Tips to hopefully keep you sane while you travel with little ones!
So, you’ve decided to travel...
I think we can all agree that traveling these days are hard – I mean, forget about COVID, just everything about travel is, to me, icky! Throw in a baby or a toddler (or both!) - or kids of any age - and you have just entered “Pray for me” territory.
So, how do you keep your sleep trained child on their schedule in route to/from your destination and all the while you are away? Let’s break it down:
How are you traveling?
This is really going to determine what you do to maintain some sense of normalcy for your kiddo. You have a lot less control over mass transit schedules like planes and trains. And I think the key here is FLEXIBILITY! Make a plan and also plan for the worse. What does that plan look like when you don’t have control over the schedule? Try these tips:
Keep your nap routine as much as possible. Wherever you are, do your usual thing. Bring any books you typically read, have your child’s nap time lovey, etc. Making an attempt at giving your child the cues they are used to will go a long way.
Consider nap timing – when SHOULD they take a nap and what will you be doing at that time instead? Then, think about what adjustments you may need to make. If possible, try to err on the early side – try to get your little one to sleep earlier than needed or you might enter the point of no return or the “too late” zone. This may mean that you are getting to the terminal earlier than you typically would
Consider nap environment – where will you be during nap time? Will you sitting up right on a bus or plane? Under florescent lights at a station? Then, think about how you can optimize the sleeping environment for bebe. Is there space to lay her down? Are their curtains or space for you to tape up blackout makeshift curtains (i.e. black trash bags)? Maybe there is a darker space. I have heard of clients taping garbage bags to their car windows and hanging bedsheet makeshift curtains using chip clips and thumb tacs. Knowing it will not be perfect, the dimmer and darker you can find, the better.
You are in slightly more control – if you can leave about 30-60 minutes before a nap or bedtime, that would be ideal. This way, you can have a movement nap and hopefully get pretty far down the road before needing to stop for any reason. Again, try to keep to your routines as much as possible! But when it is not time to sleep, be sure you have toys, etc. to stimulate your child to make sure they stay awake when it is not nap time. If you have the space, have one parent sit in back with the baby to engage with him.
Even with all your careful planning and prep, a travel nap just may not happen. Do what you can to make your baby comfortable – sing, play quiet games, read stories. Consider it more a quiet time instead of a nap. Just be careful not to fall back on any crutches or sleep props!
Once at your destination
Finally!! You made it, phew!! Thank goodness the “getting there” part is done and now you are (hopefully) in a consistent place. This will be easier (read, not easy, just easier). Humans are very protective of their sleeping spaces and habits so any change has the possibility to disrupt sleep. But there are things you can do to help curb some of the anxiety with changes (these are true for adults, too, btw!):
Make sure our child has their own safe sleeping place
Make it dark!!
What else does your child use or have at home regularly that you can bring with you? A white noise machine, bedtime lovey, books, sheets from home, etc.
If possible, plan excursions around naps – I know I know. This is so much easier said than done. But it is so important for your little one to get the necessary sleep they require. It really should be a priority. We want sleep, not overtired melt downs!
Kids usually adjust pretty quickly. Give your child (and yourself) grace and a few days to acclimate. Be consistent and make your child’s sleep a priority. I promise, it will go a long way in making your trip that much easier. If your child has good sleeping habits and their routines aren’t completely upheaved, I think you will fare quite well.
And, if it is difficult (because sometimes IT JUST IS despite our absolute best efforts), just remember that your travel arrangements are temporary. With consistency, especially upon returning home, your child will be able to adjust back to normal pretty quickly. But if not, you have me, that’s why I’m here – please contact me with questions or if you need a refresher.
Have a wonderful, safe, and healthy trip!!