Whether you are traveling overseas or just an hour or two away, here are some tips to tuck away to make your trip more pleasant and rewarding for all.
• If your child is just learning new sleep skills, think about postponing your vacation for 3-4 weeks if possible. It is normal to “backslide” a bit – but try not to fall back into the old sleep habits that you have just overcome.
• Explain that new sleeping arrangements are “just for a little while”.
• Arrange to travel later in the day if you have “night owls” in your family. Choose morning travel if you have “larks”.
• Avoid driving during the time that you normally are sleeping. Accident rates for drivers rise sharply during regular sleep periods.
• Plan to set up a home “base” and travel from there. You can safety-proof your living space more easily, and your child(ren) can become familiar with one home-away-from-home.
• Decide ahead of time who will handle the bedtime routine earlier in the day.
Keep your schedule
• Stick to your regular schedule as much as possible. Predictable meal times, activity times, bedtime and wake up time keep our body clocks running smoothly.
• Guard daytime naps and try and get them in when you can. If your child is short on daytime sleep, plan for an earlier bedtime.
• “Down time” in the day is good for everyone. You might not see as much, but your travels will likely be more enjoyable!
Traveling across time zones
• If your trip will be short, and the time difference is only 1 – 2 hours, then stay on “home time” for your daily routine.
• Traveling for longer periods or across 3 or more time zones? Switch your regular schedule to the local time on the first day after your arrival. So, if you normally get up at 7:00 am at home, then get up when the clock reads 7:00 am at your new destination.
• Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
• Get outside in the morning to help your body clock adjust to the new time zone.
• You can adjust your body clock gently by adjusting bedtimes several days before you travel. Try going to bed earlier if you are traveling east, and later if you are traveling west.
• Plan for “down time” on arrival to give your body clock extra time to adjust. And give yourself the luxury of an extra day when you arrive back home before you have to “jump into life” again.
Think about packing …
• Sleep toy/ “lovey”
• Night light
• Familiar crib sheets, favorite blanket and pillowcase (feel and smell like home)
• Baby monitor
• Familiar bedtime books and music. Some parents record and playback familiar night sounds from home.
• Headlamp for reading in the dark (if you are sharing a sleep space)
• White noise machine to mask hallway sounds
Your “sensitive child” might need:
• Bottled water (some children react to the taste of “new” water)
• Sticky notes – you can draw a simple picture plan to prepare your child for what will come next in the day or evening
• Air mattress – your child may feel more secure sleeping next to your bed in a new location
• Familiar food for snacks. You may find it easier to shop for and prepare your own food when on vacation, especially if your child is a more selective eater.
Intense children will need time and space to expend energy well before bedtime. If you are driving longer distances, plan to stop every 90 – 120 minutes for an exercise break.
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