Expert Sleep Advice for Holiday Travel
Don’t let holiday travel interrupt your little one’s healthy sleep habits. We’ve asked sleep experts and consultants to share their best tips for helping your child sleep soundly this holiday season. Traveling? Unfamiliar environments? Holiday parties? Whatever the season looks like for you, these strategies can help you and your little one get a good night’s rest.
The holidays offer us an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, celebrate the past year, and welcome the coming year. But all too often, we get overwhelmed by parties, cooking, baking, shopping, and travel. It’s a busy time—for kids from one to 92—which can mean lots of travel, missed naps, and late bedtimes. If you’re wondering how to keep your baby’s sleep routine on track, you’re not alone!
Whether you’re traveling near or far, or juggling lots of family gatherings, the following strategies can help you and your little ones sleep well this holiday season.
Make sure your kiddos are well rested heading into the holiday season.
“The fastest thing to unravel sleep during travel is too many late bedtimes and over-tiredness in general,” shares Nicole Johnson of The Baby Sleep Site. In the week or two prior to travel, try not to skip any naps and get your kiddos to bed on time.
Create a familiar sleep environment.
As much as possible, try to mirror your child’s home sleep environment. Bringing the comforts of home will help your little one get the restorative rest they need. Alanna McGinn from Good Night Sleep Site recommends “packing your child’s positive sleep tools like blackout blinds, a sound machine, bedding, and favorite lovey—[anything that] will help make them comfortable in a new sleep environment.” Can’t pack it? Rent it!
Keep a consistent bedtime routine.
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean your child’s bedtime routine is on vacation. McGinn suggests practicing a consistent bedtime routine—wherever you are and whenever you can. “Doing the same events before nap time or bedtime that you do at home will bring the comfort and security of home along and help prepare your child for sleep no matter where you are.”
Avoid interrupted sleep schedules.
Sleep consultant Jami Havens likes to remind her clients to “stay on nap schedules. When traveling, naps will often be shorter than at home, but babies will be more likely to fall asleep and get some rest if they are put down for a nap at the usual time. Try not to give in to pressures from extended family to keep baby up well past the point of being tired. Baby will be happier and more playful if he gets a nap.”
Worried about family pressure? Natalie Willes of The Baby Sleep Trainer suggests talking to hosts and relatives about your little one’s sleep needs ahead of time, “Explain that you’d love to have a place for your son or daughter to sleep away from the holiday hustle and bustle. Hosts are often happy to lend you a spare bedroom so baby will have a quiet place to nap.”
Manage interrupted sleep schedules.
While you do your best to stick to your little one’s routine, schedules are bound to get messed up when you’re traveling. Joan Becker Friedman of Pea Pod Sleep Consultants offers this advice, “If you absolutely have to miss a nap, don’t compromise your child’s bedtime on that same day. If you know you’re going to have a late night out, don’t plan on skipping a nap that day. Don’t compromise both on the same day!” Nicole Johnson of The Baby Sleep Site seconds this advice and emphasizes prioritizing early naps, “If you have to choose a nap to skip, don’t let it be the first one of the day as it’s usually the most restorative and sets the stage for the rest of the day.”
Prepare your little one for a change of scenery.
If you’ll be bringing or renting a portable bassinet, play yard, or crib, acclimate your child to it. Have them napping or sleeping in this new environment before you travel. Johnson also likes to remind parents that it can take time to adjust to new surroundings. She says, “When you arrive at your destination, your baby may need a day or two to become accustomed to the new sleeping arrangements, so don’t give up too quickly!”
Create a separate sleep space for your child.
If you and your little one are accustomed to separate sleep spaces, make similar accommodations when you’re away from home. Joan Becker Friedman from Pea Pod Sleep Consultants suggests setting your child up in, “a separate room in a house or an adjoining hotel room. If you plan on room sharing, make a separate sleeping space for your child. Improvise by hanging a blanket from a portable coat rack to create a temporary room divider.”
Allow for plenty of downtime.
Whether you’re vacationing or visiting family, it can be tempting to pack lots of activities into each day. Make time for downtime and prioritize your little one’s sleep. With this strategy, Friedman points out, “You’ll have a happier child rather than a wired, tired child that challenges you at night.”
Plan for a day or two cushion on the back end of your travel.
After all the excitement of travel, new places, and family, your little one will need some time to readjust to home. Whenever possible, Friedman suggests, “building in a day or two of cushion on the back end of your travel to provide plenty of time to get back on track before you really have to be back on a regular schedule.”
As you prepare for holiday travel, we hope these expert tips help you and your little ones get some much deserved shut-eye. As always, BabyQuip Quality Providers can help create a comfortable sleep environment with full-size cribs, sound machines, humidifiers, and more.
What helps your little one sleep well away from home? How do you manage naptime and bedtime during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below. From all of us at BabyQuip, we wish you and your family happy holidays, snug beds, and sugar-plum dreams.
Kathy is a freelance writer, an Independent Quality Provider with BabyQuip and the mother of a very active one-year-old boy. When she’s not changing diapers, developing engaging content for clients, or helping families travel with little ones, she enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and naps.