This past long weekend, my family (myself, husband, son 5, and daughter 2.5) took a little road-trip vaca! It was about a 4 hour drive, 2 nights in a hotel (swimming, eating junk, and some activities like the aquarium, trampoline park and some shopping), and then of course the 4 hour drive back home. This was our first time taking the kids on a little getaway like this so we weren’t too sure how it would all go. Being so focused on sleep (as I always am) I knew I had to do some preparation so the trip could go as smoothly as possible. After all, vacationing with overtired toddlers does not sound like fun! So here are a few things I did in preparation as well as some tips for other ages and different typs of travelling with kids.
- Pack all necessary Sleep items
For my daughter, this was: a play pen, a play pen sheet, her blanket that she sleeps with from home, 1 of her dollies and pyjamas.
For my son, this was a bit easier since he would be sleeping in a hotel bed. His pyjamas, his blanket from home, his stuffy, and his “sleep sheep” (ok to wake clock/ gro clock)
Try to bring things that will make the transition as easy as possible, and can make the environment feel like home. Bringing one of their blankets and something they usually sleep with helps make the connection that the sleep expectations are the same. Bringing my son’s visual sleep clock is always a must! I wanted to make sure he could still look at something if he woke in the morning to see if he could get up, or go back to sleep, without asking us (waking all of us up, including my daughter)
- Pick a hotel room that will meet your sleep needs, and pay extra if you have to….its worth it!
A typical 2 queen-bed room worked for us but every family’s needs are a little different. When booking the hotel room, explain to the hotel what you need (space for your playpen, possible separate living space etc). Look at the pictures of the rooms online so you can see how it will work for your family.
Also think about what you are going to do while the kids are sleeping. We had a poolside room, so we could sit outside our room with the door cracked open so we could still hear if they needed us. A room with a separate living area would work as well. Its no fun sitting in the dark (unless you want to use that time to catch up on some much needed sleep yourself!)
Our room happened to be a wheelchair accessible room which meant there was a lot of space between the beds and the dresser/tv, and a wide area outside of the bathroom where the vanity was. We put the playpen here so it wasn’t in direct view of our beds and the tv. And when the bathroom door was open, it created a barrier so it added both darkness and a visual barrier.
Some things you might want to bring with you:
A big bed sheet and clothes pins: this can be hung and act as a barrier/room divider
A white-noise machine: to buffer out the hotel noises
A monitor if you plan on being near the room when they are sleeping.
- Plan activities with respect to sleep routines
We didn’t have to worry too much about this, as my son no longer naps, and my daughter can do without a nap every so often without affect. However, we were aware of the time change (1 hour difference) and kept them as close to home schedule as possible. Letting lose a little since we were on vacation, but they were still in bed about an hour later than normal (and asleep in seconds from having fun-filled days)
If you have a napper, you will want to plan activities around nap times as much as possible. If naps are short, get missed, or are in the car, try to make up for the lost sleep with an earlier bedtime.
My daughter sleeps-in….my son DOES NOT! So I had to plan for the possibility, rather certainty that when my son woke up (around 6:00 the local time), he would be waking her up too, and I didn’t want that since I knew she probably wouldn’t be napping during the day. So I came up with a plan. I told my son, that when he wakes up and if his sheep (visual clock) is awake, him and I will sneak out of the room without waking sister and daddy and we will go sit by the pool (we had poolside room). It totally worked! He was super quiet, and my daughter was able to sleep-in until her normal time!
- Prep a head of time…fill their “sleep piggy banks”
I knew this weekend (although only 3 days) would be tiring for them, I put them to bed earlier for a few days leading up to the weekend. Basically dropping some sleep hours into their sleep piggy banks. I knew they would be missing out on some good-quality sleep while away, so this was to guard against being severely overtired (tantrums, whining, sickness) on our way home.
- Sleeping in the car…can’t be forced
As much as I would have like to force them to nap in the car, I just couldn’t. I didn’t actually try to get them to sleep, some quiet time just would have been nice! My son fell asleep
for maybe 20 minutes both ways, my daughter not at all (Go figure! She’s the one that still naps!). There are a few things you can do to encourage a car nap (do these only at nap time):
Use blinds/shades on the windows to darken the back seat
Give them their blanket and stuffy
Change the music to something soothing
Tell them “its quiet time now, mommy (or whoever is passenger) is going to sleep now too”
6. When you get home, sleep for days!
That’s totally how we felt when we came home! It’s not like the trip was overly exhausting but something about going away just makes me feel like I could sleep for days! That’s unfortunately not the case, since the next day is a school/work day and back to reality. However, I put the kids to bed an hour earlier than usual (and they fell asleep in seconds) and I myself went to bed earlier. I will continue to use an earlier bedtime for a few days with the kids to chip away at any sleep-debt they built up over the weekend.
Vacationing is for relaxing, letting lose and having fun! However, I knew if I let sleep go totally by the wayside for my kids we would totally be paying for it later, and it wouldn’t do them any favours either. Nobody likes to feel totally exhausted! Taking a little extra time for preparations and planning so that small changes are made to their routines and expectations can make travelling more fun and rewarding for the whole family!