Does your family have travel plans? Where ya going? Whether it’s a vacation to the beach or a road trip to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, sleeping away from home can be difficult for some children. Here are a few tips to make your trip enjoyable.

Choose the right travel time for your family – It’s a good idea to think about your child’s sleep personality when choosing your travel time. Does your little one fall asleep the minute you get in the car? If so, an overnight road trip may fit great! On the other hand, if your child refuses to sleep anywhere but a crib, daytime travel is probably your best option.

Pack smart – When packing for your trip, think about bringing things that will assist you in creating a sleep space that is as similar to their home sleep environment as possible. Things to consider –

Setting up the new sleep space – When you arrive at your travel destination, spend some time with your child in their sleep space.  For babies, play, feed and relax in this space to familiarize them. For older children, allow them to be a part of the set up process and have an age appropriate conversation about where they will be sleeping and set your sleep expectations. If you typically sleep independently at home and are sharing a room with your child during your travel explore ways of creating separate sleep spaces in your vacation room. For example, placing the pack n play on the opposite side of the room with a tall chair between you and them creating a visual boundary between your sleep spaces. No one wants to wake up early on vacation so make sure to room darken in a safe but effective way. A fan or white noise maker is also a great idea when on vacation because it can assist the whole family in getting from one sleep cycle to the next without fully waking when there are unfamiliar noises taking place in the hotel or other travel locations.

Nap Map – Realistically, napping may not be as easy when your family is on a trip. You have fun events planned, family get togethers and more and naps do not always fit into that equation. If this is true, I suggest nap mapping. By this I mean looking at your day and seeing where you can fit in a solid nap and then if there is a chance to do a car nap or stroller nap to make up for a missed one. For example, your 9 month old typically naps 2x per day and goes to bed at 7:30. Dinner with the Princesses starts at 4:00 pm. Look at your day and think about how you can make this work.

Typical Day –

Wake up – 6:30 am

Nap 1 – 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Nap 2 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Bedtime – 7:30 pm

Vacation Day –

Wake up – 6:30 am

Nap 1 – 9:45 to 11:30 am (in hotel)

Nap 2 – 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm (1 sleep cycle in car on the way to dinner)

Bedtime – 7:30 pm

If a missed nap is just the only way around your day, that’s ok, but pack your patience as we know many kiddos reach a level of overtired that isn’t always enjoyable. Try to arrange for a solid nap sleep day the day after to help get back on their normal sleep rhythms. Hopefully your little one is great at on the go naps for vacations but if they are, know that these naps are typically in a more stimulating environment. If they are use to quiet/dark naps, they may be able to doze off for an on the go nap but they may not reach the level of deep sleep they typically do and may still seem tired when they wake. If cat naps are inevitable, try to make sure they are properly timed and at least one sleep cycle long.

How to find sleep again if the wheels fell off on vaca – Try to use the same response at wake up while you are traveling that you would while you are at home. Our goal is to get as much sleep on vacation as possible but staying consistent in the level of support you give while away will help avoid creating new sleep associations that you may have to address when you return home. Sometimes this is not possible, for example if you are at Grandma’s house and baby crying is waking everyone in the house. In that situation, do what you need to but be patient that baby may wake more often looking for this assistance. The expectation of that response may also continue when you return home. Once home, pack your patience, return to your sleep plan (or typical level of assistance) and allow a few days of your consistency to guide them back to their normal sleep level.

Want even more sleep tips?  Check out our Travel Sleep Video Series for immediate assistance in nap mapping, information on changing time zones and much more.


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