Summer is finally here and to many of us that means sun, swim, ice cream and…vacation! Whether you’re planning on visiting family, hanging out at the beach or something else, don’t let fears about sleep ruin your trip. Yes, it’s true that traveling with kids isn’t easy but there are some proactive tips you can use to make your nights (and days) go more smoothly.
First, be thoughtful about when you are traveling. Whether flying or driving, do your best to maximize success. Heading to the airport right at bedtime is likely to get you an overtired, cranky child. Do what you can to start out when your child is most cheerful and pay attention to what works for your family. If your child sleeps well in the car, the best time to set out on your road trip could be right at nap time. Make sure your little one has whatever blanky or lovey he likes best and you might just get a long chunk of sleep in the car. If bedtime in your family is on the earlier side, make sure you get to your destination early enough in the day to get used to the space before rushing baby into a new sleep space. Some children acclimate to new places better than others and it can’t hurt to allow a bit of time to transition.
Try to keep to a routine. Working around a child’s schedule isn’t always fun but it usually pays off. When you plan your days activities, make sure you’re allowing time for daytime sleep, if your child needs it. While many of us would love nothing more than to set out and not look back, breaking up your day into morning and afternoon plans with a break in the middle for a nap or two might be the best way to keep the whole family feeling good. If you know you’ll be skipping a nap, try to adjust with an earlier bedtime. Conversely, if you know you’ll be having a late night, make sure to build in opportunities for some daytime sleep!
Work out your sleeping arrangements in advance. Walking through the set up before you arrive will help to smoothly transition in to naps and bedtime. Whether you’re in a hotel, private home or somewhere else, try to figure out a way for baby to have a crib or pack n play set up in a quiet spot. Let your child spend some time in the new accommodations before heading to sleep. Taking some times get familiar with the room and crib can ease in to the transition.
Make a list of things to bring. Familiar sheets or blankets from home can help your child feel more comfortable right away, as can a sound machine (or a white noise app downloaded to your phone) to block out new noises. Keeping the room dark is a must for most kids and is easily done by taping up black garbage bags on the window. Of course, bring any loveys or special stuffed animals your child likes to sleep with! It might seem over the top to some but vacationing with kids doesn't mean traveling light, so you might as well bring these things along to make it all a bit easier.
Now, if your child is a decent sleeper, a brief disturbance in sleep shouldn’t throw you off completely. Try to get back to your usual schedule and routine as soon as you get back home. You may face a bit of resistance if your child liked something about the vacation set up more than home but he should fall right back into those good sleep habits that you’ve worked so hard to build. Don’t worry that you’ve ruined everything - very few things are ‘unfixable’ and you can always do a mini coaching to get back on track. One thing you want to watch out for - if you’ve recently (within the last few months) done sleep coaching, don’t fall back into using whatever sleep crutches you’ve cut out. Meaning, if you’ve just stopped co-sleeping, don’t share a bed on vacation. If you’ve just stopped rocking baby to sleep, don’t rock to sleep while staying at grandma's house. Going back to old sleep crutches might help in the short term but will make it that much harder to get back on track once you’re home. Wishing us all a great summer with lots of fun, good times and good sleep!