My family and I just returned home from a week-long vacation in Mexico. The weather was beautiful and the food was delicious, but it was pretty exhausting with 3 toddlers! Knowing how important getting enough sleep is to ensure everyone is in a good mood, I was pretty obsessed with making sure my children’s sleep wasn’t being neglected. Plus, every minute of sleep they lost was accumulating to their sleep debt, so I was making mental notes on how much they needed to catch up on!
To help you make sure your children’s sleep doesn’t suffer while you travel, I’ve composed a list of 5 tips to follow before, during and after your trip.
1. Make sure your children are well rested before you leave
If your children’s sleep is where is should be before you leave, they will adapt well when they are away from their normal routine and schedule. You’ll encounter less meltdowns on the journey there, and they will sleep better in an unfamiliar place. We had a relatively good flight there, and they went to sleep easily that afternoon and at bedtime. I say “relatively” because if you’ve never flown with a curious 1 year old, its like wrestling a snake, or a tornado. I have 1 year old twins, so neither my husband or I got a break for the entire 4 hour flight. Needless to say I did not need to workout that day.
2. Bring along familiar items
If your children are used to sleeping with a lovey, make sure you bring it (and any extras in case they lose one!). Bring their sleep sack if that’s part of your children’s sleep routine. If they normally use a noise machine, try to bring that too. Even bringing their sheets from your home can help. By bringing the items they have at home, you’ll help them relax, fall asleep faster and sleep better. Also, don’t assume the room you’re going to be staying in will be dark, so bring along some garbage bags and duct tape to block out any light coming through the curtains.
3. Continue your normal naptime and bedtime routine
I know it can be difficult to stick to a schedule when you’re travelling, but your children’s sleep will be less interrupted if you do. Try to stick to your normal naptime and bedtime schedule as much as possible. If you are travelling to a different time zone for more than a few days, get their schedule on the new time as quickly as possible. It also helps to expose them to natural light to reset their internal clocks. The only issue we had was an early wake up at 5:30 am the first day since they are used to getting up at 6:30 am. Luckily that only lasted the first day. Also try to follow your usual naptime and bedtime routine. This will be comforting to your children as they will recognize the sleep cues even in a strange place. Remember that if your children don’t get as much sleep during the day as they normally do, you can always move bedtime earlier to catch up.
4. Be flexible with your plans
If you’ve planned a jam packed vacation which involves little sleep, you may need to adjust your itinerary. After a few days of less sleep than normal, your children may not be as pleasant to be around so you might have to allow for more time for your children to sleep. It was disappointing that I missed out on some afternoon sun and pool time in order to allow my children to nap, but it meant that we could get through dinner and some entertainment with little fussing. Plus I secretly enjoyed a little naptime myself.
5. Be prepared with a plan once you get home
Even though I was armed with tons of sleep knowledge, it was difficult to make sure my children got as much sleep as they normally do. There was so much going on, they (and I!) didn’t want to miss anything! But I knew that if I was diligent about making up my children’s sleep debt when we returned home, they wouldn’t suffer too much. If while on vacation your children don’t get as much sleep as they normally do, plan to put them to bed 30-60 minutes earlier than normal once you get home. It may take a few or several days to get back on track, but your whole family will be better rested and benefit from those extra zzz’s.
Guest post by Jenn Kelner – Certified Child Sleep Consultant & Founder of BabyZzz
Jenn Kelner is a Family Sleep Institute Certified Child Sleep Consultant and owner of BabyZzz. She helps tired families with infants, babies and toddlers become well rested families through customized sleep solutions and support. She offers various services including home, phone/Skype and email consultations. For more information visit www.baby-zzz.com or email email@example.com.
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