Five Tips to Stay on Track With Sleep During Travel
Taking a vacation can be an exciting time for the whole family, but it can also cause some stress and worry with all the planning and shuffling that is involved. To add to this stress, parents often worry about completely de-railing their child’s sleep schedule while away from home; especially if it seems your child has just started sleeping well.
Thankfully there are a few things you can do to help minimize the effects of the change in your child’s sleep environment and schedule.
1) Try to plan travel around nap and bedtime if possible. If you know your child won’t sleep on a plane or in the car, it is probably best to ensure he gets a nap and a full night of rest before traveling. I typically do not recommend red eye flights or long drives in the middle of the night, since children can often become over-stimulated in these environments. If a nap prior to travel isn’t possible, try and work one in once you’ve arrived at your destination and consider an early bedtime since travel can be exhausting for everyone.
2) Create a similar environment for your child while away. Keeping the exact same schedule and routine during vacation is nearly impossible, but it can help to replicate a similar environment to help her feel more comfortable during sleep. If she has a lovey, white noise machine, a special blanket, or music she loves at home, then I recommend bringing those things along. Also consider your child’s normal sleeping arrangements and try to plan a similar set up. If she sleeps in a crib in her own room at home and there is space to do so while away, I encourage that. It can be challenging for children to sleep with others if they aren’t used to it, or likewise if they are used to sharing a room, vacation isn’t the time to introduce independent sleeping.
3) Try and stick to your normal time zone if traveling for a week or less. It is best to stick to the same schedule for naps and bedtime even if there is a change in your time zone since it can take anywhere from 3-4 days to adapt. However, if you will be away for longer than a week I recommend gradually adapting to the new time zone. Expect that your child may rise earlier or later depending on the time shift and she may seem a little off which is normal.
4) Pay close attention to nutrition. Vacation is often a time of indulgence, which can mean more sweet treats. While you should enjoy these things on vacation, I still recommend monitoring your child’s sugar intake. Sugar too close to bedtime + the excitement of activities can cause your child to crash or have a very difficult time falling and staying asleep. Sugar in moderation is still best.
5) Try to have patience and understanding with your child. It is very common for children to throw a few extra tantrums or seem overly fussy on vacation because of the change in routine. Remember that children can become over-stimulated quickly, especially if your days are packed with activities, so you may want to also schedule some down-time.
There will likely always be some stress associated with traveling as a family but try to enjoy your time as much as possible. Vacation is all about creating memories and experiences together, so make sure to have a little fun too!