Whether your family is heading to the sunny south to hit the pool and bask in the sun, or taking a fast-paced, activity-packed trip to Disney World, we’re all hoping for some level of down-time when we go on vacation. But, this dream of catching up on much needed rest while on holidays can quickly become cloudy when our little ones aren’t sleeping well in their new environment.
I always tell families to make their child’s sleep environment dark, quiet, and comfy for optimal sleep. Here are my top tips and hacks for keeping these elements in place while travelling!
To make it dark:
Use a portable blackout blind – If you have thought far enough in advance, investing in a portable blackout blind like the Gro Anywhere Blind is a fantastic option for making any hotel room or sleep space in a vacation home much darker and more peaceful. If you’re just reading this now and you’re already on vacation, however…
Use a clothing hanger to pinch the curtains shut! – Most hotel rooms actually have pretty great blackout curtains that greatly reduce the amount of light that creeps in your room. The problem I often find is that these curtains don’t connect! They don’t meet all the way in the middle, which means your preschooler sees bright sunlight creeping in the room at the crack of dawn! To solve this problem, I use a clothing hanger (specifically, the kind with a clothespin-like grip on each end, usually used to hang pants and dresses to avoid wrinkles) to pinch the curtains together and create a totally dark sleep environment!
To make it quiet (when other people’s kids are up at the crack of dawn in the room next to yours!):
Before you head out on your trip, purchase a sound machine – use it on the white noise setting (and used continuously throughout sleep, rather than on a timer), or download a white noise app on your mobile device to use for naptime and bedtime. The sound machine should be placed about 5-10 feet from your child's sleep space and at the sound level of a soft shower.
If it’s too late (i.e. you’re already on your trip, you forgot to buy a sound machine, and you don’t have wifi access for downloading an app!), trying cranking the A/C fan up a notch or two in your room to create more white noise (and, of course, put your little one in appropriate PJs or throw another blanket on the bed to ensure he is not cold).
To make it comfy:
Always travel with a portable crib, or call ahead to where you’re staying to ensure they have one of these options available, if your little one sleeps in a crib at home. (I.e. don’t think that bed-sharing for a week will be easier than lugging your Pack & Play with you – trust me, it might mean less luggage on your trip, but it will almost certainly mean big trouble when you get back home and expect your little one to start sleeping in her crib again!). If your child is in a big kid bed at home, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ensure there are enough beds in your hotel room for everyone in your family, or that a cot can be rented or borrowed for your child. Another great option is the Shrunks travel bed – it even comes with blow-up rails for safety!
No extra bed or cot for your kiddo? If you’re really in a pinch, a great option can be to sew together 3-4 pillowcases and then stuff each with a pillow – this creates a great, soft, comfy sleep surface for your little one, a little like camping out!!
Another great option if there IS a big bed for your child in your hotel room but it’s a little TOO big (i.e. your kiddo sleeps in a toddler bed or mattress on the floor at home, and now has a big, high bed in a hotel room during vacation, and you’re worried he may roll out!) is to ask the hotel if they have a couple of pool noodles, and line the sides of the bed with the noodles (under the fitted sheet, so they stay in place).
And, as always, if you’re reading this before heading out, don’t forget some of the small creature comforts of home that make your child feel safe and cozy, like a favourite stuffy, a couple of familiar bedtime books, and even two or three of her favourite bath toys. A little can go a LONG way when it comes to planning ahead for proper sleep; and, even if the planning didn’t quite happen, there are always some hacks you can put in place to get the great Zs you were hoping for while on holiday!
Erin Junker is a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, and owner of The Happy Sleep Company (thehappysleepcompany.ca). She works closely with tired parents to help them help their little ones get the healthy, restful sleep they need. Follow her at www.facebook.com/thehappysleepcompany www.instagram.com/thehappysleepcompany and on Twitter @TheHappySleepCo, and let’s get your family the healthy, happy sleep you deserve!