Top 3 Tips for Travel with a Picky Sleeper

Traveling with a picky sleeper - Erica Parachini for Nesting Story

For the first time since my son was 4 months old and in the throes of colic, we decided to take a family vacation to Montana. To give you a bit of a backstory my son has suffered from sleep issues from the minute he took his first breath. He refused to sleep unless it was on my chest and napped in my arms for the first year. Once he hit 13 months a miracle happened and he started sleeping 3 hours during the day and 12 hours at night! He is now 15 months old and is in the most perfect routine for sleep BUT he is very picky about his sleeping situation. If he was such an amazing sleeper at home why couldn’t we take him on vacation?

In order for us to survive the nights and not completely start fresh on a new routine once our trip commenced, we were determined to keep sleep as normal as we possibly could for him. Here are my tips for surviving travel with a picky sleeper!

1. Recreate the Sleeping Environment.

The garbage bag trick

Use Blackout Shades. My son sleeps in total darkness. I’m talking you cannot see your hand in front of your face darkness. Your standard “Blackout shades” don’t cut it seeing that we had to cut any source of glimmer out of his room in order for him to not be distracted by it. The Trash Bag Trick works wonders! I found that using 50-gallon black trash bags doubled up blocked out 100% of the incoming light of the room that I was attempting to blackout. I used double sided removable stickers to line the outline of the window and was able to secure the garbage bags without any gaps between the window. These are removable pads as well which make removal a breeze!

Make your own Suction Cup Blackout Shades to help your picky sleeper

Make your own Suction Cup Blackout Shades. I found these on Amazon and they have been a staple in our sleeping routine since I discovered the need for total darkness sleep! They have Velcro around the sides so they can be customized to fit your window and suction cup to the edges to seal the light out completely.

Use blackout shades

Invest in a Travel Mattress. Let’s face it, Pack n’ Plays pads are not crib mattresses, and a picky sleeper knows the difference! We ordered a mattress the size of the play yard and a fitted sheet. Both fold for travel and this extra effort gave our son the added comfort of home in an unfamiliar environment.

Pack It All. We brought our sound machine, video monitor, sleep sack, lovey and everything necessary for his bedtime routine. For us this includes a bath, reading time in dim light and then in bed to sooth himself to sleep.

2. Determine the Prime Sleeping Location:

Just because you’re sharing a hotel room doesn’t mean you have to share sleeping spaces! There are many options for sleeping locations if you dare to get creative! For us, it ended up being a guest bathroom with a small window. The window was easy to blackout and the pack n play that he slept in was near an outlet for the monitor and sound machine to be close by. You can set up a bedroom in a hotel bathroom, a large walk in closet or if needed you can set it up in the corner of a mutual room. I like separating my child’s sleeping environment from ours so that we can comfortably stay up after bedtime and relax without fear of waking our toddler.

3. Stick to Your Routine:

Stay on Schedule. As tempting as it may be to stay out exploring or spend extra time visiting, sticking to your schedule is vital. A late night here and there or a missed nap once or twice isn’t enough to ruin your baby’s routine forever but if you spend your trip off routine it’s going to be a lot harder to regain your schedule once you return.

Traveling with a picky sleeper - Erica Parachini for Nesting Story

Don’t Skip Naptime. If you baby sleeps well in the car try to do your car travel during prime nap times after wearing them out. If your baby doesn’t (like mine) plan to be at your temporary home during naptime to have the best chance of sticking to your schedule.

Traveling with a picky sleeper can be daunting but with these tips you’ll be able to keep your child on their schedule and keep your sanity when you return home! What’s your favourite travel tip for traveling with littles?

Erica Parachini is a writer and creator of Made At Home Mom Life, a supportive community empowering mothers to feel more at home in their motherhood. You can also check out more from Erica and “Baby H” on Instagram.

10 Reasons Why Disney World’s Art Of Animation Resort ROCKS!

Disney's Art Of Animation LobbyThis past Christmas, My husband and I drove all the way from Toronto to Orlando with our four kids for a vacation of a lifetime. After lots of research, we decided that staying at the Art of Animation in the cars suite would fit all six of us best. It was incredible, magical, and worked beautifully for all of us, even our 18 month-old twins. Here are 10 reasons why Disney World’s Art of Animation ROCKS. Our vacation and this post have not been sponsored. As always, all opinions are my own

