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.
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. 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.
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.
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.