Question: We are taking a family road trip. Our 3 year-old is a great sleeper on trips, but this is our first time with our 9 month old. Any sleep tips to help him stick to his routine? Our older one became a co-sleeper after a vacation and we really want our younger one to stay in the crib.

Answer: First of all, sleep is probably the number one thing that parents talk about. They miss it. They want more of it. They want their kids to do more of it.

I am definitely one of those parents!

Being disciplined goes a long way when it comes to keeping an already established sleep routine. Although routines are helpful, first decide what’s important to you on this vacation before you get fixated on the routine. There are two camps to be in and there is no right or wrong way.

Decide what is more important:

  1. Having flexibility in your schedule which means forgoing a strict sleep routine.
  2. Maintaining a sleep routine at the cost of having more restrictions in your vacation.

My husband and I have been in both camps. It really depends on what kind of vacation we were on that dictated how we went about sleep routines. For example, beach vacations on our own allowed for us to retreat back to the hotel room for nap times and we were able to stick to our routine. On the other hand, attending a family wedding with multiple festivities throughout the day (on multiple days) led us to adjusting our routine in order to partake in all the fun.

If you choose to forgo the routine, just know there will most likely be a lot of re-training happening once you return home from the vacation. So be ready for that. If you choose to stick to it, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Take a pack n play or request one at your hotel/vacation rental. You can do this prior to your stay. Stick to your normal nap and nighttime routines as if the pack n play is the crib. If time zones changes come into play, it may take a few days to really establish this routine.
  2. Hang up sheets to darken the room. My husband has some mad skills to hang up sheets and it makes a huge difference during nap-time. Take duct tape! Or if you want to spend a little dough, there is this: Portable Blackout Curtain. We haven’t personally tried it, but looks great.
  3. Use white noise. If you have a sound machine your baby is accustomed to, take it along. We use a white noise app on our cell phone when traveling and it does wonders. There are plenty in the Play Store to download, but we use ‘White Noise Lite.’
  4. Divide and conquer when appropriate. If you’re all sharing one single hotel room, it can be challenging to get naps in and stick to bedtimes. If one parent can head out for a little bit with your 3 year old, that will help in keeping the room quiet without having to constantly “shhhh” your 3 year old, which is a lot to ask
  5. Take activities for the hotel room that your 3 year old can quietly do when dividing and conquering isn’t an option. I usually take small painting kits, Play-doh, and the tablet for times when my older kids need to stay quiet and busy in hotel rooms.
  6. Deep breaths. Vacations are really just “relocations” when you’re traveling with little kids. Sometimes, it can actually be less convenient than being at home because you’re in a different environment and you don’t have all your usual go-to things. But remember, the hiccups are part of the memories. A positive attitude goes a really long way.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful time on your vacation!

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