Summer is almost here, and vacation season has officially begun. Whether you’re a beach or camping family, you don’t have to leave sleep behind as you pack your bags (or tent) and get ready to take off. What would you say if I told you that you and your kids could sleep well at home and while away? Would you roll your eyes so far into your head that you wondered if they would come back? It’s possible and I’m going to tell you how!
As a pediatric sleep consultant, travel is always one of the top questions I hear from current and past clients. Many parents are filled with anxiety, that they will stir the pot and suddenly have a child who has regressed back to waking up all night. It’s a legitimate concern and my clients have worked their butts off to get where they are. In fact, any parent who has sleep trained their baby or toddler knows that the struggle is real, but the reward is worth it.
My Checklist for Great Sleep While Traveling
- Pick the best accommodations. When booking your hotel room or arranging to stay with family or friends, keep in mind the ideal situation for your child and family and plan ahead. If you and your child are used to having separate spaces, try to keep it that way. This especially goes for children that are light and noise sensitive. My family just booked a vacation for the end of the summer and although it’s going to cost us more, we knew we could not tip toe around our beach condo at night, our daughter would wake and drive us all crazy. We are paying more for two bedrooms because sleep matters so much to us. I suggest that if you can, book your hotel room with two bedrooms or separate rooms ideal for sleeping (a bedroom and a living room would work). If that isn’t an option, look for a hotel with an unconventional space for your child to sleep. I’ve been known to park my daughter in a large closet to sleep in while traveling. A well-ventilated bathroom is another option. Don’t panic or gasp, this works like a charm and I guarantee you’re thinking about doing this next time you’re in a bind.
If room sharing is your only option, consider adding some separation to the room. Place your child across the room from you and add a divider if possible. This may take some ingenuity so research this before you leave for your vacation if possible.
If your baby or toddler is sleeping in their own crib or bed, never share a bed on vacation. It just takes a few nights of co sleeping to create some hard to break habits when you get home. Plan to bring your Pack N Play, borrow one from a friend, or request a crib from the hotel.
- Recreate your child’s bedtime routine. I suggest you bring your child’s most familiar items and bedtime routine with you on vacation. Even something as simple as their favorite teddy or their bedtime story can bring enough familiarity to cue restful sleep.
Here’s what to bring: white noise machine, lovie or stuffed animal, sleep sack, bedtime books, and a baby monitor. If you’re flying, pack these items in your carry on, just in case your bag is lost or delayed.
- Darkness is key for restful sleep. Blocking the sunlight in the early morning as well as for bedtime and naps will be key for your little one to get some much-needed sleep. If you’re wanting a DIY approach, try taping black trash bags against the windows and close the curtains on top of this (practicality over style). You could also try a sheet, if it’s dark enough, with some binder clips or clothespins.
If you’re looking for a stress-free solution that you can just throw in your suitcase, I’ve got you covered. The SnoozeShade is a fantastic option that provides complete darkness for your little one while traveling. The shade fits right over a standard Pack N Play. I have personally used this for my daughter, when we go camping, and it’s worked like a charm. I’m happy to share with you my 10% discount – just click this link and use my code SLEEPSOL10.
- Maintain some consistency. I want your vacation to be full of activities and fun so please be flexible, your child’s sleep isn’t going to be perfect and that’s ok. I would suggest however maintaining as much of your daily schedule as possible for naps and bedtime.
Naps on the go are convenient and a must on vacation! My suggestion is to try to keep the first nap at the normal time and in an ideal space for sleeping (where you’re staying at night), so your child is ready for a fun filled day. This nap tends to be the most restorative so that’s why I always try to preserve it if possible. The rest of the day your child can nap on the go, in the stroller or car seat or even on the beach on their towel. SnoozeShade also makes a stroller and a car sear cover, so your little can sleep better on the go. Also, try an inexpensive travel white noise machine and hang it in the stroller or by the car seat. For smaller babies, a carrier is a great place for naps on the go!
You can always move bedtime earlier if your baby or toddler is showing signs of tiredness earlier than normal. Keeping them up longer is a sure way to have a party pooper on your hands.
I hope this guide is helpful for you, as you plan your next adventure. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! These are the memories that your children will look back on and cherish more than anything. If you’re struggling with sleep when you get home, just reach out. There’s nothing we can’t fix with a few easy steps.
For the tired mama….
You may be reading this and wondering if this is even applicable to you because your baby doesn’t sleep at home or away. These tips are great for all kids, give it a shot! You have nothing to lose!
When you get home and are wondering how to get baby to sleep, reach out! As a child sleep specialist, I offer judgment free support and advice. I’m a mom too, I’ve been there! With so many sleep training methods out there, you’re sure to need the guidance of a professional.