Whoohoo, you’re traveling!
I love traveling – who doesn’t?! Now that my kids are older, it’s usually a lot easier managing car rides and plane rides. However, when they were babies and toddlers and even worse, I was traveling without my husband, it would make me sweat.
A lot of parents worry that traveling will cause problems with their child’s sleep, even possibly cause a sleep regression. I’m here to tell you, that doesn’t have to be the case!
Stick to Your Routines and Timing
One of the most important things to remember when traveling with infants or young children is to try your best to stick to their routines. Take everything with that you would need for the bedtime routine – sleep sack, books, lovey – and yes, I would suggest even bathing them while on vacation. For naps, do your child’s nap routine when you want them to sleep, even if they are in the car or the stroller. It’s a cue for their brain that sleep is near.
Get your child to bed on time! When a baby is stretched too long before bed you can end up with crying at bedtime, restless sleep or wake ups, and early wakes. We definitely want to avoid that! For toddlers and preschoolers if kept up too late, they get their second wind and go into hyper mode! This can lead to a lot of energy at bedtime and possibly more stalling, delay tactics, and asking for more during the routine. Either that or they crash out and then wake up the next day at the crack of dawn! Then you have a tired, cranky toddler on your hands and we all know how that goes…
Airplanes and Car Rides
Try to plan travel for the morning when children tend to be at their best. Take everything with you in the car or on the plane that you would need for naps. When it’s time for sleep, do your nap routine so your child knows it’s sleepy time. If your child is under 2 years and a lap child, they will be napping in your arms and that’s ok for this special occasion.
If your toddler or preschooler happens to miss their nap altogether on a travel day, no big deal. Just get them to bed earlier that night.
One thing I learned flying solo quite a bit with my kids, is it’s best to have new things for them to explore. Bring new books, new toys, fidgety toys, new teethers, etc. I introduced playdough for the first time (yes, playdough) to one of my children on a plane, and it kept them busy for a while. Stickers were also a good time suck, along with a reel of floss. And snacks! Lots and lots of snacks!
Time Zone Changes
Jump into the new time zone as soon as you can! I have found children tend to adjust more quickly than adults and the sooner you can get on local time, the sooner everyone’s bodies can start to adjust.
You usually have to force this change, so it might mean you are putting your child to bed early (on the new local time) or waking them the next morning to get on the local time.
If the difference in time is only an hour, you could just try and stay on your home time, so while away, your schedule is off by 1 hour.
If the difference is greater or when traveling overseas, expect it to take a couple days to adjust to the local time, and then once back home there will be another adjustment phase.
Request to have a crib in the room or bring a portable crib with you. If there is the option for your child to have their own room, that’s preferable. If that is not an option or you don’t feel comfortable with that, room sharing is completely fine! Try to set up your child’s crib as far away from your bed and consider using a visual barrier so they can’t see you. There are some great products on the market that go over a portable crib to create a separate darkened space that might be worth the investment.
Sleeping Arrangements For 3 – 8 year olds
It’s always best if a child can sleep in a separate room on their own bed, but that accommodation is not always an option when traveling.
If they can’t sleep in their own room, then the next best thing is to share with a sibling. Preferably they are still in their own bed, on a cot, or in a sleeping bag on the floor.
If the only option is for everyone to sleep in the same room, it’s best for your child to sleep in their own bed, on a cot, or in a sleeping bag on the floor over co-sleeping if co-sleeping isn’t something you typically do at home.
If co-sleeping is the only option and your child is typically an independent sleeper, explain to them that this is a special occasion. The older they are, the better chance you have of them understanding and accepting that reason. No matter what age though, just be prepared for testing once back home. Many children see the “special occasion” as something they want to make permanent.
Try Not to Stress
You’re going on vacation! It’s a time to relax and have some fun. Take the pictures, go on the adventures, and don’t stress if a nap is off. There is nothing that can’t be fixed once back home. I promise.
Traveling with children can be stressful, especially if sleep is already iffy. If you need more one-on-one support about traveling with little ones or you’ve just returned from a trip and you are struggling to get sleep back on track, schedule a FREE Discovery Call so we can chat.