1. The food is out of this world. Disney’s Art of Animation’s (DAA) restaurant, Landscape of Flavors, is set up cafeteria style. You grab your tray, and head to different stations to build your meal. The build your own burgers, pasta and omelettes and unreal. This dining option works well with kids too. You can sit inside, outside, or even take your meals to go up to your room.Dinner outside the Landscape of Flavors2. You feel like you are inside several Disney movies. Our family stayed in a Cars suite, which was on one end of the resort and my parents stayed in a Little Mermaid room on the other side. To walk from one end to the other, it takes about ten minutes. Throughout the entire resort, there are groupings of buildings that are themed differently: Cars, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Finding Nemo. There are whimsical characters scattered around the resort that were perfect for photos and climbing. You truly feel like you are inside Disney movies.Disney's Art Of Animation characters3. The best pool for young kids. The Big Blue Pool, which is Finding Nemo themed, is the biggest pool in Disney World. But what made this pool extra special for us was the gradual entry. This meant that our older kids could swim around (with floatation devices) while our twin toddlers could run in and out of the pool while my husband Mike, and I supervised them.Big Blue Pool4. It doesn’t matter if your kid is melting down. There is constant action and music going on around DAA, especially in the restaurant. This is perfect for kids ages 0 – 10. Visiting the parks is exhausting, especially for young kids. So it is understandable that your little one might have a little meltdown by dinnertime. But between the music drowning them out and looking around the room and seeing all of the other exhausted kids, it really doesn’t matter.

5. The rooms are baby-proofed. Unlike the second location we stayed in in Florida (and had to spend the first day baby proofing), our kids were able to go straight in and enjoy the entire space without Mike and I having to chase them around and set limits. The space isn’t huge, so there wasn’t anyway we could start closing off areas. Tip: We rented cribs ahead of time from Kingdom Strollers. They were at the front desk waiting for us when we arrived.

6. It’s stroller friendly. As a twin mom, I am heavily reliant on our double stroller. DAA had beautiful wide paths, elevators and lots of space in the dining area and pool area to accommodate our stroller. We would even use it inside our room to contain our busy toddlers while they had a snack and we could get ready to head out the door. Stroller in hotel room7. There is always something to do. Aside from the pools, there is also a playground, a Lion King bones play area, evening outdoor movies and so much more. We spent a lot of our free time playing in the Lion King bone area, because our twins and older kids could safely run around and burn off energy.Lion King play area8. Taking the buses to the parks is so convenient. We loved that we could take shuttle buses to and from the Disney parks whenever we wanted. This especially came in handy when we had to shuffle our kids around one day. Tip: If you are going to bring a stroller, bring a folding stroller. Our double stroller which has to be taken apart when you fold it up became an ordeal each time we got on the bus. Between juggling twins and two older kids, it was pretty tricky. Lesson learned.On a Disney bus with twins9. The attention to detail is memorizing. I think this was my favourite part about DAA. I was constantly trying to take in every detail, from the plants shaped like coral to the patterns on the bedding. Even my four year old daughter would pick out light fixtures that looked like cones in the Cars building. Bravo Disney, of animation details10. It makes you feel like a kid again. I tend to have my “mom hat” on too much, and forget to let loose and be silly with my kids. But there was something about seeing all of those characters from the Lion King and Little Mermaid that brought me back to my childhood. I may have even let loose a little.posing in front of mater

Don’t forget to read all about our drive to Florida, our Bibbidi Bobbed Boutique, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom experiences!

We Drove From Toronto To Florida With Four Kids And Survived

IMG_0479We did it! We drove from Toronto to Orlando with four kids ages six and under. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Growing up, I always did the same drive with my family, so this to me is almost a right of passage. Plus, I would never try buying six flights over the holidays, because it would cost a fortune.

Unlike the last time we did this trek, we started packing and preparing weeks in advance. We were extremely strategic with how we packed our SUV, including having designated bags to go in the car and ones to go in our roof top carrier. We used mostly duffle bags, and tried to avoid suitcases, so we could shove and squish our luggage.

Note: we removed the center console in the middle row of our SUV. By doing this,our older kids can easily walk into the backseat and buckle themselves up into their booster seats. This has been a lifesaver, especially with having to accommodate our twins’ carseats.

I packed our overnight bag that we would use when we stopped in Tennessee, and made sure I had all of the necessary in-car survival bags we would need. These included a soft cooler filled with fruit, bottles of water and milk for bottles, a snack bag with dry snacks and containers, and most importantly, my bag of tricks. In this bag, I filled it with dollar store toys, stickers, and the best invention ever… Crayola Color Wonder markers and colouring books (these are the no mess kind).

