Seven Vacation Sleep Tips Your Family Needs This Summer
It’s summertime, and for most families, that means a chance to go on vacation! But when you have a child who is struggling to sleep at home, it can be nerve-wracking to attempt a family vacation. We all know that traveling wears us out already, so traveling without a good night’s sleep can be a recipe for disaster. But one of the best parts of having a child who sleeps through the night is the freedom to enjoy experiences, like vacations, as a family without stressing about sleep.
Of course, if you’re already struggling with sleep, these tips may not be the answer to all of your sleep struggles. If this sounds like you, don’t forget that I offer a FREE Sleep Evaluation where we can chat about your family’s individual sleep needs and how working with a Sleep Consultant could help your family!
But if you have a healthy sleeper on your hands, I want to share a few of my favorite vacation sleep tips with you! These tips are a great way to ensure your little one continues to have great sleep habits no matter where they’re falling asleep at night. And these tips can help your whole family get a good night’s sleep, especially when you’re sharing a hotel room or bunking together when visiting family.
- Start Well Rested
I know when my family is getting ready for vacation, we’re running around trying to get ready for the trip. Unfortunately, sometimes this means we’re up a little too late the night before or our routine gets thrown off wack. And when that happens, my kiddos don’t start the trip well-rested, because they’re starting their trip in sleep debt. So my first tip for you is to prioritize sleep the night before your trip to ensure your kiddos get the sleep they need at home before you leave. And parents, this goes for you too! Get the sleep you need because we all know parenting is way easier when you get a good night’s sleep.
- Survive Travel Day
On travel day, my number one rule is: Survive! Travel days are hard. So do what you need to do to get everyone through the day so you can get to where you need to go. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your little ones. Your nap schedule might get off wack. Someone might have to sleep on top of you while on the plane. Somebody might throw a fit because they don’t want to miss the millionth cow pasture out the car window. You might have to keep throwing snacks to the back row of the minivan and set up a marathon of Paw Patrol as I did on our last 6+ hour drive. Just roll with it. Because on travel day, your ultimate goal is to get everyone to their final destination without losing your mind. And once you finally get there, then you can get back into the swing of things.
- Plan Strategic Stops
Depending on how old your kiddos are, you might have a little one who needs to eat every few hours or you might have older kiddos who need to get up and move around. When we’re taking a long drive, we look ahead on our route and find parks where we can stop for a little while. Our older boys get the chance to burn some energy off while I feed my youngest. If you have a really long car ride, you can also find a few fun attractions along the way. Spend a few hours experiencing something cool as a family, then pile back in the car and get back on the road. I promise it will make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, and memorable!
- Plan Your Accommodations Carefully
If you need to book a hotel on vacation, plan your accommodations carefully. Your child’s sleep environment is just as important on the go as it is at home. If you have the luxury of booking a suite, where you and your kiddos can have separate sleeping spaces, this can be a game-changer. Some hotels also have double rooms with an adjoining door, so your little ones can have their own room, but you can still keep an eye on them. If you don’t want to spring for the extra space, don’t be afraid to get creative. Hotels with bigger bathrooms or beach condos with big closets can be great options for impromptu sleep spaces. If you’re staying with family, see if they have an office or a big closet where you can set up a sleep space for your little people. If you have to share a room with only one bed, I encourage families to set up a pallet on the floor for their kiddos rather than bed-sharing. If you have to share a bed, be sure to emphasize that you’re making an exception for vacation and they will go back to sleeping in their own space when you get home.
BONUS TIP: One of my best tips for creating the perfect sleep space on vacation is the SlumberPod. This thing is a game-changer, and my family swears by it. SlumberPod is a pop-up canopy that you can pair with a Pack N Play to create a completely dark, completely separate sleep space for your little one. Use my code SLEEPATLAST10 to save $20 on your SlumberPod, I promise you won’t regret it! If you’re a past client who is local to the area, I also have a SlumberPod that I rent out to families. All you have to do is ask!
- Mimic the Home Sleep Environment
While on vacation, try to keep your child’s sleep environment as close to what they are used to at home as possible. If you’re headed to the beach this summer, a lot of condos supply or rent out cribs and Pack N Plays. Plan ahead and bring supplies to DIY window coverings to ensure you can keep your child’s sleep space as dark as possible. You also want to maintain your bedtime routine. This means packing anything and everything you need to ensure that your kiddos can follow the exact same bedtime routine you use at home. If they’re used to reading a few books every night, bring some vacation-themed books with you! Let your little one pick a special lovey to bring along with them. Your child’s bedtime routine is the cue that tells their bodies it’s time for sleep. So don’t sabotage their sleep by changing things up too drastically on vacation if you don’t need to.
- Honor Sleep Needs
When planning your vacation, be mindful of your child’s individual sleep needs. I know when my kiddos don’t get the sleep they need, they can be absolute terrors. No one wants to travel with a cranky child. So, if your child naps twice a day, try to ensure their first nap is a good, solid nap. The first nap of the day is usually the most restful and restorative nap. Try to plan this nap in their sleep environment and as close to their routine nap time as possible. This may not always be possible, so naps on the go are completely fine if that’s the only way to squeeze a nap in. But if possible, try to make the first nap of the day a really good one, just in case their second nap doesn’t happen. One of the best things about traveling with little ones who have healthy sleep habits is that they can sleep almost anywhere. So if your child is typically a good sleeper, napping on the go for that second nap or their regular afternoon nap, shouldn’t be a struggle. But if you have a busy day where no one naps well, be mindful of that. Be flexible with your plans, so you can let your little ones catch up on sleep the next day if you need to.
- Be Flexible & Have Fun
Ultimately, I want you to enjoy your vacation! If you have a good sleeper at home, it’s okay to break the rules sometimes. I am a big fan of the 80/20 rule. If you’re sticking to your child’s routines and honoring their sleep needs 80% of the time, you can afford to wing it 20% of the time. If you’re establishing healthy sleep skills at home, you won’t wreck your child’s sleep habits with one vacation. As long as you’re doing what you can to help them get good sleep, they will bounce right back when you get home.
If you’re a family who already struggles with sleep, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, these tips may not help you get the sleep you need on vacation. In that case, my best tip for you is to survive the vacation. And when you get back, let’s chat. If you enjoyed these tips, be sure to join me in my Formerly Tired Mom’s Club, where I go live every single week to offer free training on topics like this one. This FREE Sleep Community is a place where moms can connect and learn how to help their families get the sleep they need!