When my first son was 8 weeks old my husband and I decided to set off for a weekend vacation… with our little dude. We thought it would be a relaxing, recharging weekend. Not sure why we thought sleep would come in the hotel and not at home! We packed the entire house, and three trips to the car later we had it all loaded in for our whopping two-day stay. We did make memories of that trip as it was our first as a family of three, but we definitely did not come back recharged!
When you’re planning a family trip with a baby, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll 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 your 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 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. This doesn’t mean you have to be in your hotel room for all naps! Set out with the stroller and let your baby doze while you see the sights.
Tip 2: Do what you have to do on the airplane
Airplane travel with a baby is stressful. It is not the time to stick to “rules” and “routine”. Do what you have to do to make your baby comfortable (and quiet!). This may mean nursing to sleep or a pacifier the entire time. OH WELL! Sucking is good for their ears with the change in pressure and a quiet baby is so much less stressful! But once the wheels hit the ground, you need to jump back into the routine that has been working for your baby.
Tip 3: Be consistent with bedtime
An occasional later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby 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. I would plan a later evening every three days on vacation, but let her catch up in between. If you are staying with friends and family, consider getting a suite or adjoining rooms so that bedtime doesn’t have to be at 7 pm for you too!
Tip 4: 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’re in a strange environment it may be very different. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re someone new. Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer a bit of 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 5. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket
If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. I also suggest bringing the crib sheet straight from your baby’s bed and using it on vacation. If your baby is used to dark, make it dark in the hotel too. Maybe buy a backup lovie just in case your baby throws it over the stroller unnoticed while out and about.
Tip 6. If you’re 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 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 most hotels have a crib you can use or rent. You could also take your portable playpen along and use that as a crib.
Yes, vacations change when you bring your little ones. But it is so fun to show them the world and explore together. Even more fun when you have a rested little one! Happy travels!