Traveling itself can be a feat as it is. Adding a baby, or toddler, or one of each to the mix, brings it to an entirely new level. Before you embark on this adventure, our certified sleep experts at Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby have compiled our best tips for traveling with babies and toddlers. Learning from our mistakes, we have created a list that showcases the dos and don’ts to make your travels a little easier. Read more in this blog: traveling with tots; jet lag.
Picking the Best Time to Travel
Picking flights is the first phase to conquer as choosing the time you leave one destination and arrive at another is key. There are rare occasions that your child will sleep the entire flight and maintain their sleep schedule as close as possible. However, most of the time we need to make plans for an overtired baby who isn’t having the wait and flight times the rest of us are accustomed to.
Choosing a daytime flight when you are flying domestically is the best option, as you can typically try to plan your flight and arrival times to coincide with nap and bedtimes, as close as possible. Missing a nap time is less detrimental than interrupting a bedtime. Avoid a red eye if you can, as disruption to a bedtime routine will create additional distress the following day and night as baby acclimates.
If you are flying international, these are more often longer flights with time changes that interfere with your daily schedule. These flights may find a red-eye flight a better option as you know its plane will be quieter, darker and it will be easier to mimic a bedtime routine for your baby. Our certified sleep consultants suggest bringing a sleep sack, or small white noise machine, or anything that is small, portable, and resembles a bedtime routine for your baby. These small additions may be the key to relaxing your baby and allowing them to align with their sleep schedule as close as possible. If requested ahead of time some airlines do have bassinets babies can sleep in. If this is available it is a total game changer.
Depending on where you are traveling to, you may encounter a time difference of one hour up to 12 hours. Determining if it is worth changing your child’s nap or bedtime schedule is measured by the reactions your baby is having to the travel itself and if they are showing signs of jet lag.
Experts conclude that jet lag will last for one day per one hour of time change. Thus, determining the impact jet lag will have on your child in addition to the amount of time you will be spending in this time zone is entirely up to you. Our certified sleep experts have found that short trips that are only an hour to two ahead or behind us aren’t significant enough to incorporate a change to their sleep schedules.
If you are going to be at your travel destination longer, or are going to be making additional flights, we suggest adapting to the new time zone immediately. This will help your baby adjust more quickly, resulting in more rest for you and your partner/spouse, too.
Day and Night; Using the Light to your Advantage
Our bodies have a natural ability to adjust to time zones due to the cycle of light and dark cycles, and this is beneficial to adjusting baby to the new time zone.
When you have reached your destination, it is important to try to keep as close to the sleep schedule you have created at home. If your room has blackout curtains, utilize the darkness at night to help provide a sleep situation they are accustomed to.
If your room does not have black-out curtains, investing in a Slumber Pod is a worthwhile asset to creating a blacked-out private space for your baby. Another option is portable blackout shades. These are available online at various retailers as well. Be sure to check with your local mom groups, or social media groups to see if anyone has these items they may allow you to borrow, or even rent if buying brand new is not an option for you.
If possible, being outside in the sunshine in the morning and during the day is vital to their schedule to allow as much light in the room as possible. Exposure to sunshine will help promote melatonin production in your baby and allows their circadian system to adjust to the new time zone quicker, too. This will help adjust your baby to their normal schedule and promote a better night’s sleep for both of you.
Nap and Bedtime Adjustments
Traveling is exhausting. Most of us would love a quick nap upon arrival to revive our mind and body and decompress from the busy day. Your baby may be just as tired as you are, and a quick catnap that lasts less than 30 minutes may be beneficial to reducing the overtiredness travel can cause. If it is too close to bedtime, omit the nap, allowing natural pressures to rise again.
Sticking to a bedtime routine that is as close to a bedtime routine at home is key to helping baby adjust to a bedtime in their new environment. With the familiarity of the routine presented to baby, it allows the brain to create melatonin production and allows the body to begin to relax, signaling bedtime.
Patience is Key
Traveling is tough on anyone, let alone with a baby or toddler in tow. As much as we plan, organize, and create a schedule for traveling, we are at the mercy of on-time flights, unavoidable delays, and setbacks outside of our control. We need to be patient with ourselves and our little ones, too. This is a brand-new adventure for them, and it can be overwhelming on them.
As always, our certified sleep experts at Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby are here to help. Please give us a call or send us an email using the contact information listed below.
We are sleep consultants in Denver, Kansas City, and Ft. Worth. However, we work with families all over the world!