6 Sleep Tips for Holiday Travel
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Traveling with your baby for the holidays is exciting...and totally nerve wracking. Sure, visiting Nana, cuddling with cousins, or taking a dip in the hotel pool all sounds amazing. But making sure your precious little one sleeps well in planes, trains, automobiles, hotels, or spare bedrooms, well, that’s enough to consider staying home! But you don’t want to do that—trust us! Instead, get your baby’s sleep plan hammered out before you set out on your adventure.
Schedule early travel.
If you’re hoping that your little one will snooze en route—and your trip will only last a few hours—shoot for an early morning flight or drive, when they’re most apt to visit dreamland, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Plus, delays are usually less of an issue the earlier you start. If you miss that get-up-and-go window, consider syncing your travel with your child’s longest nap. When travel time is longer, try coordinating your journey with your baby’s regularly scheduled bedtime to help ensure a ZZZ-filled trip.
Use the sun!
When holiday travel goes hand-in-hand with a time-zone change, use sunlight to your baby’s advantage. That means spend much of your tiny tyke’s awake time exposed to daylight...or even bright indoor light. This will help reset when your tot’s brain releases melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. (Keeping sleep spaces dark also keeps melatonin in check.)
Stick to the same setup.
If you normally share a room with your baby, it’s likely easy-peasy to stick to that when away from home. But if your sweet pea is accustomed to snoozing in their own space, it’s best to at least try to recreate that during your holiday travels.
Staying in a hotel? Ask if there’s a suite available that features a separate living room to act as your baby’s makeshift nursery. (PS: Corner rooms are usually the quietest!) As strange as it sounds, sometimes a spacious bathroom can double as Baby’s room.
Crashing at Grandma and Grandpa’s? See if your little one can claim the office or the roomy (and well-ventilated) walk-in-closet while you take the spare room. If space is limited, try to provide some kind of safe barrier (or distance) between your bed and the baby’s bed.
Ensure safe sleep when away.
Borrowing your mom’s neighbor’s play yard or the crib that’s been sitting in your aunt’s basement may be a good idea...but maybe not. For instance, if that crib features traditional drop-side, know that it’s been taken off the market. And according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, cribs that are more than 10 years old, broken, or in any way modified should never be used...and neither should any infant bed that’s been recalled. And know that all of the AAP safe-sleep guidelines are still in play, no matter where you are. That means babies need to be put down on their backs and on a firm sleep surface free of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals—and you!
Recreate your baby’s sleep surroundings.
Sleep sack, swaddle, white noise—if your baby sleeps with it, take it with you! Heck, bring the crib sheets, too. (They can sometimes be hard to come by at hotels, FYI.) If your baby will be snoozing in a play yard during the holiday, arrange to have them sleep in one at home first. The more familiarity the better!
And if your baby has been getting lulled to la-la land in SNOO, think about taking it along. When packed, your reboxed SNOO will take up about 8 cubic feet in your trunk or it can likely be checked as oversized luggage on your flight. (Call ahead!) Here’s how to repack SNOO for safe travels. If packing up the SNOO is impossible, don’t fret! Babies tend to sleep okay on trips sans SNOO, as long as your stay is under seven days; your baby has slept well in SNOO for one to two months; you continue to swaddle your baby; and you use a strong white noise machine while away.
Stick to a (flexible) schedule.
Experts love to warn new parents to, “Be consistent!” when it comes to nighttime and nap schedules...but that advice can drive new parents mad, especially during holiday travel. While, of course, babies thrive on predictability, any drill-sergeant tendencies won’t do you or your baby any favors. Instead, keep going with your predictable—and simple—nap and night-night cues (close blinds, offer milk, use the 5 S’s, etc.) and be open to adaptability.
Say your baby takes two naps a day, but while traveling that may translate to you being stranded in a hotel room for 3 to 5 hours. Not good. So, consider shooting for one good nap in the crib or bassinet, and the other can be one snagged on-the-go, whether in the car or in the stroller. It’s totally okay to bend the “rules” a bit to accommodate your temporary reality!
For even more traveling tips, check out:
- Preventing Jet Lag in Toddlers
- Traveling With COVID in Mind
- Your Go-to Guide for Traveling with Toddlers
- Thanksgiving Travel Tips
- How-to: Parents First Trip Away from Baby
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.