Five Sleep Tips for Holiday Travel

sleep tips for holiday travel

The holidays are officially upon us, my friends. And with that comes the travel plans.

Whether you are staying at the Hilton or your in-laws’ house, you want to make sure to put an effort into ensuring that your crew gets the best rest possible. Otherwise, the Santa visits and the sledding adventures could be full of tears and angry elf tantrums.

Here are some tips to help ensure that your little ones get the sleep they need during your trip:

Sleep Tips for Travel

Tip 1: Make sleep a priority before you go.

Prioritize your family’s sleep the week leading up to your trip. Shoot for a bedtime that is 15-30 minutes earlier than normal to ensure everyone is well-rested, even you mom! You don’t want to start your trip off with a sleep debt and an empty cup. 

Tip 2: Be consistent with nap schedules and bedtime.

Try to keep your child’s nap schedule and bedtime as consistent as possible. Try not to fluctuate more than 30 minutes past your normal schedule. 

Myth Busting: Most people think that if a child skips a nap that they will in turn sleep harder and longer because they are so tired. In reality, overtiredness leads to crappy sleep.

Overtired children are more likely to resist bedtime, have frequent night wakings, wake up earlier in the morning, and have inconsistent naps due to an overload of cortisol/adrenaline in their system (#notworthit).

If possible, try to plan your car rides and outings around nap schedules. If you have a full day outing, see if you can time it right so your child can get one sleep cycle (45 minutes) in the car seat/stroller. 

Tip 3: Make a sleep space packing list.  

Do a little prep work and find out what your sleep space will look like. Whether you are at a hotel or with family, you want to know what to expect and what to pack. Try your best to keep the sleep environment similar to the bedroom at home. And extra points if you can give your child their very own room. 

The following items should be on your packing list:

Things to Pack:
  • Blackout solutions: We sleep best in a dark environment, so check out these items.
  • A noise machine: Hushh by Yoga Sleep is my favorite travel noise machine.
  • Lovey: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget your child’s favorite blanket or lovey. Maybe spritz your fav essential oil blend or your perfume on it before you go for extra comfort. 
  • Monitor.
  • Pack ’n Play, sleep cot, or sleeping bag: Make sure your little one is comfortable with their very own sleep space. Have older toddlers and children help set up the space while you are unpacking.
  • Ok to Wake Clock: If you use one of these glorious clocks at home, bring it along. It will help your kiddo know when they can wake up in the morning and during naps in their strange new environment.
  • Night light: If your child struggles with the dark, bring a yellow or red hue night light. 

Tip 4: The “Rule of Three.”

Traveling with little ones can be HARD, and no one wants to disrupt the sleep of every other person in the house or hotel. So here is my “real life” suggestion if you must revert to old methods like co-sleeping or rocking to sleep. Do not surpass three consistent nights of these methods or your child may associate the habits and extra sleep assistance as the new norm.

Do what you need to do to survive the trip and get back on track the minute you get home.

Tip 5: Plan for the inevitable late night.   

If you know you will have a late night at a destination away from your beds, this is what I’d suggest — pack the necessities and complete the bedtime routine at your destination. Brush teeth, put PJs on, nurse/bottle, and then allow your little one to fall asleep in a Pack ’n Play, the host’s bed, your arms, etc.

When you get them home and your child is still sleeping, transfer them to the crib or bed using a gradual foot, butt, head motion rather than a horizontal drop which typically alerts our equilibrium. And if your child does wake up, then do a shortened version of the bedtime routine.  

I hope these tips help and you have the most magical trip. Now, off you go. I’m sure there is some eggnog waiting for you somewhere.

Happy Holiday Travels!

And for more tips on traveling with kids, see 7 Tips for Flying with Babies & Little Kids.

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Annie is a North Dakota native and shares her life with her dreamboat husband, Tyler, and two spunky little girls, Ruby & Pippa, in Wimbledon, ND. Annie loves spending time outdoors with her family, dogs included. She is always the first one on the dance floor and often forgets she is not in college anymore. She enjoys running, playing soccer and volleyball, sipping on red wine, and bubble baths….lots and lots of bubble baths. Annie Schlecht is an occupational therapist, certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant, Reiki practitioner, and infant massage instructor. She started her own business, Zen Sleep Consulting, in 2016 after seeing a huge need in the state. Her mission is to help her clients (birth to adults) feel Zen and confident as they master the skill of sleep. Annie is serious about the work she does; yet, likes to do it with a splash (or wave) of sarcasm & humor.


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