A huge thank you to Nicole Johnson, sleep coach and owner of The Baby Sleep Site, who offered these sanity-saving travel tips just as I’m beginning to obsess about sleep issues and toddler jet lag! In addition to being a sleep expert, she is also the mom of two boys (one of whom never let her sleep).
Once you’ve mastered the scavenger hunts and conquered the easy outings with your baby, it’s time to step it up and take an overnight trip with your little one. Grab your best girlfriend, or make it a family affair, but to deal with the anxiety about how your baby will sleep when she’s away from home, try these five travel sleep tips. They’ll also help keep you sane in the process.
1. Don’t Let Jet Lag Throw You For a Loop.
If you are going on a short (3 days or less) trip to another time zone, consider keeping your child on your home time zone for the duration of the trip. If your trip is longer than that, it will be virtually impossible to keep up with that 10 p.m. bedtime or waking up at 4 a.m., for example, so move your child to the new time zone as soon as possible (without torturing her with sleep deprivation!).
A good way to ease a child into a new timezone is to split the time difference on each of the first two days. So if the new time is three hours off her regular bedtime, put her to bed 1 ½ hours earlier or later (depending on where you are) and limit “sleeping in” to just the first day. Like adults, most children will adjust in a few days.
2. Establish Your Routine. Early.
Before traveling, make sure your baby’s routine is well-established. The more predictable his bedtime is at home, the better it will transfer to a new place. A good routine might include dinner, bath, pajamas, brush gums/teeth, read books, sing two songs and into bed. Try to stick to routine as close as possible on the trip for maximum success during the trip and when you get home and need to get back to normal.
3. Bring Home With You.
Reinvent home as much as possible when staying at a hotel or with family. Introduce a lovey that will give your child comfort being away from home. Consider taking your own blankets, white noise machine or music, books and any other security objects to ease the transition to a new place.
4. Consider Your Hotel Room.
Whenever possible, opt for a suite at an economical hotel, giving you adjoining rooms for roughly the same price as a single room at a higher end hotel. This can make your trip more relaxing, giving you the space to nap your baby and unwind after the kids are asleep at night (without having to hide out in the bathroom!).
Plus, having a quiet place can encourage your baby to sleep through the night. Also, pull the blackout shades over the windows to keep the room extra dark, for a few added zzz’s in the morning. (If, when staying with a friend, there aren’t curtains, a blanket will do.)
5. Allow plenty of time.
Traveling with little ones is no small feat. Relieve stress by building in extra time to get to your destination, allowing you to settle in, adjust to time changes and deal with delayed flights. If flying, consider taking an early morning flight to allow for a later nap in the hotel, should your child not sleep on the plane. (Planes are just too exciting for some little ones!)
If you’re driving, consider leaving around nap time, if your baby falls asleep well in a moving car. If he doesn’t, leave at least an hour earlier as the excitement of going on the trip can sometimes delay drowsiness.
The first time you travel, it
might not probably won’t go perfectly, but keep trying. Maybe your baby was too excited to nap on the plane, or the hotel room just didn’t smell like home, or you forgot your toddler’s blankie. The more you travel, the more routine it becomes for both you and your child. The adventure is worth it for both of you and nothing beats being able to kiss her goodnight and then snuggle with your hubby or girl talk with your best friend.
Thanks again to Nicole Johnson, sleep coach and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. She has become an expert on infant and toddler sleep and has made it her mission to help other parents solve their child’s sleep problems, too.