5 Tips for Handling Sleep While Traveling and Off Schedule

5 Tips for Handling Sleep While Traveling and Off Schedule

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holiday travel and baby sleep

With the holidays approaching, it often means travel for a lot of families as well as various holiday events that test our child’s sleep schedule (and maybe a parent’s patience as well).

Nothing throws off a child’s sleep more than stimulating activities, being around people they’re not familiar with, new sleeping environments and of course, the events that happen during nap or bedtime.

napping on the go

Here are 5 tips to help you maintain your sleep sanity this holiday season:

  1. Do your best to stick to the same general routine and timing for sleep as you can. Familiar routines can help so much when they’re in a new place or when they’ve missed a nap/gone to bed later than usual. Protecting the timing of their sleep can go a long way in keeping them on track, but don’t hesitate to forgo that in favor of making memories!

  2. Bring along all their familiar sleep associations and set up their sleep space as much as you can like home. That could include their sleep bag, a white noise machine, their crib sheet, lovey, etc. The more you have, the better they can sleep when they’re away from home.

  3. Prep work may be key! Keep them well rested leading up to any even that may throw your little one off schedule. Practice sleeping in a pack n play if they’re going to be doing that while gone. This can help those slow to warm kids!

  4. Be intentional about sleep on the go. Try to time naps with when you’ll be on the road or around activities. Any sleep is better than no sleep.

  5. Give yourself some grace, try not to stress, and get back to normal whenever you get home. Be prepared to be flexible, have different plans for if sleep isn’t going well (maybe have a low key catch up day planned in the middle of your trip), and work as a team if you have a partner!

baby napping in new places

And how exactly do you manage your child's sleep with all the holiday events? Can you have your cake and eat it too?! Let's figure that out:

You have a holiday brunch scheduled for 10 AM, but your baby sleeps at 9:30! WHAT TO DO??

  • Manage your wake windows slightly earlier/ later

    • Figure out how long it takes to you to get to the event. For me, it’s about 15 minutes so we’ll have to be out the door at 9:45 AM minimum.

    • It will take me approximately 10 mins to feed, and another 5 to get out the door–which means the baby will have to be awake by 9:15.

    • This means I can do two different things:

      • Option 1: Put baby down around 8:30/8:45 and cap the nap at 30 minutes. Don’t worry; your baby is likely to have their more extended rest of the day at a different time.

      • Option 2: Plan for a car ride nap on the way there

  • Sleep on the go

    • If the nap is at 9:30, hit the car/stroller AT 9:15 and start driving. Hopefully baby will fall asleep because it’s so close to nap time and this will get you at least 30 minutes on the go. Or as stated above, keep baby awake and hope for a sleep on the way home

  • Cap a nap if necessary

    • If the same situation above were to happen in the afternoon you could potentially cap your first nap to try to get a second nap in before the appointment/fun-thing time.

  • Start Your Day Earlier

    • If your baby regularly gets up at 6:30, it's ok to start his/her day a bit earlier to try to get an earlier nap in for the day. When our day shifts up, so do our naps on a wake window schedule

baby sleeping in a new place

As a parent of 4 kids, I know the stress it can bring to travel during the holidays especially if you’ve struggled with sleep and are finally in a good place! It can make you feel like you don’t want to do ANYTHING that would mess that up, but coming from a place of experience (with sensitive and slow to warm kids), those hard days can be so worth it and won’t wreck sleep nearly as much as you imagine they might.

And a bonus tip: schedule a self-care activity for yourself whenever the trip is over or you’re done with all the holiday celebrations so you have something to look forward to. Happy Holidays!

Author Bio: Ashley Olson is a certified pediatric sleep consultant, owner of Heaven Sent Sleep and The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness, and passionate about helping new parents, experienced parents, desperate and sleep-deprived parents form healthy sleep habits for their children.

She has over 4 years of experience in working with families and has completed over 150 hours of coursework plus continuing education related to infant and toddler sleep. The focus of her work is on fostering a routine that grows your bond with your child while improving their sleep habits. She specializes in custom sleep plans and one on one support in changing sleep practices!

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