Traveling is a tricky endeavor when you’re trying to keep a child on a sleep schedule. There’s always something exciting going on, friends and relatives who are anxious to see the kids, and they have no idea how hard you’ve worked to get your little one sleeping through the night. So when planning a family trip you may be wondering... "Is it even worth it?" I say, ABSOLUTELY! Will it be the same as your pre-child vacations? ABSOLUTELY...not. Sorry. But I still think you can have an enjoyable family vacation...IF, you honor your child's sleep in the middle of making memories.
As tempting as it may be to let baby skip a nap, or allow a toddler's bedtime to fall back an hour or two so that you can fit these extra activities into your trip, I highly recommend you resist the temptation and stick to the schedule as closely as possible.
Changes in the routine are the quickest way to end up with an overtired child, and overtiredness will almost undoubtedly see a reemergence of those bad sleep habits you’ve all worked so hard to prevent. So, here are some suggestions I have for maintaining healthy sleep habits while on vacation:
If you have to share a room with the baby or child, do your best to create some sort of a partition between you and them with furniture or by hanging a blanket. What baby would want to sleep when it seems like they are at a party with their two best friends?
Create a dark and quiet sleeping area. You can purchase relatively cheap travel blackout curtains but black trash bags work well also. If you plan to travel a lot, invest in something like the SlumberPod or the Snooze Shade. I have been known to have my kids sleep in a closet or bathroom when necessary.
If baby’s tired and cranky, you’re going to have a lousy time. Sticking to the schedule and keeping baby well-rested will assure that the time you do get to spend with friends and family is fun, happy and relaxed.
An occasional nap in the carseat and stroller are okay but try to put the baby down in a crib as often as possible. Remember that an early bedtime may be necessary if naps are compromised.
Bring along baby’s blanket, lovie, sound machine 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.
If you are visiting family and friends, keep in mind that your child doesn’t get overstimulated. This easily happens with all the extra fun, activities and attention you child may be getting. If you notice your child avoiding eye contact, hiding their face, and or crying… check in to see if they may benefit from some quiet time.