It’s already starting to feel like summer around here in Miami. School’s almost out, and the days are getting longer and warmer. Most of you are already planning ahead for that summer trip (not vacation, as we know when we travel with our kids). Of course, traveling with younger kids is always harder, but doesn’t always have to be if you can prepare yourself accordingly. Here are my top 5 suggestions in helping make your travel plans smoother.
1. Departure Travel Time: If you have a child that still naps, you want to try to book your flight (or departure time) around nap times. Having your child nap during the flight or car ride will not only make the travel time easier for you, but will help your child adjust to arriving to a new place without being overtired. Many parents are concerned with how to nap their baby. On the plane, anything goes! You can hold, rock, feed, or even put your little one in a carrier and walk the isle back and forth if you have to. This will not create bad habits, as it’s only a one-time scenario while traveling. Try to avoid flying in the later afternoon, which will bring them to a later bedtime in a new place. They will need time to adjust to their new sleep setting first (see below #2, and you don’t want to get there too late.
2. Sleep Space: When deciding on where you will stay, try to figure out where your baby will sleep. She does not need her own room, but if you can set up a pack-n-play in the corner or hallway of the room (away from the bed), it will help. If your child normally sleeps in a crib at home, find out if your hotel provides one, and if not make sure to bring your own pack-n-play. There are also companies that rent out baby gear. Once you get to your new sleep space, make sure to set hers up with her crib sheets, toys and blankies. Have her play in and around the area so she can familiarize herself with it before bedtime.
3. Child’s Sleep Essentials: Because you will be an unfamiliar place you want to make sure to bring as much of her sleep essentials as possible. A few good items would be: crib sheets, blankies, pacifiers, her regular bedtime books, and even a few of her favorite toys. Think of what your bedtime routine looks like at home and try to bring all the essentials that are part of it. You want to make sure she feels comfortable in her sleep space.
4. Adjust To New Time: When traveling to a different time zone, your little one will need to adjust her circadian rhythm to the new time. It is suggested to adjust to the new time immediately upon arrival. Make sure to feed and sleep her with the new time as soon as you arrive! If you arrive during the day, expose her to sunlight to help adjust her rhythm. Jetlag can last a good 3-5 days, so hang in there if those first few nights back home are rough.
5. Remain Consistent Yet Flexible: Our kids thrive on routine and predictability. They like to know what’s coming up ahead without the surprise and the unknown. This is why it’s recommended to keep to a schedule and routine daily when at home. However, it’s very hard to keep to the exact schedule when traveling, so don’t worry! Try to at least keep to the same feeding and sleeping times as best as you can. If you’re out and about and it’s time for a nap, try to sleep your child in the stroller, car, or in any means possible. Just because you aren’t home doesn’t mean she doesn’t need a nap. Adjust bedtime earlier if it’s been a day where she hasn’t napped well. If you’ve spent too many days out where all naps were short, try to stay back one day so she can nap in her sleep space and catch up on sleep. And most importantly, continue putting your child down awake at bedtime and nap time and respond consistently. If she’s between the ages of 9 months - 2 years old, she may be a little scared of her new sleep setting, and not understand what’s going on. You can provide extra support, but make sure you don’t go back to old bad habits. You can sit by her crib to provide comfort, but allow her to put herself to sleep.