It’s that time of year. We are all headed out for a week at the beach or lake to enjoy the 4th of July and kick off the Summer. I know what it’s like to pack up all that gear (I have twins so imagine 2 of everything), stuff yourself in the car, and head out of the driveway with that rush of excitement for the fun ahead. But I also empathize with the nagging question in the back of your mind about whether anyone will get sleep! Hopefully my tips will save your sanity and get you some sleep!
#1 Make the room dark.
When your child is sleeping in a new space, the less distractions the better! Darkness tells the body to produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone. I invested in a travel black out shade that I can hang up in any room. If that is out of your budget I have also used black garbage bags and painter’s tape before. This works really well but be careful if you have grabby toddler fingers because you don’t want them playing with the bags!
#2 Give your child his own sleep space.
Your kids will sleep better if they don’t hear you in the room with them. If possible, think about staying in a suite or divided room. Yes, you will end up paying more. However, no matter how many times I do it, eating take out dinner while hiding under the covers of my bed or in the bathroom just isn’t the vacation I dreamed about! If you can’t afford two rooms, you can try putting a pack and play in the bathroom or in any nook-like space. Any space you can place between you and your baby will make sleeping easier.
#3 Make your child’s sleep space feel familiar.
I recommend bringing a sheet from home, their lovey and their pillow, if they use one. I also always travel with my white noise machine. If you have one that can be unplugged and run on batteries you will be set for any sleep situation. We even bring ours camping!
#4 Arrive before bedtime, if possible.
This allows your child get used to their sleep space. I always have my twins crawl around in their crib for 10-15 minutes so it isn’t a surprise when I put them down to sleep. If you can time nap to be in the new space, it gives them a chance to adjust before bedtime when everyone wants sleep.
#5 Stick with your routines.
Make sure you have a consistent routine that you do before bedtime and naptime in place before you travel. That way your child will be familiar with the routine and recognize it well even away from home.
#6 Try and have only one sleep session per day on the go.
Let’s be honest, you are on vacation you are not going to be back at the hotel or house for every nap and bedtime. The reason we travel is to get out and see things, enjoy this time with your family and let yourself relax a little. However, in order to avoid overtiredness I suggest either having one good nap per day or making sure you are back for bedtime. When we travel, if I know we are going out to a late dinner I will make sure to fit in a good nap at the hotel during the day. Or, if I want to be out during the day, I might do a stroller nap but make sure to be back for an early bedtime.
#7 Do what you need to do to get sleep, but don’t go too far off course.
If your baby sleeps through the night at home but starts waking on vacation, think of using a ladder of comfort. The top of your ladder is the most support such as feeding or rocking them to sleep. The bottom of the ladder is the least support, for example rubbing their back or giving a pacifier. Try and start at the bottom of the ladder and only move up when necessary. The further up the ladder you go, the more work you will have to put into re-teaching when you get home.
Chances are your baby’s sleep may not return as perfect as it was when you left. We all get thrown off during vacation! You may need to set some limits when you get home. The sooner you start limit setting around sleep, the clearer it is to your baby that while away from home things may be different but once we are home the expectations return. You may need to provide some comforting checks during bedtime struggles or night wakings the first night or two. But if you stay consistent, things should fall back into place quickly.