Summer is now in full swing and that means travel for many families. If you have traveled with young children before, you know that it’s likely this adventure will create upheaval with even the best sleepers. Here are a few favorite tips to help keep your kids’ sleep on track when you travel.
- Set up a vacation routine. As soon as you can settle in, get your kids onto a vacation routine by adding some structure to each day. Match up your vacation routine as closely as you can to your home schedule by keeping wake, nap and bedtimes around the same time each day. Kids are more relaxed when they know what to expect and can anticipate what’s coming next. For example, “After breakfast, we go to the beach. After lunch, we take a nap,” and so on.
- Replicate bedtime routine and environment. Try to keep the environment where your child will be sleeping on vacation as similar as you can to the environment at home. It may be as easy as bringing a few familiar things with you, like a blanket, stuffed animal, nightlight and white noise. If your child will be in a portable bed or crib, try it out at home for a few nights before you go. The same holds for your bedtime routine. Do the same bath, stories, songs, etc. that you would at home. All of those familiar routines send cues to your child’s body that it’s time to sleep.
- Don’t stay up late. The weather is great. The sun is still out. The kids are happy. How can it be bedtime already? Don’t think you are doing your kids a favor by letting them stay up late on vacation. They may enjoy it in the moment, but you will do everyone a disservice. The kids may not sleep as well during the night if they are overtired; most night waking is due to a too-late bedtime. And you may find you have cranky kids the next day. Avoid having your vacation spiral into a state of overtiredness by sticking to the kids’ normal bedtime, which will also make returning home that much easier.
- Keep calm and carry on. Travel is hard on everyone, adults included. Expect sleep disturbances such as night waking, difficulty getting your child to sleep or resistance to naps. If you are prepared, it will be easier to keep calm and help soothe your child back to sleep. For older kids, make sure they know how to find you during the night, and where the bathroom is! They may be disoriented if they wake and don’t recognize where they are. Kids pick up on our energy and anxiety; if you are calm and not worried about their sleep, they can relax and not worry, either.
Travel is always a challenge, and it’s always unpredictable. Change can be hard for kids, and for some adults, too. Expect a few bumps in the road. If you remember to keep sleep a priority and stick to your routines, even when you are traveling, you can ensure that your family will be better rested and able to enjoy your well-earned vacation.