After a long and cold winter of your family being stir crazy, traveling for spring break is always a fun break for the family. Whether you’re flying to somewhere warm and tropical, or you’re taking a road trip close to home, getting some fresh air with the family is a good way to have fun and let loose.
But as a mom, you know that traveling with your sweet babies can be stressful. Packing and making sure you have all the blankies and pacifiers, getting to the airport, checking to make sure your kids aren’t wandering, all of those aspects are so stressful. Add in the fact that your baby’s sleep is going to get wonky, spring break might not sound to appealing anymore.
I have good news though! Your baby’s sleep doesn’t have to suffer just because you’re traveling. If you plan ahead and follow these five tips, your baby can get the sleep that they need on your next spring break vacation.
It’s important to factor in how long your travel time will be and what the time change is. In most cases, sleep will get interrupted, so you can strategically plan the interruptions to work to your advantage.
If you are traveling from West to East, I prefer to leave early in the morning so that my kids are exhausted and ready for bed when we arrive at our destination. On the other hand, when we’re traveling from East to West I do the opposite. I’ll schedule our ﬂights to get in on the later side
For car trips, my biggest question is will the kids will sleep on the go? If so, then I like leaving for car trips (longer than 3 hours) about 90 min before bedtime. They have a little time to adjust to being in the car, enough time to get bored, and then they’ll be ready to fall asleep right on time. If they won’t sleep on the go, then leave in the morning and just power through their boredom and fussiness.
Overall, don’t stress about getting good nap lengths. ANYTHING is better than nothing. The good news is that traveling makes kids tired and they lose all sense of time. This makes the actual journey exhausting and stressful but can actually work to your advantage quite well for adjusting their schedules to a new time zone.
2. Tired Teddies
The biggest tool in my “travel with kids” toolkit is a little bear-shaped, bubblegum-ﬂavored dose of melatonin. I don’t recommend using melatonin consistently but it’s magical for travel. Melatonin is what our brains naturally produce to make us sleepy. It’s the hormone that regulates our body clock.
Tired Teddies are great to help your most alert kids become drowsy and push them over the edge if they otherwise power through and try to stay awake. They’re also great because it naturally resets your baby’s body clock, giving you a clean slate when traveling to new time zones. However if your little one is prone to night terrors, probably don’t do melatonin.
3. Create a Sleep Space
The first two pointers above will get you off on the right foot, but creating a sleep space is your key to good sleep while you’re away from home. You will probably need to be creative here.
For kids under 2.5 it is absolutely necessary that they have their own, undisturbed sleep space (unless they share a room with you at home). Get a travel bassinet for little babies or a travel pack n play that is a little more compact and can ﬁt in smaller spaces and bring some white noise.
Try not to have your baby sleep in your room Instead, try setting them up in your bathroom, bedroom closet, walk in shower, Entry way (in a hotel room—that narrow walk way when you ﬁrst open the door. If they do have to sleep in your room, put them in the corner or the bedroom and arrange furniture around them so it creates a space for them.
If you’re staying at a relatives house or sharing a house with a couple other families, pay attention to potential noises that could disturb baby’s sleep. Pick a room upstairs instead of downstairs and avoid picking a room close to the kitchen or living room where there will be lots of noise during sleep times
4. Protect Sleep
I know it’s hard to prioritize sleep while you’re on vacation. Babies who get crap daytime sleep will sleep way worse at night. Toddlers who go to bed too late will still wake up just as early and they’ll be grumpy monsters during the day. Vacations are happier when we’re all sleeping well.
Learning how to incentivize our children is one of our most important parenting tools. Before you roll your eyes and believe yourself to be above bribery, the world operates off of incentives.
It won’t work for all kids, but for some, a simple incentive to have a nap or go to bed without a fight can be really helpful. “If you take a nap you can have _____ when you wake up.” Or “every nap this week earns you $1 to spend on anything you want!”
Above all, try to stay ﬂexible and patient. Your sleep quality while you’re away from home just won’t be quite as good. Roll with it. Try not to stress about it too much. Enjoy your family, and have fun making new memories! And when you get home, jump right back into your old (good) habits. They’ll adjust back in no time!
Chrissy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, mom of three (soon to be four!), and lover of sleep! She owns her own sleep consulting company The Peaceful Sleeper, where she helps mamas and their babies get the sleep that they need. You can follow her on Instagram @the.peaceful.sleeper and check out her website thepeacefulsleeper.com.
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