For most of us, schedules and routines go out the window when we’re on vacation. That’s kind of the point, right? Unfortunately, babies and toddlers don’t really get the whole vacation thing. They don’t suddenly stop needing 13+ hours of sleep a day. A sleep deficit (even an hour or two) can make for unhappy babies and therefore a less than relaxing vacation. Here are some tips to minimize the disruption:
1. RECREATE HOME
Try to recreate the home environment as much as possible. Replicate the light in the room: if you have blackout shades at home, use black garbage bags and tape to make the room really dark. If you use a nightlight, bring it.
If you don’t use a white noise machine at home, start using one! Bring the machine on vacation to make any room feel like home. There are also some white noise apps.
If you’re using a pack-n-play or another portable crib, have the baby sleep in it for a few nights at home so it’s familiar.
Bring sheets from home that the baby has slept on. This will make the crib smell and feel like home.
2. PACK WELL
Don’t forget: monitor if you need one, books, sound machine, sheets, night light, blackout shades (or black garbage bags/tape), and most importantly, DON’T FORGET THE LOVEY!!
3. STICK TO THE SCHEDULE
As much as possible, respect bedtime! It’s so easy to lose track of time and have babies up for hours after their bedtime. Set a goal to have the baby in bed on time for 75% of the nights you’re away. If this means hiring a local sitter so you can go out, do it!
Try, try, try to get naps in when you can. Make sure you have at least a few down days where the baby can nap in the crib. For on-the-go days, try hard for car or stroller naps. One day without a nap can throw off the whole week’s sleep. Remember that it’s harder for babies to sleep well when they’re overtired.
Try to replicate your bedtime rituals exactly. Do things in the same order. Repeat the same phrases. Read the same books. Sing the same songs.
4. TIME CHANGES
You know your baby best: if you have a very scheduled baby who is sensitive to change, it’s best to stick to the time zone you live in and adjust your schedule. The exception to this is if you are traveling for more than a week. In that case, you could start adjusting before you go by moving the whole day up (or back) in 15 minute increments every few days, leaving the last 1/2 hour or hour for the first days you’re in the new time zone..
If your baby is more go-with-the flow, you could just start on the new clock as soon as you arrive. You’ll likely miss a nap or two and it may take a few days, but some babies adjust very easily.
You’re on vacation after all!!
Don’t be afraid to break the rules. It’s highly likely that your baby will have some trouble adjusting to a new environment. If you have sleep trained your baby, you may want to be careful not to reintroduce crutches you’ve worked hard to get rid of (bouncing, rocking, nursing to sleep), but if your baby needs you to stay in the room while they fall asleep, do it! Gentle pats, extra pick-ups and verbal reassurances are fine.
At the end of the day, however, if he or she is having a particularly hard time falling asleep or staying asleep in a new environment do WHATEVER you need to do to get the sleep. Don’t stress out about creating bad habits: it can be undone and you’ll get back to normal when you get home.
If you do none of the above and vacation sleep is a disaster- don’t sweat it! A week of being overtired will have short term consequences for sure, and you may have to do some re-teaching, but everyone will recover and get back to normal within a week or so.