It's summertime, and for many families, that means it's time to vacation! But how do you handle vacations when you've got babies and children who require naps to function? Today's post is all about my tips for travel with kids.
Set up a Similar Sleep Environment
Babies thrive off of consistency. That is why I recommend using consistent sleeptime routines and being very consistent in how you treat any sleep problems. However, when on vacation, you unfortunately can't bring their whole room with them to maintain consistency.
What you CAN do is re-create as much of their room as possible. If Baby sleeps with white noise, bring white noise, whether you bring the regular machine or use an app on your phone. If she sleeps in a pitch black room, bring blankets, black garbage bags, or adjustable blackout shades like the Gro Anywhere Blind to darken the room you're staying in. If she sleeps with a special blanket, lovey, or stuffed animal, bring it along. And if you read a special story before bed, don't forget that, either!
Part of keeping things consistent is making sure Baby is used to the bed she'll be using. If you want Baby to sleep well in a pack'n'play while on vacation, I suggest periodically napping her in one even when you're at home. Try one nap weekly or at least monthly so that she sleeps more or less the same whether she's in her crib or in the pack'n'play. If Baby is used to the pack'n'play, it won't be such a shock when she has to sleep in one for a whole vacation.
Do all you can to keep the consistency she's used to when it comes to sleeping times, but above all, make sure her new sleep environment is safe.
When You Have to Share a Room
If Baby can have her own room, that's great! But it's not always the way things go. Sometimes you have to be a bit creative.
If there's a big bathroom or walk-in closet available to you, these work great as temporary bedrooms for babies. They're big enough to fit the pack'n'play, and then you can have a door between you and baby so she isn't easily woken and you don't have to spend your evening hours in the dark.
If that's not an option, hanging up a sheet or some other sort of room divider can be helpful in reducing visual distractions, but it doesn't block out much noise, so use white noise to help Baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you have a toddler, consider putting him to bed and then leaving the room for 15-30 minutes while he falls asleep. You can stay just outside the room and use a monitor to make sure all is well, but if he has the opportunity fall asleep by himself without parents in the room, he's much more likely to fall asleep in a timely manner. Once toddlers are asleep, they're usually pretty conked out, so white noise will allow you to return to the room without waking him.
For multiple children who regularly share a room, I recommend white noise and spaced out bedtimes (i.e. one at 7:00pm, the next at 7:30pm) to make it easier for both little ones to make it to sleep. These same tips are helpful for children sharing a room while on vacation.
Live a Little
When on vacation, there's a delicate balance when it comes to naps -- you don't want your whole day to be ruled by naps, but you also don't want your child to be cranky throughout the entire vacation. My advice is to ENJOY your vacation, which probably means you cater a little bit to naps, but not completely. Whenever possible, but Baby down in her temporary bed for a good nap in the best conditions. Use this time to read and relax! But when it's not possible, try for naps in the carseat, in your arms, or in a baby carrier. These naps will likely be shorter than her usual naps, but 30 minutes is much better than nothing!
After a busy day with missed naps, an early bedtime is always helpful. However, if you're still out and about and an early bedtime isn't an option, try instead for another on-the-go nap and a later bedtime. Just try to get Baby as much sleep as possible with whatever constraints you have.
If things are a little crazy during vacation, don't worry -- you can quickly restore the napping order you had pre-vacation. A week or two of chaos can return to normal within a few days (maybe a week) of returning home. Just make sure to resume your daily schedule as soon as you get home, and Baby should return to her good habits in no time. If she's usually a well-rested baby, chances are you'll probably even get some longer naps when you return home while she catches up on the sleep she missed during the vacation.