If you’re like me, you’ve probably been thinking about your summer vacation plans for months. Our family has made incredible memories during our trips, whether we’ve hopped on a plane to Hawaii or taken a road trip to our cherished cabin. But it’s hard to make memories if your vacation is a blur thanks to a little one who’s fallen off their sleep schedule.
You don’t have to miss out on summer fun if you take your child’s sleep habits into account when planning your trip. Make it part of your pre-travel checklist, just like booking hotel reservations or buying theme park tickets. Here are some tips to keep in mind so you get some blissful summer R&R.
Be Flexible (Except When It Comes to Sleep/Wake Windows)
As we all know, traveling with kids is much different than going on a couples’ retreat or friends’ getaway. You trade in late-night dinner and dancing at the clubs for early breakfast and bouncing around to the local beaches and parks.
- Plan your schedule around baby’s sleep/wake windows as much as possible to maintain a consistent sleep routine. You don’t have to be looking at the clock all the time; instead, consider how many naps your child takes each day, and how long they’re awake between naps, and use that as your guide. It’s most important to keep the same wake window between the last nap of the day and bedtime.
- Time any outings in between naps if possible, or make sure that there’s a quiet spot at the location in case your child needs to rest.
- Soak up the sunshine (which shouldn’t be hard to do on summer vacation)! Sunlight, particularly in the mornings, helps produce melatonin and serotonin to reinforce your little one’s circadian rhythms. Don’t forget baby’s sunscreen and hat.
- Save the big activities for later in your trip. You may need a day to two to take it easy and get your little one acclimated to new surroundings, or to a time change if you’re jetting to a different time zone.
Make Sleeping Arrangements
You’ll rest easier on vacation if you take the time beforehand to create a safe sleep environment for your baby.
- Ask the hotel or vacation rental agency if they provide a crib, bassinet, or pack ‘n’ play. If possible, get the make and model to ensure it meets safety standards and isn’t part of a product recall.
- As an alternative, you can use a crib mattress on the floor.
- I always suggest parents bring an unwashed crib sheet so baby has the familiarity and comfort of home even in a new location.
- As you would at home, keep blankets, bumpers, and other soft items out of the crib, and make sure it’s safely positioned away from corded draperies or heavy objects.
- Create a sleep-friendly ambiance with a small amber or red light and a portable white noise machine.
- Sleeping in a pack ‘n’ play a few days before the trip is a great dry run for baby to get used to new sleep surroundings.
Sleeping for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Getting there is half the fun, unless you’ve got a fussy toddler on a cross-country RV trip or an international flight.
- If you’re driving on a road trip, stop every couple of hours so you and your child can get a break.
- Make sure the car seat is properly installed, isn’t missing any parts, and hasn’t popped up in a recent recall.
- Young babies who fall asleep in a car seat should be moved to a flat, safe surface as soon as possible, so plan a couple of rest stops if you’re traveling a great distance.
- Never leave a sleeping child alone in a car.
- Flying with a child weighing less than 40 pounds? You should bring an airplane-certified car seat so they’re properly restrained, especially for takeoff and landing, or during turbulence. You may choose for your baby to nap on your lap instead of the car seat during the flight, but regularly check to make sure their breathing is unobstructed. (Remember, you’ll need to make sure you have an extra seat next to you for the car seat.)
- Ask the airline if they have a special bassinet or child sleeper for your baby to lay on (often in a bulkhead row or first- or premium-class seat).
- Depending on the length of the flight, you may want to book travel during naptime.
Finally don’t leave home without me! Jen on Demand is my group coaching solution that offers support for your family’s specific sleep needs. You can watch my weekly coaching videos on your schedule, whether you’re at home or on the go. I hope you and your family make some treasured memories this summer!