Sunday, December 4, 2016

Travel tips for the holidays

Traveling with small children is sure to cause roadblocks in your child's sleep patterns.   In order to navigate these obstacles, create a road map around them so that you don’t bring all your good sleep habits to complete halt.

Having a plan will aid you and your family so you can enjoy your holiday travels without loosing precious sleep. The key to a successful plan is to have some flexibility when traveling with young children. When you're flexible you can adjust your plans to adapt to your children’s sleep needs so you all stay well rested.  

Extra support is normal

You can also expect that your child will need more assistance at sleep times, even if they don’t need it at home.  It is normal for children to need extra help to fall asleep in a new environment, so add that into your plan.  Take extra time with your bedtime routine and allow your child time to get used to the new sleeping space before bedtime arrives.  
At sleep times, if needed sit by your child’s bed or by the door to give them the extra assistance and comfort they need to fall asleep.  That is much better than regressing back to your old habits of rocking or feeding to sleep.

If your child is verbal you can explain what the sleeping arrangements will be and how they are different than at home.  Be sure to let them know in advance that when you return home everyone will go back to their own bed or what ever is your normal routine.   Follow through with that statement and get right back to your normal the first day you are at home.  This will make it easier on everyone in the long run.

Plan arrangements in advance

Find out in advance where everyone is going to sleep and what the family's holiday plans are for each day.  Ask yourself what aspects of your child’s sleep needs are you willing and able to be flexible about. Some things, like where your child sleep’s might not be negotiable to you and perhaps a hotel might be better.  

Nap times or bed time might be another aspect that you feel is not negotiable.   Perhaps one member of your family can step away or take a break from the activities so your child can get the sleep he needs. Whether that’s a room at grandma’s house or returning to your hotel or a stroll around the neighborhood.  

Can you politely request that dinner is early or have a lunch celebration so that your children can stick to the usual bedtime.  Planning ahead in these ways can prevent your child’s sleep schedule from getting completely off track.

Packing List

Don’t forget your child’s favorites and these key items you should not leave home without:

  • Travel crib or reserve a crib
  • Security object
  • Favorite bedtime books
  • Sound machine and/or white noise app on your phone
  • Night light (ideally small and no brighter than a 4 watt bulb).
  • Sheets and if age appropriate bedding (use the sheets from your child’s bed instead of freshly washed one so that they will have that familiar smell) 

Tip for the car or air travel

Plan for the drive or air travel by bringing age appropriate activities (music, audio books or books to read or games to play).  Children (and adults) don’t sit well for long periods of time so if driving play with your child when she is awake with age appropriate games.  For the younger baby peep-a-boo, tickle games or car toys.  Older children can color, play electronics, listen to books or watch a movie.

Be sure to stop frequently to allow your children to move around and stretch or for air travel allow them to move around before/after the flight as much as possible.

If sleep times should happen during while in transit go ahead and do a small version of your pre-sleep routine if you can. Then if try to make the environment darker (with window shades) and quieter (turn down the radio and turn up the white noise or play the familiar song your child uses at home before sleep).

Adjusting to Grandma’s or the Hotel

If staying at a hotel request a crib when making the reservation and the day before you arrive call again to confirm that they will have a crib for you.  Alternatively you can bring your own travel bed.

For younger children, have them in the room with you while you set up your child's sleeping room.  For an older child allow them to explore the room or hotel.  This will help your child get accustomed to the new sleeping environment and settle more easily at sleep time.  Give him some play time in the travel bed or crib, before you actually put him down for sleep.

Crib or room acclimation activities before sleep are great ways to help your child create a positive association with this new place.  While he is in the new crib, play games with him like peek-a-boo, read books or toss a soft toy back and forth. You can also both get down on the floor and allow him to explore the space together.

Try to avoid staying up past bedtime even though grandma (and your child) are having fun.  An overtired child will have a harder time settling at bedtime and often have nightwaking.

Get back to your normal

It’s common for children to have a small sleep regression when traveling and that is to be expected. The key is to not let the regression become a complete roadblock.  

When you arrive back home get back to your ‘normal routine’ - including your child’s usual bed, your normal bedtime routine and typical sleep schedule during the day.  Give your child a few days to adjust back to normal, if things were thrown off while away.  

If you are consistent with your normal routine at home, within a few days everyone should be back to ‘sleep as usual’ or where you were at before your trip.

Happy Holidays!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy