As a general rule it is a good idea to return to your normal routine as soon as you can.
Some children return to their normal sleep patterns without much fuss. With others you need to do some sleep training, but it falls into place much faster then the first time.
When you return from vacation try to keep the schedule clear for a few days so you can make sleep and returning to your normal routine a priority. I hope these tips below help you and your family have a fun, but sleep filled, summer vacation.
For your packing check list, here are a few items you should not leave home without:
- Travel crib, sheets, pillowcases
- Crib blankie, sleep sack, security object
- Sound machine and/or white noise app on your phone
- Bedtime books
- Night light with a small 4 watt bulb
- Garbage bags or black flat sheets (from Wal-Mart) to cover windows
- Pushpins, electrical tape and/or binder clips
MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: Wal-Mart sells flat sheets very inexpensively in black. I never traveled with my girls without our black sheets and binder clips (to hang them), just in case the room wasn't dark enough for naps or nighttime.
- Bring familiar objects from home and set them up around the room.
- Bring bedding from home that your child has already slept on rather than a freshly washed sheets. The familiar smell will help your child feel more at home.
- If your child will be sleeping in a travel bed from home, have him get used to the bed by sleeping in it at home for a few days ahead of time.
Adjusting to the New Space
While you set up your child's sleeping room, have them in the room with you. This will help your child get accustomed to the new sleeping environment. Give him some play time in the playpen or crib when you arrive at your new destination, before you actually put him down for sleep.
MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: 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.
When possible keep your bedtime routine the same as it is at home. E.g. If your child always has a bath then reads a book before bed, try to do this while on vacation as much as possible. Respect your child's need to sleep while on vacation. Avoid keeping your children up past their bedtime or skipping naps. Try to stick to your at-home daily sleep schedule if you can.
- Plan out your days so that you are able to get back to your "home base" for nap times.
- Bring a playpen and set it up in a dark quiet room at guest's houses.
- Time car trips so that your child can have their nap in the car.
- Have your child nap in the stroller by finding a quiet location to go for a walk.
MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: If you have a method of sleep training that you used successful at home, you can re-visit this method to help your child settle in their new sleeping space without starting new habits that you don't want to keep when you get home.
Changing time zones can be difficult for both adults and children. Here are a few tips to help your child (and yourself) adjust to the time change.
- Try to switch your child's eating and sleeping schedule onto the real time of the location you are in as quickly as possible. Ideally within 24 hours from when you arrive. This may mean getting your child up from naps early so he doesn't nap too late in the day or waking him up in the morning even if he went to bed late the night before.
- Exposure to daylight during proper wake times will help your child's body adjust to the time change more quickly.
- Flights that land in the afternoon at the destination and time changes of less than three hours usually make for an easier adjustment.
Have realistic expectations and be flexible. Planning ahead is essential, however, even the best laid out plans will always have snags! Even if things get thrown off for your child, don't let yourself become so stressed that you don't enjoy your vacation. Once you are home you should get back to your 'normal' routine within 1-2 days so you can get your child's sleep back on track asap.
Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy