Part 1 of 3 - Tips for Holiday Travel with Your Littles: Timing
In my most recent post, I gave tips on how to make it through the holidays with a well-rested child. However, what happens if you are traveling? Can you still have a well-rested child? This will depend on your specific scenario as several factors can play a role in the answer here.
How far will you be traveling? Will you be crossing time zones? How long will you be gone? Will you be staying in a space of your own as a family or with others? What is the sleep environment like? Will your child have his own room? Will you be staying with family or friends who understand your routine or who guilt you into caving? Or maybe you already know that you won't consistently be sticking to the routine so that you can participate in specific activities?
Whatever your scenario may be, I hope you enjoy the tips below and to come so that you can enjoy your time with family and friends and are able to get settled in once you are back home.
Consider the duration of your travel time and your child.
If your travel time takes less than your child's usual wake time prior to becoming drowsy, you can aim for leaving immediately after waking from bedtime or a nap so that you make it to your destination in time to get your little one down for her next bout of sleep.
If the travel time will take more than the time of your child's wake period, consider leaving at a time right before a nap and that allows you to make it to your destination prior to bedtime. Your child may then nap in the car while also starting off for the night in a bed without needing any transitioning.
If you are not able to leave during the day due to work or other obligations, follow the tips below.
Crossing Time Zones
Note that any time I mention a time, I am referring to what the clock would say. For example, if you live in the Eastern Standard Time Zone but are traveling to the Central Standard Time Zone and your child's wake-time is normally 7:00am, you will wake your child at 7:00AM CST/8:00AM EST. The same would go for traveling west to east.
If you arrive to your destination earlier in the day and are able to have your child down for bedtime at a decent time, wake your child the next day at her usual wake-time for the new time zone and carry on with your child's typical routine.
If you arrive late in the night, it is ok to let your child sleep in if you see fit. You will notice that this will push naps late. Make sure that you do not let the last nap of the day go too late. Wake your child in time so that she will be tired enough to go sleep at the adjusted bedtime in order to help reset her biological clock. The next morning, wake your child at her typical wake-time.
Light is a big factor in regulating our biological clock. Take advantage of this while adjusting yourself and your child to the time change. Expose your child to a lot of light when it is time to be awake. This can mean turning on the lights in a room, opening the blinds, going for a walk outside, etc. Once approaching a time for naps or bedtime, expose your child to as little light as possible. Close the blinds, dim the lights, turn off any screens, etc. Once it is time to sleep, do your best to have complete darkness.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you should be back to your child's regular schedule by the first or second full day of your trip. Note, however, that it often takes the number of days equal to the number of time zones crossed in order to get over jet lag. Thus, it may take a few days for your child's (and your own!) temperament to adjust.
Once your vacation is coming to an end, you will then use the same strategies mentioned above for both travel and re-setting your child's biological clock with her typical schedule.
Regardless if you are traveling two hours away or eight, do yourself a favor by creating a mindset that allows you to be flexible when needed and rigid when needed. Set up your expectations that your child's sleep or routine will most likely get thrown off at some point. However, with your help, you can then help your child get back to her norm once back home.
For more tips for the holidays, check out my blogpost about general sleep tips to help your child stay well-rested during the holidays and the next two parts of this post which will cover sleep environment while traveling and what to bring!