I hear it time and time again… “my baby was a good sleeper until we got back from our trip to the beach”. What happened?? We had such a fun vacation. We ate well, spent quality time doing fun activities and we slept in. Aha that last part- sleep- we might have hit on something here. What were the sleeping arrangements and sleep schedules like while you were on vacation? Did your baby or toddler have his own room with a crib just like at home or did everyone sleep all together in one big king size bed? Did naps just go right out the window because there was too much to see and do? Was bedtime at the stroke of midnight in order to watch the Disney fireworks?
When you are planning a family vacation with a baby or toddler, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You will have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one’s sleep schedule.
This will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip which is bound to make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone!
Here are some tips to help ensure sure your baby gets the sleep he needs during your travels:
Tip 1-Don’t over-schedule
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back in their “child-free” days. The fact is, when you travel with a baby you can’t plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and then go on a dinner cruise in the evening.
It’s better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home. Planning activities around that schedule is key and in the end will make for a happy baby which makes for a happy mom and dad.
Tip 2-Be consistent with naps and bedtime
An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby’s naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable.
This causes undue stress for the parents because now your baby, who has been happily chatting himself to sleep for weeks, is (a) crying so hard that you are sure everyone on the boardwalk can hear him and (b) your mother-in-law is standing outside the door repeatedly asking you if you are sure the baby is okay. This is a lot of pressure! And not what you envisioned when you booked your get-away. So again, consistency is worth the payoff.
Tip 3-Be patient as your baby acclimates to the new environment
Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you are in a strange environment things might be very different. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new.
Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply on the sixth floor of the Hyatt Grand Regency.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. Your toddler might decide to pull out every trick she knows to delay bedtime- drink of water, one more kiss, a sudden need for her socks or the tag in her pajamas is just too itchy. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Bedtime is non-negotiable right? Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer some reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.
Tip 4-Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket!
If your child has a treasured comfort item or lovey, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it and you will regret it!
Tip 5- If you are not a co-sleeping family…don’t start now
Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your baby decides that this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a BIG problem when you get home and put her back in her crib.
The good news is that most hotels have a crib you can use or rent (call ahead to check), or take your pack and play along and use that as a crib.
If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. This could be the bathroom (if it’s big enough) or the closet. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so if she wakes up in the middle of the night she is not so excited to see her two favorite people that she ends up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great, if that is an option for you.
So there you have it, 5 sleep tips for vacationing with your little ones. There is no need to cancel all trips and confine your family to your home until college rolls around. Use these simple sleep strategies and start making memories now!