My friends often ask me, “You’re the sleep expert, how do I make sure my child sleeps well while on vacation?” I always remind them that when traveling with a baby and/or toddler, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one’s sleep schedule.
This will help ensure that everyone gets the rest they need to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip—which is bound to make your vacation much more enjoyable for everyone!
Here are some tips to help ensure sure your baby gets the sleep they need during your travels:
Tip 1: Don’t over-schedule.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back in their “child-free” days. The fact is, when you travel with a baby or toddler, you can’t plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and go on a dinner cruise in the evening. Not unless you brought someone your child trusts to look after them back at the hotel while you take off. But where is the family fun with that?
It’s better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes if you’ve had an exciting day, just like you would at home.
Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime.
An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime should be avoided, but may happen. However, if your baby’s naps are all over the place and they go to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your child WILL become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown is inevitable.
Tip 3: Be patient as your child acclimatizes to the new environment.
Even if your child is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you’re in a strange environment, things might be very different. It’s normal for babies to need more reassurance and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re some place new.
Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at the hotel or Grandma’s house.
If your child is over a year old and sleeps in a separate room at home, try to get a hotel room with a separate bedroom or living room area, so that you aren’t disturbing them while they sleep. If this isn’t possible, try to put up a sheet or blanket to section off an area for your child to sleep without being distracted by your presence.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this is to react the same way you would at home. Go to them every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and should be sleeping well again.
Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket.
If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a different environment. Forget it at your peril!
Tip 5. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start now.
Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your child decides this is their new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home and try to put them back into the crib or their own bed. Also, bed sharing is not recommended for under the age of 1 year as it is a SIDS and suffocation risk.
The good news is; most hotels have a crib or pack ‘n play you can use or rent. You can also take your own pack ‘n play along and use that as a crib with a fitted sheet.
Life is hard when you're not sleeping. As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I teach families how to live a well-rested life.