I’m not going to sugarcoat it — traveling with your kids is a challenge. It’s not even a vacation for you, really — it’s just you taking care of your child in a different zip code. But traveling is food for the soul, and we want our kids to have as many life experiences as possible before they become adults and refuse to travel with us.
But, how do you manage to keep your kids on the same sleep schedule they’re used to at home? The simple answer is: you can’t. Traveling is going to take a little bit of an adjustment, but there are helpful things you can do to make sure your kids get plenty of rest.
- Make sure your child gets one good nap in a day.
Naps. They’re every mother’s best friend. They help your child get the rest they need, which prevents them from becoming super cranky. If you can get your child to take one really good nap a day, the rest of your day will go over so much more smoothly. This will probably result in you having to spend about 2 hours in your hotel room in the middle of the day while they get a good nap in, but you know what means? That means YOU get to nap, too! A restful family is a happy family. Pro tip: If you need to have your child take their nap in their stroller, attach a white noise toy to the stroller, so it can help drown out street noise.
- Try to keep their bedtime the same as usual.
If your child is used to sleeping at 7-8 p.m., try to keep them at the same time frame. If you don’t want to miss out on being out at night, considering hiring a babysitter while you’re traveling. Some hotels have babysitting services as well, so it always helps to email or call the concierge and ask.
- Keep your routines the same.
Your child knows they’re not at home and not sleeping in their own crib, but it still helps to keep some routines the same. For example, brushing teeth, reading their favorite bedtime story and doing some snuggles before bedtime are all great ways to incorporate your usual routine into your vacations. It also helps to pack their favorite stuffed animal, lovey, or blanket.
- Plan ahead for time zone changes.
Plan ahead for whatever time zone you’re going to be in. Try changing meal times, bedtime and nap time a little to adjust to the new time zone. It will help your child adjust more quickly when they get there!
- Invest in a travel crib or Pack n’ Play.
When my son was a baby he would often play in his 4Moms Pack n’ Play and as he started to get older and we didn’t need it for daily use, we would take it with us when we traveled and used it as a travel crib. He’s now 2.5 and we still use it! It’s a good idea to invest in one, too, because not all hotels will have cribs you can use.
- Invest in a white noise machine.
Pack a good source of soothing background noise for your baby, like a white noise machine. Trust me, it’ll help drown out the noise of traveling and if you happen to have noisy hotel neighbors, it’ll be a big help.
- Get back to your normal sleep schedule right when you get back.
The second you’re back home, pretend you never left — it’ll help your kids get back into the groove of things. Getting them back on schedule as soon as possible is important — even if it means having to revisit sleep training for a few days.