After putting our four kids to bed in their comfy clothes, (so that we didn’t have to change them when we left), we packed the car and tried to get some sleep. Before going to sleep, Holden, our oldest, was upset, thinking that people wouldn’t know we were going to come home and would move in while we were away. We calmed his nerves and he finally fell asleep.

At 2:30am our alarm sounded and it was time to get going. we loaded each kid into the car and were on our way. I had already sent my husband Mike out to buy us coffees and muffins so that we wouldn’t have to stop for a while.

We drove straight through to Windsor, stopped for a bathroom break and gas fill up and were ready to cross the boarder. Little did we know that unlike previous years, there would be a huge line at the Canada/US boarder. We lost about an hour here but we were so proud of how patient our kids were.

By the time we were just about to cross the Ohio boarder from Michigan, we stopped for breakfast at Dennys. Our kids ate a ton, especially our twins, Mia and Everly.

Mia and Everly at Dennys

Note: There are a few key items in this photo that I highly recommend: the Tiny Diner Placemats by Summer Infant and the rubber bibs were a life saver! Also some sippys and hand sanitizer is a must!

After breakfast we tried to cover some ground, unfortunately Beau, (who is 4-years-old), had to constantly stop for bathroom breaks. This is the kid that never has an accident at night, but when awake, has the tiniest bladder. The only person who had slept at this point was Mia, so by lunchtime everyone was getting a little crusty.

When we stopped at McDonalds for lunch, I found a little corner that I could block off so our kids couldn’t escape, and we had an impromptu dance party, while Mike got the food. They all loved it, but we probably looked a little funny… I didn’t care. I just wanted to get everyone moving so our kids would sleep and we could gain some ground.

After lunch, a couple bottles and a little work, all four kids fell asleep. But after a couple hours Beau woke up hysterical, feeling sick and begging to go home. This threw us through a loop. We pulled off the highway and tried to figure out how to calm her down. I took her to the bathroom, again, and worked hard at relaxing her.

Mike was also unravelling at this point. We were behind schedule, (still in Kentucky), and he felt frustrated that we were stopping so often for bathroom breaks. We bickered a little, but we each pulled it together, got a grip and pushed forward.

Over the next few hours we stopped only on the side of the road for quick bathroom breaks in the bushes (yes, we are those people). At one point Mike was pooped on and we broke out in laughter. We drove until 9pm the first night and finally stopped in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the night. We had called ahead to book our room at a Holiday Inn Express and made sure they had two cribs. We got rooms side by side, with Mike and the big kids in one and our twins and I in the other.

Half way through the night Everly woke up hysterical and spat up, (which is very typical for her). For the first time in the six years since I became a parent, I brought Everly into my bed and co-slept with her. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a big deal. I am a crazy light sleeper and have never been able to sleep with my kids. I was just tired enough that I needed any kind of sleep I could get. I ended up co-sleeping with Everly every night we were in Disney World while I was sharing a room with her. 

The next morning we woke up on a mission. We decided that if we were going to get to Orlando before dinner we would only do drive through meals, diaper changes in the car and very quick bathroom breaks.

Hotel room picA Holiday Inn bathroom selfie

At one point on day two, we once again unravelled. I was also done being patient and reminded Mike that we needed to be a team to get through this.

By Gainesville, Florida we were walking Mia and Everly around the parking lot to keep them going. They were losing their patience and very done with being in the car.

walking our twins

The only thing I had’t planned was how dirty Mia and Everly would get and how many diaper leaks they would have. We easily went through the six outfits I had packed and for the last few hours of our drive we were down to dirty onesies. All of our other clothes were locked up in our rooftop carrier.

Although Everly, (who is typically the most cranky of our children in the car), had been incredibly happy and up for the adventure, was nearing the end of her rope. The final hour of our drive was hard work. I had pulled out every trick up my sleeve, given every snack and used every toy. I was putting on puppet shows for the kids which held off their cries to get out of the car.

But finally we saw the most beautiful sight…

Disney World

We had arrived. As soon as we entered our hotel room in The Art Of Animation in Disney World, the kids ran around, explored and couldn’t have been happier to be done our big drive.

We have arrived

Some people think we are crazy that we continue to do this drive every other year, but whenever we look back on our Christmas holiday vacations, the drive is always part of our happiest memories.

Don’t forget to follow Nesting Story on Facebook to catch my upcoming blog posts covering the rest of our three week Florida vacation, including doing Disney World with four kids.