Sleep tips for holiday travel

holiday travelHolidays and holiday travel often throw our children for a loop both in terms of their behavior and their sleep.  Some children are rather adaptable and cope well with changes and disruptions while others have a harder time with it.  For many children, the holidays mean that schedules are disrupted or there are environmental circumstances are beyond parents’ control.  Here are some tips to help with holiday travel sleep disruptions.  Keep in mind, if your child sleeps well at home, it is likely that he will sleep well while traveling but some children really struggle with sleep away from home:

  • Try to stick to your same nap and bedtime routine that you have at home while you are away.  This will help our child know what to expect and when to expect it.
  • Try to replicate your child’s sleep environment from home as much as possible.  Be sure to bring along your child’s security object, bedtime stories, and night light.  For babies, if he will be sleeping in a crib while traveling, bring along the crib sheets from home.  Children are very sensitive to smell often find comfort in their familiar smelling bedding.
  • Don’t forget to bring along the white noise—especially if you use it at home.  If you don’t have room, there are many white noise apps available.  Even if you don’t use white noise at home, it can be a good idea for travel where you may have less control over the environmental noises both in a hotel and while staying with relatives.
  • Black out the windows where your child will be sleeping.  Hotels typically have great black out curtains.  If you will be in a home, you can use dark colored disposable table cloths or even garbage bags behind curtains or shades to make rooms darker.
  • Make sure you have a good place for your child to sleep.  Check with your hotel to find out if they have pack n plays or portable cribs.  Hotel portable cribs are often metal and not very sturdy.  If you have an older child, sometimes a pack n play is a better option.   Since holidays are busy times for hotels, make sure to reserve the pack n play ahead of time.
  • If your child is still napping and especially if he is under 3 years old, try to return to where he is sleeping at night for naps as well.  This may not be convenient and if it isn’t possible, a nap in a stroller or the car is better then no nap at all.
  • If it is possible for your children to sleep in a separate room from you, this usually makes things easier.  If it isn’t possible, try putting up a visual barrier by hanging a bed sheet so they can’t see you.
  • Avoid overly exciting activities right before bed.   As a general rule, avoiding television or other screens an hour or two before bedtime is advised as it can interfere with melatonin production.
  • If you are traveling across time zones and you are only going to be gone a few days, you can consider keeping your child’s schedule on your home time zone.   Be sure to keep meal times appropriate for your home time zone as well.  If you are going to be gone for longer or the time change is too great, check out this article for helping your child adjust to time zone changes.
  • Try to stick to your child’s schedule as much as you can while still having fun on your trip.  Parents are often of one of two schools of thought:  we are going to throw caution to the wind with the schedule and deal with the consequences later or we are going to stick to the schedule even though it may mean sacrificing some vacation fun.  Which ever you choose, there will be a few days needed for adjustment when you return home.  Help your child get back on track by quickly returning to your normal, consistent and predictable routine when you are home again.

 

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