Navigating your child's sleep on family vacation

Summer is finally here and many families have planned exciting family vacations to get a break and enjoy one another. All though they are fun, vacations can be exhausting for everyone, especially kids. Here are some ideas to ensure your little ones get adequate sleep while away from home.

Try to start the travel process off on a good foot. If you can, chose departure times that are generally good times of the day for your child. If your toddler takes an afternoon nap at 1pm, you probably want to avoid a 2pm flight that would require you to get to the airport right before nap time. A 12pm or earlier flight would be a better option to allow your child to nap before you leave or even on the plane. The goal is to not arrive at your destination with a cranky, overtired kid in tow.

Try to pack items that make your child feel at home. Sheets and pillow cases (if child is old enough) from home will provide a comforting smell and sense of security. If your son or daughter typically sleeps with a sound machine on, bring it with. If you can't, smart phones have tons of free sound machine apps that can play through the night. Whatever you do, DON'T FORGET THEIR LOVEY. I even suggest your bring a back up if possible. I say this from personal experience. To this day, my own parents talk about the time we went on a family vacation sans lovey. Back in the prehistoric era of no smart phones, my dad spent an entire day driving to toy stores looking for my beloved glow worm replacement. Once he found one and brought it to me, I would not accept the replacement and he ended up driving 8 hours round trip to go home and get mine.

Keep your child's schedule and bedtime routine the same. Even though you are in a different location, try to keep them on schedule. Offer naps and bedtime at the appropriate times. Complete your bedtime routine as normally as possible. Keep your expectations realistic and remember that your child will probably be unsure and need some extra cuddles. This is totally fine, but remember that you might need to break this habit once you return home again.

What if you are traveling across time zones? The general rule is that if you are travelling for 3 or less days or over less than 3 time zones, try to keep your child on their regular time zone schedule. If your vacation is lasting longer, transition them to the new time zone for the duration of your stay. You can even begin before you leave home. Spend 4 nights putting your child to sleep 15 minutes earlier or later (depending on direction of travel) each time so they have one hour less to transition when you arrive. If you are traveling internationally across many time zones, spend the first day or two allowing your child to sleep when they need to. Natural light will be your best tool to smoothly make this transition. Make sure your child gets outside, especially in the morning and late afternoon, so their body can recognize what time of day it actually is. In many cases, children are much more resilient to time changes and get lag than adults.

Above all, have fun and enjoy each other. After all, they are only little for so long!