With the holidays approaching, there might be some traveling in your future. I thought this would be a good time to share what I learned about kids, traveling, and sleeping. This past summer we traveled with our 3-year-old twins on two week-long vacations. On these trips we faced the new obstacle of the girls no longer sleeping in Pack N Plays. They now sleep in regular beds, which means they are able to get out of bed. This is a scary thought for parents. Luckily, we managed to survive two weeks away, with two different sleeping arrangements. Not to mention, various weekends away at friends and family’s houses.
No More Portable Cribs
Having the twins sleep in beds (and not portable cribs) when away from home for the first time was definitely stressful for me. Additionally, we had to tackle different sleeping arrangements for each trip. The first place we rented, their room had twin beds. In the second place, they shared a double bed. There would either be crying or goofing off when we initially did lights out the first few nights. We would wait as long as possible before returning to their room. If they were goofing off we sometimes had to resort to temporarily removing their stuffed animal. After a couple nights they were used to their sleeping arrangements and bedtime was smoother and quicker. It was also nice to see they could sleep well while sharing a bed, since this was a new experience for them. The good news is, once you travel a few times, you will get practice and the thought of figuring out sleeping arrangements will become much less stressful.
Sleeping At Home
Before I list my tips, it’s important to have a little background on sleeping habits at home before our travels. About 1 month before our first trip we went through the process of converting the twins from sleeping in cribs to sleeping in their toddler beds. This way they would have practice before our vacations. The less change you need to introduce, the better. The conversion to the new beds went pretty smoothly. They were excited to sleep in “big girl beds”. Overall, bedtime in our house is hit or miss. Depending on the night, J tries as many tactics as possible to get you back in the room (including crying and getting out of bed). Meanwhile, S will hang out in her bed and play with her stuffed animals for up to an hour before going to sleep. With that being said, here are tips I learned for getting our 3-year-old twins to sleep well when traveling.
Sleeping Tips when Traveling with Toddlers
- Tell them what to expect before leaving – a few days before your trip let them know you are going away. If you know the sleeping arrangement, tell them what it will be. If you have pictures, show them pictures of where you are going.
- Establish sleeping arrangements as soon as you arrive – when you arrive at your destination figure out where the kids will sleep. Set up the room as needed. In our case we needed to put safety gates on the beds, set up the monitor, and put sheets on the bed.
- Show your kids where they will be sleeping – once the room is set up, but before bedtime, bring the kids to the room so they can see where they will sleep. Let them pick something for bedtime. Some examples are the bed they want to sleep in or a book they want to read at bedtime.
- Bring a monitor – a video monitor is best. It will ease your mind that your children are safe and help you decide if you need to go back in their room. It also gives you the ability to go to other parts of the house or outside if you want.
- Bring something from home – my kids are not super attached to a stuffed animal, but I still find it useful to have something they recognize from home for comfort.
- Establish rules – I have found it really helpful to have a few rules for the kids at bedtime. For example, two big ones are “don’t get out of bed” and “no crying”. Do my kids always follow these rules? Absolutely not, but they know they are supposed to follow them. If they break a rule, ask them to repeat the rules back to you, then remind them to follow them.
- Leave them alone – this will be much easier if you have a monitor. Return to their room as few times as possible after lights are out. You might have to let them cry for a few minutes and return if they still have not stopped.
- Exhaust them – if you are on vacation, there is a good chance there will be plenty of opportunity for the kids to run around. The more tired they are, the easier they will go to bed.
If you are traveling with toddlers this holiday season, I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy your time with family and friends, and maybe even get some sleep!