You’ve made sure that your child has a healthy sleep schedule –a calming routine, consistent bedtime, and regular naps. But with Thanksgiving just around the corner, holiday travel can threaten to wreak havoc with your perfect sleeper’s snooze time.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to! With a little planning and preparation, you can travel AND have a happy, well rested child.
For starters, think about how you can make your child’s temporary bed or crib as sleep- friendly as possible. If you’re staying in a hotel, find out if they provide portable cribs, pack- n-plays or, roll away cots. Bring sheets or favorite blankets and pillows – familiar items that help your child feel comfortable. Don’t forget a night light (with an extra light bulb!), favorite bedtime books, music and loveys, and if you’re travelling by air, be sure to pack them in your carry on bag in case checked baggage is delayed or lost. Consider putting roll -away mattresses on the floor of the hotel room to avoid middle of the night tumbles, or place a mattress on the floor next to your bed to help your child feel less anxious.
If staying with relatives, ask them for help in locating a borrowed crib or pack-n play (be sure that they are sturdy, newer models – older cribs may be pose a safety risk). Consider purchasing an extra pack n’ play or crib to leave with relatives. If you visit frequently or there are other family members that visit with children, you can split the cost. It’s a great investment and can be a lifesaver. Try to have your child sleep in the same place for the entire vacation – continuity and familiarity with their sleep space will help your child settle more easily.
Bring a monitor along as well, so that you can listen for your child but still enjoy your evening with the grown ups.
If you plan to share a room or bed with you child on vacation be sure to follow safety guidelines with infants, and be clear with your older children that the arrangement is temporary. Remind your child frequently that when you get home they’ll be back in their own bed and mommy and daddy will be back in theirs. Be clear that you’re only bending the rules until vacation is over.
If your travel includes crossing time zones, get your child up at their regular wake up time at both the start of your vacation and at the end of your trip. For example, if your child wakes up at 7 a.m. in Ct., wake him up at 7 a.m. local time in Los Angeles and then when you get back home to Ct., wake him at 7 a.m. EST.) Switch all naps and bedtimes to the local time the first full day after your arrival, or, if you’re recovering from a particularly long journey, do it the next day.
Although the excitement of new places and people can make napping during vacation a challenge, try your best to keep your child rested. Three year olds may be able to skip naps, but younger children definitely still need to nap every day. Do your best to carve out down time. Although naps in cars and strollers aren’t ideal, they’re better than no naps at all, so let them nap on the go if that’s all your busy schedule allows. And be sure to make bedtime a bit earlier than usual, no matter the age of your child. Avoiding over-tired melt downs and respecting your child’s need for sleep will keep everyone happy and make the transition back home to their regular routine a breeze.
The Center for Advanced Pediatrics Sleep Consultant
Gentle Sleep Coach
Happiest Baby Educator