Whether you are flying or driving, traveling with a baby or toddler is a completely different experience from when it was just you and your spouse taking a trip. As summer is approaching I know many of you are starting to prepare for your upcoming trips and may be wondering how you will make it to your final destination in one piece on travel day.
Today I want to share what to expect on travel day, what to do once you arrive at your destination and how to stay on track with sleep while away from home. Let’s get to it!
What should you expect on travel day?:
If you have never been on a long trip with your baby and are planning a trip soon I want you to do something for me… LOWER your expectations of what you think your travel day is going to look like. You will NOT be arriving at your destination quickly by any means and you will stop many times along the way. Whatever your ETA is before you start your trip, go ahead and add 2-3 hours on top of that time to account for diaper changes, feedings, and stretch breaks for your baby. It’s just how it is now!
As far as your baby’s sleep goes on travel day, it will not be great. In other words, do not expect them to sleep like they normally do at home while traveling. It’s just not going to happen. Your day will most likely be full of cat naps or no naps at all.
Have you ever slept WELL in a vehicle or plane? Nope, neither have I. Don’t expect your baby to either. You can bring comfort items for your baby/toddler to “help” such as a portable sound machine, blanket (12+ months), lovey (12+ months), etc, but do not be surprised if your baby or toddler just doesn’t sleep like they usually do while traveling to your destination. It will be okay! It’s one day! Just survive!!!
You made it! What’s next?:
You survived the trip and you have finally reached your destination. YAY! Since we know your baby did not get the sleep they normally get while traveling it’s easy to say that your baby is a bit overtired from your journey. Here is a list of things I recommend that you do once you arrive at your destination to help remedy this overtired travel day situation:
1. Set up their sleep environment. This is the first thing you need to do because it’s necessary for helping your baby feel at “home” and to cue them to sleep well and recover from a long day of traveling. When setting up the sleep environment you need four things:
–Complete darkness. Whether you use a SlumberPod, bathroom, or portable blackout curtains. Your baby’s sleep environment needs to be completely dark to get that good solid rest they need and to sleep like they would at home. Be creative if you need to, but ultimately make it happen!
–White Noise. Whatever sound machine you use in your baby’s nursery at home; bring it with you to use during your trip.
–Pack-n-Play. If your baby sleeps in their own space at home, set them up so they can sleep in their own safe space away from home as well.
–Comfort Items. Swaddle, sleep sack, blanket, lovey, pacifier, etc. Whatever comfort items they use to sleep with at home; you will need to bring those things for your baby to sleep with while away from home.
2. Do your baby’s normal bedtime routine.
This is why having a bedtime routine established early on in your baby’s life (as early as the newborn stage) can be so helpful when away from home. Your baby’s bedtime routine is a huge cue that their long stretch of sleep is coming regardless of where they are at home or away from home. Replicate the routine while on your trip and your baby will understand what is coming next, sleep. For Jude, the big cue for him is a bath. Every night before bed we give him a “bath”. No, he is not bathed every single night but regardless he is put in the bath every night to help him relax and to cue him that bedtime is near. When we are away from home the bath is a huge cue for him that even though we are somewhere unfamiliar the simple step of taking a bath is familiar to him. Bringing him comfort in knowing what is coming next.
3. Go to bed early.
You have had a long day of travel and like we said before your baby probably did not get their normal amount of daytime sleep. The last thing you need to do is keep them up to their normal bedtime and make them even more tired. That’s why I suggest that you plan on laying your baby down for bed early on travel day. They did not get adequate daytime sleep and they are craving the rest that they missed out on during the day. Early bedtime is ALWAYS a great “restart” button for a day full of short or no naps on a travel day or any day for that matter. Prepare to lay your baby down 30-60 minutes earlier than their normal bedtime on travel day.
How do you stay on track with sleep while away?:
These are my recommendations for nighttime and daytime sleep while away from home:
Night Time: Stay consistent. Approach bedtime and night wakings like you would normally approach them at home. Having the sleep environment set up like it is at home is important in helping all of this happen. I would not start co-sleeping on your trip if you don’t co-sleep at home. I wouldn’t introduce a nighttime feeding while on your trip that isn’t a feeding that normally happens while at home. Do you get what I’m saying? Try not to start any new habits on your trip that aren’t normally done at home for nighttime sleep.
Day Time: This can be a tough one depending on how many naps your baby takes currently, but my biggest tip for this part of the day is to try to get your baby’s first nap of the day in the pack-n-play. The first nap is usually the longest and the one that starts your day off and the last thing you want to do is start your day off with an overtired baby. You are on a trip and lots of things are planned during the day so you can’t just be at the condo or home you are staying at for the whole time just to get the naps in. If you know that a lot of your baby’s naps will be on-the-go naps during the day, do your best to get the first nap in the pack n play and then bring comfort items for the on-the-go naps (portable sound machine, pacifier, etc.). Again, keep in consideration that if your baby doesn’t get a lot of good consolidated sleep during the day they will need to go to bed earlier than usual, just like what I suggested for the initial travel day.
Trips can be fun! It’s important to get away with your family and practice being present and focus on making memories that will last a lifetime. At the same time, it can be difficult and become stressful to do all of the fun things planned with a fussy and tired baby. Utilize the tips in this blog, and enjoy your travel and time spent with your happy and rested family.