Travel Sleep Tips: Keep Calm and Carry On

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5 tips to keep sleep on track on vacation

Summer is officially here, and for those of us in the US, July 4th means travel for many families. If you have traveled with young children before, you know that it’s likely this adventure will create upheaval with even the best sleepers. Here are a few of our favorite tips to help you keep your kids’ sleep on track when you travel.

  • Write off travel days. As a wise friend taught me, “The airplane is not a place to teach kids a lesson.” Don’t worry too much about being off your normal schedule on the days you are traveling to and from your location. Chances are you will miss a nap, or have to wake up early or stay up late. Do your best to encourage sleep (or at least quiet rest time) as close to normal naps times as possible, but just know that everything will be off that day. Try not to stress about it too much. But also, don’t expect too much of your children. Keep the rest of the day simple and don’t plan any big outings or late nights upon arrival.

  • Establish a routine. As soon as you can settle in, get your kids onto a vacation routine by adding some structure to each day. Match up your vacation routine as close as you can to your home schedule by keeping wake, nap, and bedtimes around the same time each day. Kids are more relaxed when they know what to expect and can anticipate what’s coming next. For example, “After breakfast, we play outside. After lunch, we take a nap,” and so on.

  • Replicate bedtime routine and environment. Try to keep the environment where your child will be sleeping on vacation as similar as you can to his environment at home. It may be as easy as bringing a few familiar things with you, like a blanket, stuffed animal, nightlight, and white noise. If your child will be in a portable bed or crib, try it out at home for a few nights before you go. Same goes for bedtime routine. Do your same bath, stories, songs, etc. that you would at home. All of those familiar routines send cues to your child’s body that it’s time to sleep.

  • Don’t stay up late. The weather is great. The sun is still out. The kids are happily running around. How can it be bedtime already? Don’t think you are doing your kids a favor by letting them stay up late on vacation. They may enjoy it for the moment, but you will do everyone a disservice. The kids may not sleep as well during the night if they are overtired. And you may find you have cranky kids the next day. Avoid having your vacation spiral into a state of overtiredness by sticking to their normal bedtime, which will also make returning home that much easier.

  • Keep Calm and Carry On. Travel is hard on everyone, adults included. Expect sleep disturbances such as night waking, difficulty getting your child to sleep, or resistance to naps. If you are prepared, it will be easier to keep calm and help soothe your child back to sleep. For older kids, make sure they know how to find you during the night, and where the bathroom is! They may be disoriented if they wake and don’t recognize their surroundings. Kids pick up on our energy and anxiety so if you are calm and not worried about their sleep, they can relax and sleep easy.

For more tips on promoting healthy sleep while traveling, read my blogs from my family’s trip last summer. Have a great vacation and sleep well!

2 Responses to “Travel Sleep Tips: Keep Calm and Carry On”

  1. Great advice, thank you! Also, do you have any suggestions for time changes. We are going on vacation in a few months and will have a 3hr (earlier) time change. Our DD is a great sleeper, however I’m not sure what changes we need to make with this time change to allow her to continue her great sleep routine? Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

2 Responses to “Travel Sleep Tips: Keep Calm and Carry On”

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