Traveling for the Holidays

Holidays are a busy time of year for most families.  Some travel across the country to spend time with family, while others travel 5 minutes.  Either way, spending the holidays somewhere other than the comfort of your own home, can throw off your little one’s schedule.  With all the excitement of playing with cousins, opening presents, and eating delicious desserts, the kids can be too riled up for sleep or we simply lose track of time and miss those optimal nap and bed times.

It is okay when this happens every now and then.  So if you aren’t traveling far and you have a good sleeper on your hands, Christmas day shouldn’t affect their long-term sleep and should get back on track immediately.  If your child struggles with sleeping and already has a sleep debt, this one day off could mean a long night of waking up.  So if you have an infant, and you find the opportunity to put them down for a nap or bed while the party continues, that would at least help that night and the following days from getting worse. (Don’t be afraid to bring a pack-n-play to your Christmas party)

For those of you who travel farther away and spend more than a couple of days away from home (like myself), here are some tips to have a happy and well-rested baby or toddler during your eventful trip:

  1. Put them somewhere it can be dark during naps. Sometimes just a towel over the blinds will darken the room enough.  Black trash bags taped over the windows are also an option.  Maybe there is a walk-in closet, or a huge bathroom where there aren’t windows you don’t have to worry about that a pack-n-play can fit in.
  2. Drown out the party noise – I simply downloaded a “white noise” app on my phone, and turn on “rain” (what they listen to at home) for the twins so they don’t hear us mingling. (I just stick my phone under the door, so that when I go to bed, I can grab my phone to charge.)
  3. Pack something that is part of their normal home routine. For instance, I bring one of their favorite books as well as their “musical bunny”.  (Every night we go to their room, read a few books and then they have a bunny where you pull its tail, and it plays 1 minute of music while we leave the room). If it’s possible, do as much of their normal routine as you can to make going down in a different place easier.
  4. Keep a consistent schedule. Being on vacation can be hard to keep a schedule because you’re always on the go or visiting different people.  But take a pack n play to the people’s homes you visit.  Make sure napping happens as much as possible.  If naps happen to be inconsistent, poor, or non-existent, don’t be afraid of an early bedtime to make up for that lost sleep during the day.
  5. Stand up for your sleep schedule. When visiting people wanting to spend as much time as possible with your kids, it can be easy to give in when they ask “oh, just 1 more hour to spend time with them”, or “they don’t need a nap now”.  Be honest!  For me, I tell them, if they don’t nap now, they’ll just be miserable to hang out with, or won’t sleep well through the night, and this mom likes her sleep… and happy kids!  Nobody wants to hang out with an overtired, cranky child.
  6. Prepare for different time zones. You can get ready for the time difference before you go, or during the first few days of the trip.  Review my other blog about traveling to a different time zone if this is the case for you.

I know that traveling and keeping on a schedule can be hard, but your families will understand that you like to stay on schedule so that things don’t go haywire.  Traveling for a week and having a child develop a large sleep debt because they went to bed too late every night and didn’t nap, can take multiple weeks to remedy when you’re back at home.  It’s okay to have some late nights or some poor quality naps, but do your best to stay on track most days, and your trip should be filled with happy kids.  Plus, you won’t have to put in extra work when you’re back home.  Have a happy holiday and feel free to contact me with any questions about your vacation plans!

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