How to Keep Your Child Sleeping Well on Vacation

By: Jenn Kelner, CPA, CA

Certified Child Sleep Consultant

If you’re one of many families hoping to get away this summer, you may be wondering how you can make the vacation as smooth and enjoyable as possible.  Children can be unpredictable, but you can help them adjust well by ensuring they are well-rested.  A child who is getting adequate sleep will adapt more easily to a change in routine and schedule than a child who is sleep deprived and overtired.  Here are 5 tips to follow before, during and after your vacation to keep your child sleeping well.      

Resolve sleep issues before you leave

Parents put off sleep training or getting their child on a regular schedule because they know they are going on vacation and their environment and schedule may be unpredictable.  If your child is well-rested before you leave, you’ll encounter less meltdowns on the journey there, and your child will sleep better in an unfamiliar place.  If your child’s sleep issues are resolved before the vacation, you’ll be able to rest up as well, making it easier to go with the flow and experience a happier time away. 

Bring along familiar items

If your children are used to sleeping with a lovey, make sure you bring it (and any extras in case they lose one!). Bring their sleep sack and white noise machine if that’s part of your children’s sleep routine.  Even bringing their unwashed sheets from home can help them “feel at home”. By bringing the items they have at home, you’ll help them relax, fall asleep faster and sleep better. Also, don’t assume the room you’re going to be staying in will be dark, so bring along some garbage bags and painter’s tape to block out any light coming through the curtains.

Continue your normal naptime and bedtime routine

I know it can be difficult to stick to a schedule when you’re travelling, but your children’s sleep will be less interrupted if you do. Try to stick to your normal naptime and bedtime schedule as much as possible. If you are travelling to a different time zone for more than a few days, get their schedule on the new time as quickly as possible. It also helps to expose them to natural light to reset their internal clocks. Also try to follow your usual naptime and bedtime routine. This will be comforting to your children as they will recognize the sleep cues even in a strange place.

Be flexible with your plans

If you’ve planned a jam packed vacation which involves little sleep, you may need to adjust your itinerary. After a few days of less sleep than normal, your children may not be as pleasant to be around so you might have to allow for more time for your children to rest.

Be prepared with a plan once you get home

If while on vacation your children don’t get as much sleep as they normally do, plan to put them to bed 30-60 minutes earlier than normal once you get home. If you made the odd exception while away, like sleeping in the same bed, or watching tv before lights out, you will also need to get right back to their regular routine once you return.  The sooner you get back to normal, the sooner they will get back into their good sleep habits.  Consistency is key!