It’s that time of year—lots of fun time on the road with families. Parents often ask me how to keep the sleep train chugging along well even while not in the home and since my family jets between coasts at least four times a year this is a topic that comes up for me personally quite frequently as well. I’m pretty strict about my kids’ sleep (“Pretty strict?,” say my children from up in their little nests), and so traveling can sometimes be stressful to me. Luckily, I’ve done it enough now that I have a few good tips that always help us adjust quickly and enjoy our time away.
1. Recreate the home environment as much as possible.
This is particularly important for younger babies but it works well with older children too. Our habit is to wash everything so that it’s all set before we go, right? In this case, don’t. If your baby is going to be sleeping in a crib at your destination bring an unwashed crib sheet (sleep sack too) from home. The smell will be familiar to them and will help them transition a little bit easier. Same with a portable crib sheet, lovey, etc.
2. Buy some portable blackout blinds.
You know that the environment you’ve created in your own home works but when you get to where you’re going circumstances are often different. These “travel” blackout shades are lightweight and easy to install. If you don’t want the added expense, spring for a box of black trash bags. Unsightly, yes, but this isn’t the Four Seasons, you know what I mean?
3. Portable white noise machine.
This is one of my favorites, as it is small, lightweight, inexpensive, and has a battery back-up option. It’s great to use a sound that is consistent with what they have at home, particularly since when visiting family there are different voices and house sounds for them to get used to.
(If you visit family frequently, as we do, it’s great to just buy and keep these items at the houses. You don’t have to worry about remembering them and no extra bulk in your bags.)
4. Sleep rules.
This is particularly important for older children. When we visit either grandparents’ house there is a tendency for my older child to regress a bit. She likes to get out of bed for some middle-of-the-night bedside visits to the grandmothers (cue creepy horror movie music). While grandparents might not mind, I do, particularly as it relates to what she’ll expect when we return home. So manage your child’s expectations before you go. Let him or her know that the same rules that you have at home apply anywhere else. I’m not saying it will work perfectly, but it will plant the seed and make it easier for you to get back on track if necessary once you get home.
5. Try to relax about things.
I need to be better at following my own advice! But seriously, if you follow a healthy, age-appropriate schedule at home, it makes traveling and deviating from that schedule a lot easier. So “rest” easy and enjoy these special times.