RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU WANT SOME ASSURANCES THAT YOUR BABY WILL SLEEP ON VACATION?
While we can’t guarantee your baby will sleep on your holiday, we understand the fears and challenges regarding sleep that can come along with travel. To help address those challenges, we went to the experts at WeeSleep to get answers to your most important sleep questions.
Consistency is key when it comes to great sleep for babies and toddlers. The best way to ensure your little one will sleep well on the road is to create a familiar sleep environment. So, if your little one sleeps in a crib at home, ensure he has a crib or pack n’ play to sleep in when you are elsewhere. If he uses a sleep sack, if he cuddles a snuggly buddy toy at night, if there are blackout blinds in his room at home, and if you have a white noise machine in his nursery, be sure to take each of these things with you when you are away from home to create a familiar, comfortable sleep environment for him.
(Packing tip from BCT: rather than bring a white noise machine, we use an iPhone app instead)
My suggestion when travelling to an area in a different time zone is to simply jump into the new time zone and treat it like an ordinary day at home. It may take a few days for things to adjust, but sleep will get on track within a few days in your new place of travel.
You may experience some extra night wakes or daytime crankiness for the first few days after your baby is introduced to a new time zone, but as long as you simply jump into the time zone (see #2) and roll with it, your baby should adjust very quickly (this is thanks to his circadian rhythm – it’s the beauty of being a baby!)
Babies and toddlers thrive on consistency and predictability; so, continuing a consistent bedtime routine each night when you are away from home will help to ready your child for sleep and make bedtime much easier on everyone! If you can’t swing a bath, simulate one with a warm, damp cloth and a quick wipe down. Baths are great sleep cues for little ones, so it’s an important step – try not to skip it!
Much like # 2, I suggest simply jumping back in to your time zone at home when you return from travels, and your baby should adjust quite quickly. When you get back, I suggest keeping it low key around the house for a couple days to wind down and get back into at-home routines.
While I don’t recommend that every nap be on-the-go when you are travelling, a few car naps, stroller Zs, and baby-carrier-snoozes are to be expected when you are on the road. Whenever you can manage it, ensure that at least the first nap of the day is in your hotel (or rental house, condo, etc.) in your baby’s crib or pack & play. The first nap sets the tone for the rest of the day, so try not to mess with it! Then, if the second nap needs to be on-the-go, your baby should already well-rested and more able to handle this second, less ideal nap scenario.
A familiar sleep environment is key. So ensure the sleep items that make your baby feel comfortable at home (e.g. separate sleep space, such as crib or pack n’ play; white noise machine; snuggly buddy; sleep sack; etc.) are with you when travelling. Also, respect your baby’s sleep needs and schedules as much as possible – so, stick to his usual naptimes and bedtimes whenever you can to ensure your little one stays well-rested. A well-rested baby = a happier, healthier baby AND family, and a much more enjoyable vacation!
Book airplane travel for early morning flights when babies are their freshest and the happiest. Do not expect your little one to nap on the plane, but do bring her favourite stuffy, blanket and book on the plane and let her sleep in your arms if she can. Also, if you have a significant layover, you can try to get your little one to nap in a stroller or baby carrier during this time in the airport between flights.
Try to get an early check-in at your hotel so your baby can have an afternoon nap once you arrive. If this is not possible, then go for a stroller or car ride when you reach your destination and let your little one catch some Zs while you enjoy the views! Count on an early bedtime the first night.
Most of all, do not stress if your baby does not nap at all on the day you travel to your destination – it is just one day.
If you have created a familiar, comfortable sleep environment for your little one (see #1 and #7!), he should have no issues with getting great sleep while away from home. If your little one was to wake during the night, however, I don’t recommend pulling him into your bed, as this can create a habit that is VERY hard to break upon returning home, and often results in poor sleep for the whole family. Instead, give your little one some time to try to go back to sleep on his own, and then go to him and briefly reassure him so that he understands he is in a safe environment and you are there for him. Take a night light to turn on when you check on him, to show him that he is in a safe environment.
This is where respecting your baby’s naptimes and creating a familiar sleep environment will be most useful! Keep your baby on her napping schedule as much as possible when on vacation – avoid skipping naps whenever possible, and limit car and stroller naps so that she does not become unfamiliar with napping in her crib or pack & play. Create a familiar sleep environment in your rental condo or hotel room so that your baby feels at home going to sleep in this space. Make sure to have a separate sleeping area for your child. If you are not in a suite, then I recommend traveling with a double sheet or asking the hotel for one. (Travel with wood tacks, but not in your carry on!) You can tack the sheet up to create a little mini room for your child to nap and have their nighttime sleep in.
Of course! When you return home, you will need to be VERY consistent about naptimes and bedtimes, and the routines that go along with these, in order to get things on track. But, yes, vacation-sleep-habits can be undone! Of course, as always, though, respecting your baby’s sleep as much as possible while on vacation will usually mean a more enjoyable time away for the whole family, and a smoother transition upon your return home.
Avoid sugar in the late afternoon and early evening, to sidestep the bedtime battles that often result! Instead, offer a balanced, healthy dinner, and then – if necessary – a small snack of fruit or whole grain crackers and cheese before you begin your child’s bedtime routine, to ensure his tummy is filled with goodness and ready for a full night of uninterrupted sleep!
Tags: babycantravel, baby, family travel, baby travel, baby carrier, baby travel gear, toddler travel, travel essentials, travel gear, baby travel crib, toddler travel bed