Summer is almost here and that means many of you will be traveling with your little ones. Many parents find the idea of traveling with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers anxiety producing out of fear of upsetting well-established sleeping routines. This is understandable since children tend to do better with consistent routines. However, with a little forethought and planning, and some extra attention paid to your child’s needs, summer travels will yield treasured times with family and friends.
Plan ahead before hitting the road or skies by talking through the details of the trip with your toddler or preschooler. Explain to her who you will be visiting and where you will be staying and how you will be getting there. It may help to bring out photos of family members or friends they will be seeing, especially photos with your child in them, too.
As you prepare for traveling, pack a couple of new toys and books just for the trip. Consider getting your child their own carry-on suitcase (on wheels so they can pull it through the airport themselves) to store these items. Technology comes in handy at times like these. Some episodes of “Sesame Street” on an iPad or an interactive game might be just the thing to keep little ones from getting bored in their seats.
Before boarding the airplane, run off some steam in the airport. I’m sure you’ve seen it in action - a parent cruising up and down the terminal with a toddler ahead of them. Some airports even have areas for children to play.
A trip to an observation deck to watch planes take off and land might be a worthwhile adventure before your travel date, as well. I used to love packing snacks and taking my children to watch the planes.
Have a plan for carrying your child, too. I love slings, wraps and carriers. I used them with my children for years and they are tools of my trade now. They allow you to be basically hands-free, which allows you to easily pull a travel bag. They will come in handy for tired little ones after an active day with the family, too.
Whether you’re traveling long distances or staying close to home, keep your child’s sleep routines as close to normal as possible. This means, like above, you may find yourself trying to convince well-meaning family members that you little one’s need for sleep is more important than their need for play time. To put a positive spin on it, the quality of their time together will be much more enjoyable if your child is not melting down from too much stimulation and too little sleep. Bring along white noise, which works for both lulling children to sleep and for drowning out the sounds of partygoers. You can buy apps for your iPod (bring a docking station) or purchase a portable white noise machine. Either way, pack one along with a special bedtime toy, book and bath toy. Don’t forget a nightlight, too.
All the changes and stimulation may indeed affect sleep habits but only temporarily. When you get home, don’t waste any time getting back to routines. If possible, return home from travels with at least two days to settle in before returning to work. I give you permission to take other things off your schedule in order for you to make returning to healthy routines a priority.