Vacation and Your Child's Sleep
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Here are 3 steps to better vacation sleep for your babies and young children.
Recognize what will be within your control and plan ahead in regards to the sleep environment, sleep routines, and sleep schedule.
The Sleep Environment.
Consider what the options will be for sleeping arrangements during your vacation. Will you have the option to have your child sleep in a room all to themselves or will you only have the option for room sharing? It helps to know what you’re going to be working with before you get there.
Bring a safe sleep location for your child. This might be a bassinet, packnplay, or toddler blow up mattress.
Darken the room. This is the single most important aspect of improving vacation sleep. Take the necessary steps to ensure that the room your child sleeps in will be completely dark during sleep times. This might mean bringing an extra bag of heavy duty black trash bags and duct tape to block window light. This might mean investing in products specifically designed for blacking out windows, such as BlackoutEZ, Velimax Cling, or Sleepout curtains. My favorite product for vacation sleep is the Slumberpod, which is a safe black out tent that easily fits over a packnplay or toddler blow up mattress. This is ideal for a room sharing environment so you are free to turn on the lights in your room without disturbing your sleeping child.
Bring a portable continuous white noise machine to minimize the ambient house noises.
Bring a video or audio baby monitor and consider the distance you will need it to cover so you can safely enjoy after bedtime and nap time activities
Our babies and young children thrive on our simple routines. It helps them to feel safe to know what to expect from us in this big and scary world. So many of their normal routines are likely to be disrupted during vacation, so it goes a long way to keep as many aspects of their bedtime and naptime routines within reason. Bring their usual books, sleep wear, and any other security items that will help them feel safe and increase familiarity.
It’s not always reasonable to stick to your child’s usual nap times and bedtimes while on vacation and that’s OK. However, if there are some days that you are able to offer naps and bedtime during those ideal sleepy windows, do it!
For a baby that is napping 2x/day that usually means a morning nap beginning between 8:30 and 9am and an afternoon nap beginning between 12 and 1pm. For a toddler napping only 1x/day, that means an afternoon nap beginning between 12 and 1pm. For all babies and young children, that natural sleepy window for night sleep falls between 6 and 8pm.
If naps are sometimes missed, and bedtime is sometimes late, just aim to balance it out by prioritizing an ideal nap time the following day along with an earlier bedtime than usual. Even 15-30 minutes earlier than normal will help your child catch up on previously missed sleep and will minimize sleep issues.
Lower your expectations for perfection.
Summer vacation means days that are out of the ordinary. Routines and schedules are disrupted. There’s increased excitement, new people, different activities, a different sleep environment, and different boundaries. It is highly likely that sleep will be impacted in some way, and that’s OK! Vacation is temporary, and it needs to be enjoyed even in the midst of imperfect sleep.
Be prepared to use your best tools for resetting healthy sleep habits upon your return home. Here are your most important tools for ensuring that sleep does not spiral out of control even if vacation sleep was somewhat or even seriously disrupted.
Temporarily shift bedtime earlier. 6-8 pm is the ideal range for a baby or young child’s bedtime. If sleep has been messy while away, the most helpful thing you can do is to shift bedtime even 15-30 minutes earlier than usual for 1-3 days to help them catch up on lost sleep and minimize further sleep issues.
Ensure their home sleep environment is fully dark, quiet, boring, and cool.
Firm up on your usual routines around sleep.
If you have a big kid, remind them about your usual lovingly firm boundaries around healthy sleep at home and always always follow through!