Going on a family vacation is a great way to bond with your children and to get a little relaxation. While it may be a little more difficult to plan your vacation when you have younger children, it is possible to have a good time. It happens when you maintain your child's sleep schedule.
But what can you do when you’re in a new place and your children's sleep schedules are messed up? Maybe you’re on vacation and there is a time difference. Or it’s possible that there isn’t a time difference but traveling or flying has gotten your little one’s schedule way off. It's totally possible to maintain your child's sleep schedule while on a family vacation, and these tips will help you learn how!
I will admit that I love daytime and sleep schedules for children. In my experience (with my children), they actually thrive on a schedule. They know what to expect next and I find that they are generally in a better mood when the schedule is followed. They don’t throw a fit when I say it’s time for a nap because they knew that nap time was coming.
I was born and raised in Hawaii and my whole family is still there. This means that every time we want to visit grandparents or aunts and uncles, it’s a REALLY big trip — especially for children. Total travel time is usually around 15-20 hours depending on layovers. So any type of schedule is completely thrown out the window during travel. Thankfully, I have a few tricks up my sleeve and my children get back on their normal schedule within a few days.
Family Vacation Tricks
When we travel to Hawaii, we always leave in the morning and we always arrive in the evening. It is a six hour difference, so my kids are so exhausted by the time we arrive. We head straight to our room and put them straight to bed. My kids usually wake up around 8am, but that first morning they wake up around 5am. Regardless of what time they wake up, do your absolute best to keep them awake until their normal nap time. Just be aware that your child might be grumpy but it will be worth it when your child get’s back on their schedule. Here are a few tips to help maintain your sleep schedules while on a family vacation.
Maintain your child's sleep schedule
Let’s just get this one out of the way since it’s the least fun tip. There are so many things to do when you are on vacation and the last thing you want to do is NOT do something because your child has to sleep! Unfortunately, this is just the way it might be. Believe me I know exactly how hard it is. But I have also been the parent who has tried to push their children to do too much and regretted it when they had a complete melt down in the middle of our activity. Yes, your child still needs to sleep — even on vacation. Although I do have a couple tricks that might make it a little more fun for you.
Plan Naps During Travel Time
Depending on where you are on vacation, this might or might not work. This is how we get a lot done when we are on vacation. If you know you have to drive an hour or so to get to some of your destinations, plan those car rides during your children’s nap time. They will fall asleep and get a little nap in, and you don’t have to give up too many activities while on vacation. If your child will sleep in the car seat, this will be one of your best friends!
Keep Bedtime Routines
Before nap we don’t usually have much of a routine so that’s pretty easy for us. However, we do have a routine for night time. We get our pajamas on, brush our teeth, pray, read, sing, and then lights out. Even when you are on vacation, try your best to keep this routine intact. You might not think it makes a big difference, but your child will know.
Bring Sleep Comforts
Is there anything that your child normally uses to go to sleep? One of my children uses a blanket and the other one uses a pacifier. I make sure that we always bring those sleep comforts with us. Sometimes my daughter will pick a stuffed animal to bring to bed with her. And although it’s not necessary, I will still pack a stuffed animal for her to sleep with to make it feel more like home.
There are a couple other things I should mention. Don’t try to do anything different right before vacation including potty training, switching to a different bed, weaning from bottle or pacifier, etc. Sleeping in a new place and possibly in a new time zone will be difficult enough for your child so keeping their exact routine and comforts will help them so much. If you're curious what toddler activities we took on our last trip to Hawaii, I shared a few in this toddler activity article.
If you have other tips on maintaining your child's sleep schedule while traveling, please comment below. We would love to hear them.