The holidays are a hectic time of year. With so many things to do and people to see, it’s no wonder so many families struggle to get a good night’s sleep with all the excitement. And if that wasn’t enough, many people travel out of town to see family during this time of year. With all of those changes to your child’s sleep schedule and sleep environment, how can you ensure your little one stays well-rested so the whole family can enjoy the holidays? Try these seven sleep tips!
1. Start Well-Rested
Whenever your family needs to travel, regardless of whether you’re taking a plane, train, or automobile, the best way to start travel day on the right foot is to start well-rested! That means do everything you can leading up to the trip to keep your child’s sleep schedule on track, including making sure they get enough sleep the night before. Travel day can be unpredictable. If your child got a good night’s sleep, they will be less likely to be overtired if they miss a nap in the middle of the day or if bedtime get’s pushed back. And we all know, a well-rested kiddo is a much more pleasant kiddo!
2. For Travel Day: Anything Goes
On travel day, my number one rule is…survive! Travel is unpredictable and exciting. Your little one may not go down for a nap because they don’t want to miss a moment of excitement. Or they may have trouble napping in a new or noisy environment. Do whatever you need to do to keep your kiddo calm and happy. If that means more snacks or more screen time than normal, that is totally okay. Just do what you need to do to get through it and make it to your destination.
3. Stick to Your Schedule
Whew, you made it through travel day. Now what? During your trip, try to stick as closely to your child’s sleep schedule as possible. That means maintaining their normal wake time, nap time (or times) and bedtime routine. I’ll talk about managing naps further down the page, but what I want to focus on here is consistency, when possible. Whatever part of your child’s sleep schedule you can control, try to keep things as close to how they would be at home as possible. If everything else goes out the window, stick to your bedtime routine. Go through the steps in the same order as you would at home and try to have your kiddos in bed for their normal bedtime.
Bonus Tip: Purchase or head to the library to borrow some travel or holiday-themed books to bring along with you on the trip!
4. Manage Expectations
During your trip, you may be tempted to fit everything in, cramming your schedule with visits with family, fun outings, and other activities. But remember to manage your expectations. Keep the schedule reasonable, and remember to make time for your little one to rest. As tempting as it may be to let baby skip a nap or let bedtime fall back an hour or two so that you can fit all the extra activities into your trip, I highly recommend you resist the temptation and stick to the schedule as closely as possible. And remember, things may go a little differently for a few days, meaning your child may struggle to nap or fall asleep at night, so they may become overtired and cranky more quickly than they would at home. So, manage your expectations and keep your plans light and flexible.
5. Mimic The Home Sleep Environment
The best way to help your child get a good night’s sleep away from home is by mimicking your child’s home sleep environment. Whether you’re staying at a hotel or bunking with your in-laws, there are few things you can do to create an ideal sleep environment while away. Remember: dark, cool, and quiet. Make the room as dark as possible, crank down the AC, and use a white noise machine to block out any background noise.
Maintaining your little one’s own sleeping space is the best-case scenario to make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. If your little one is used to sleeping in his or her own room, room-sharing on vacation can be overwhelming and lead to tough nights. Even sleeping, your baby will be aware of your presence. If you’re staying in a hotel, try to book a room with an attached area or separate room. I know this is not always possible so in a pinch, the bathroom can work well too (as long as there is good circulation!) If you’re staying with friends, talk with them in advance about having separate spaces for sleeping. Home offices work well as a makeshift nursery!
Bonus Tip: Use a SlumberPod!
The SlumberPod is a great option for families who travel often and need to create a separate sleep space for their kiddos. The SlumberPod is a safe and quick-assembly privacy pod that helps your baby and/or toddlers get a good night’s sleep, even while traveling. These pods are bottomless portable privacy pods that completely enclose standard play-yards, mini-cribs, and select toddler cots — giving your baby or child their own dark and private sleep space (like at home).
Convinced? Grab your SlumberPod here. And, my friend and fellow Sleep Consultant, Kala Guichard (owner of Sleep at Last and SlumberPod fanatic) graciously shared her discount code with me! Be sure to use sleepatlast10 at checkout to save $20 on yours today!
6. Nap On The Go
It’s okay to have more naps on the go when traveling. Ideally, if your little one is used to taking more than one nap a day, attempt a solid morning nap at the hotel or house where you are staying. Starting the day well-rested allows for more ﬂexibility for later naps to happen in the car, in someone’s arms, or in the stroller. It is not uncommon for naps to be more challenging when traveling.
Traveling can be tiring so also keep a close eye on your child’s sleep cues. Remember that if naps are short or happen on the go, bedtime might have to be 30-60 minutes earlier than normal.
7. Exceptions to the Rule
Above all remember, travel is temporary. You aren’t going to mess up your child’s sleep permanently after just a few nights. So, if you need to make exceptions to the “sleep rules” I’m giving you permission to do so, within reason. If your child refuses to nap all day long, that’s okay. Let it go and just keep on trucking. But, make sure you plan for an early bedtime and watch your child’s sleep cues. Try your best to stick to what you can, and give yourself and your kiddo grace with the rest. The ultimate goal is for everyone to enjoy the trip, and you can jump right back into your regularly scheduled routine and re-establish your child’s sleep habits once you are back home!
I hope you and your family enjoy the upcoming holiday season! I wish you safe travels and hope you have the best time on your out-of-town trips! Be sure to bookmark this blog so you can use these tips to ensure everyone gets the sleep they need. And of course, if you come back home and find that naps have gone out the window or bedtime has become a nightmare again, shoot me a message. We can work together to help your family re-evaluate and get to the bottom of your sleep struggles, so you all can sleep soundly again!