Napping on a trip

The quest for rest is a big reason many people go on vacation, but when you’re traveling with your baby, there’s no guarantee that either you or he is going to get the rest you need. Babies love their habits, and vacation shakes everything up. A little forward-planning, though, can help your and Baby’s vacation sleep routine run more smoothly.

Keys for sleeping on-the-go

  • Pack for success: Even if you’re normally a light packer, you may want to consider bringing some props with you. Baby is going to be trying to sleep in a whole new environment, so bringing a few familiar things – like his bedsheets, a favorite stuffed animal, lovey, or comfort object, or a well-loved lullaby album or white-noise recording can make a big difference. If you’re bringing Baby’s vacation bed with you – a pack-n-play, or a portable crib or bassinet – you can help to familiarize Baby with it by giving the two of you a little dress-rehearsal and using it for naps for a few days before you head out on your trip.
  • Start on the right foot: Starting your trip well-rested can make a huge difference in the tone of the journey. Timing can be important, too – if Baby usually sleeps in the car, consider planning to start your trip around naptime. If, on the other hand, travel winds him up, starting out when he is alert and well-rested could help your journey run more smoothly. 
    In addition, giving yourself some extra time to reach your destination can help cut down on stress, since your trip will probably take a bit longer than it might have before Baby came along.
  • Do what works: If you’ve got a bedtime or pre-nap wind-down routine that works well for your family, don’t take a vacation from that – sticking to it as closely as possible can help to signal to Baby that it really is time to sleep, even in such an unfamiliar environment.
  • Set the stage: If you and Baby are going to be in close quarters, but you don’t normally share a room, making an effort to create some form of barrier – even if it’s just a sheet wall, or the ten steps between the hotel bed and the little entryway into the room – could help sleep come more easily. Babies who are used to sleeping away from their parents may find it hard to settle down to sleep if their favorite playmates are still up and walking around in the same room.
  • Find a balance: On one hand, for many children, sticking to the normal sleep schedule where possible can be important both in terms of familiarity, and when it comes to when those children get tired, and how much sleep they actually need. On the other, though, sleep on the road can be hard to find, and if it comes along an hour earlier or two hours later than your normal napping schedule, if it happens in your lap, or in a stroller as it moves through some of the sights you’re on a trip to see, it’s generally a good idea to grab that sleep when it comes. Vacation throws everything off-kilter, and there’s nothing wrong with being opportunistic about sleep on the road.
  • Take the time to adjust: If sleep habits and schedules have lapsed and changed a bit on vacation, it’s totally normal, and it’s generally nothing to worry about, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an adjustment period – there probably will. As long as you’re consistent about getting back to your normal routine, though, Baby will be able to adjust right back. After all, he is never too young to learn that what happens on vacation stays on vacation.
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