Summer is upon us. That means vacations and travel! Traveling with babies and children can be exhausting and many times parents come back from holidays needing a holiday from their holiday. It creates a unique challenge. One of the main concerns is around sleep and how to make sure everyone stays well rested while on holidays. Travel is one of the biggest causes of sleep disturbances in babies and children. Don’t let that scare you though!
When traveling with babies and children, it helps to keep things the same as they are at home. Stick to your schedule and routine as best you can. Try to make sleep a priority and plan activities around sleep and naps and keep doing things like naptime and bedtime routines. Of course this isn’t always possible, so just do your best.
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When you get back home, plan for everyone to be tired and adjust sleep accordingly. That may mean an earlier bedtime for a few days. The key to getting over the ‘holiday hangover’ is to get back to your normal as soon as you get back home. Get back into whatever routine you had before you left on holidays. It may take some time for everyone to readjust, but keep in mind that these are temporary sleep problems.
What you can do/bring
There are things you can do to make the transition easier for your little ones:
-Portable blackout blinds or garbage bags: Hotels usually have fairly good curtains that keep the light from filtering in but if you are staying with family or friends, you want to make sure that you create the same dark environment that they are used to at home. There are portable blackout blinds you can bring or you can get creative by using black garbage bags. Surprisingly quite effective.
-Recreate the home sleeping environment: Bring anything that would remind them of home. They are likely to be more comfortable sleeping in a new environment if they are surrounded by familiar things. Bring stuffies, blankets, crib sheets, sleep sacks, toddler clock, sound machine, night light, etc. Really anything portable from their room will help make a new environment more familiar. Of course you may be limited in what you can bring, bu a few small items will go a long way.
Accommodations while traveling
If you have to stay in a hotel, it can be a great idea to spend a little extra and get a suite with a bedroom, or even adjoining rooms. This way you can put baby down at an early hour or down for nap without having to worry about being quiet and hanging out in the dark for hours. If baby is in a separate room then you are free to watch tv and relax without worrying about waking baby up. Alternatively, you could also look at renting a condo or a house in the city/town you are visiting. Websites like AirBnB can provide you with some great options. Also keep in mind that hotels with pools = tired children.
Time Change/Jet Lag
If you are traveling across time zones, there is an added challenge. Overall children tend to cope better with time changes and jet lag than adults do. The reason for this is that babies and children are less capable of fighting their bodies natural inclination to sleep when they need it (doesn’t seem like it all the time though does it?). Overall, if the time change is minimal or if it’s a super short trip, then you may just want to stay in your own timezone for the time that you are gone.
Traveling East to West and West to East
If you are headed West, this is supposedly the easiest change. All you should do is keep baby up until their bedtime at the local time and then get them up at their normal wake up time and essentially just keep their home schedule the same. If you are headed East, it can be a little more challenging but basically you can put baby down when tired and ready to go to bed, but make sure baby is up at the time when they would normally get up if you were at home. Then you can keep their schedule the same as it would be at home. It’ll take a few days to adjust but they will.
If you are travelling longer distances, to a different country for example and the time change is significant, then expect it to be a bit tougher to adjust. Just like we experience jet lag, so do babies and children. There’s no magic wand to wave, we just have to do our best until they adjust. There are a few things you can do to help with the adjustment though. When you arrive in your new time zone, make sure to wake everyone up for meals. By having breakfast, lunch and dinner at the new time zone time, you are helping their body adjust to the local time. Exposure to lots of morning light can help as well.
It’s true that traveling is fun and exciting but it can also be challenging for many different reasons. I hope I’ve given you enough information to help keep your family rested while on vacation. The most important thing you can do is to go with the flow and have fun!