making it a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone.
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