Summer is finally here and you are probably looking forward to spending time outside, going for stroller walks, exploring the parks, going to the beach and taking a vacation. But if this is your first summer as a parent, vacation takes on a vastly different meaning then it once did pre-parenthood. Gone are the days of relaxing on the beach with your trashy novel or endlessly exploring a new city without any real plan. Like most things that were once simple before you had a baby, travel too has become more complicated. If you have finally figured out how to get your baby sleeping well, taking a trip can be a daunting prospect. In fact, travel is one of the top five sleep stealers followed closely by illness, developmental milestones, teething, inconsistency. Inevitably, travel will cause some sleep disruptions for your child. There is really no way around this. You can, however, with a little planning, do your best to minimize the challenges and get her back on track as quickly as possible when you get home. Here are some tips to help everyone have as restful vacation as possible.
- Before heading out on the road, make sure you already have established a consistent and predictable pre-sleep routine for both bedtime and naps. This way, when you are traveling, you can replicate that routine and your child will find comfort in the familiarity of what happens before sleep. In general, the better your child sleeps at home, the better chance you have that she will sleep well while traveling.
- Try to recreate your child’s sleep environment when you are away from home. For some children, this may mean bringing with their crib sheet, a pillow, a favorite book and a nightlight. Don’t forget your white noise machine and most importantly, your child’s lovey (which should go in your carry on in case your luggage is lost).
- If at all possible, try having your child sleep in the same place for the whole trip. This means if your parents and your in laws live in the same city, try picking a “home base” for sleeping. You can switch and go to the other side of the family for the next trip. Switching sleeping locations frequently can disrupt sleep for even the most easy going sleeper.
- If you are staying at a hotel, be sure to contact them ahead of time to find out what they provide for your child to sleep in. Some have Pack n Plays, others feeble excuses for cribs with wheels that tend to roll away with your child in them. If you are not happy with the sleeping accommodations your hotel offers or you are staying with family who don’t have children, and therefore all the accoutrements that go with them, you can rent all sorts of baby/child related supplies (even toys!) from companies like Babies Away.
- Respect your child’s need for sleep. While traveling, it is understandable that many naps are going to be in the car or stroller, make sure that you are somehow helping your child get the day sleep he/she needs (if your child still naps). Bedtime may be late some nights but overall, aim for approximately the same bedtime as at home. This will help your whole family have a more enjoyable vacation since your child won’t be having meltdowns due to overtiredness.
- If you are traveling through time zones, wake your child at the usual wake up time both once you get to your destination and when you return home.
Once you get home, spend a couple of days working on getting back to your usual routine and returning to your normal schedule. No matter where you are going or what the trip turns out like, just remember, it gets easier and someday, you will be able to go on an actual vacation again that doesn’t require time to recover afterwards.