Vacation after children takes on a new meaning. I like to think of our vacations as “trips” now (because they really can be a “trip” with a small child!). I was in for a rude awakening (no pun intended) last year when traveling with my then 10.5-month-old who decided it was the perfect time to learn to crawl. For those of you unfamiliar, evidence shows that learning to crawl disrupts sleep. Add crawling to her first “vacation” and you’ve certainly got a trip! Thank goodness she’s cute. But I digress…
One of the biggest concerns as parents head out on the road for summer travels is their children’s sleep. How do we enjoy vacation and maintain any sort of schedule? How do we do our best to ensure a good night’s sleep for our child? It can be done!
Start with these four must-haves:
White noise is an excellent way to help cancel out any extraneous noise in a hotel or rental home, and super easy to pack. If you don’t want to pack up your white noise machine from home, you can always rely on a white noise app on a phone or tablet.
Blackout shades are key as well. Now, I’m not suggesting you take down any blackout shades from home and pack them, but I am suggesting that you look into purchasing something like Redi Shades (under $30 on Amazon for a 6-pack of paper shades that can be trimmed to size). Redi Shades can attach to any window frame without any tools (they are peel and stick!). Creating this dark, quiet environment for your child will help ensure that they are able to sleep comfortably at both nap time and at night. It can also be helpful to bring a few items that your child typically has in their sleep space, such as a lovey or special blanket. Anything to recreate the normal sleep routine will help make this new environment more comforting.
Separate space for your child to sleep may sound impossible if you’re planning to share a hotel room with your little, but there are ways to create this space, including the use of a bathroom, a large closet, or a make-shift room divider made of sheets or towels. Yes. I realize I sound insane. But which would you prefer—a decent night’s sleep or a sleepless night with a child not used to sharing a space with her parents? (Maybe you’re into all-nighters, but I’m certainly not!) You’d be surprised how well the bathroom and closet trick works.
I recently had a client from Europe share her child’s sleep space while on a trip to Paris—she used a towel to blackout the large window in the bathroom where her son slept soundly, allowing mom and dad their own space and a good night’s sleep. Well-rested babies are happy, as are well-rested parents!
Flexibility, but still maintaining some sort of schedule and routine for your child is important. Children thrive on routine and an overtired child can have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep (and may wake early the next morning–later to bed does not mean later wake up!). While I typically recommend naps in a crib, I also know that your vacation activities may have you out of the house or hotel during the day. If your child is on two naps, I would try to have at least one of those naps in the crib and perhaps one in a stroller. If your child is on one nap, I would urge you to plan your day around that nap—beach in the morning, lunch at home, nap at home, back to the beach for the afternoon/evening. (Ah, vacation!)
While prioritizing your child’s sleep is probably not number one on your list of things to do on vacation, remember that this too shall pass. Babies grow, children turn to teenagers, and a good night’s sleep is worth it! After all, vacation is supposed to be about rest… right? Have a nice trip!
Want more? Arielle Greenleaf, owner of Expect to Sleep Again and the Seacoast Moms Blog resident sleep expert, is ready to help you and your child rest easier! Stay tuned for more expert advice and email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.