I’m going to go out on a limb here, people – vacation with [small] kids is hardly a vacation. Our family rents a beach house each year, which is something my husband grew up doing. It is so. much. work. In essence, you drag nearly everything you own from your house to someone else’s house for a week. Sheets? Towels? Food? Laundry detergent? Check, check, check, check. (This article from The Onion basically sums up the entire experience.) We choose to do this instead of staying at a hotel because it gives up multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, and some semblance of ‘normal life’ for our kids. They love the novelty of staying somewhere new, but with that novelty comes excitement. And with excitement comes a lack of sleep. And with that lack of sleep comes two cranky parents. And that’s why I’m here today – to share some tips how to help your child sleep on vacation. I’m not an expert, but I did survive my own vacation…
How To Help Your Child Sleep On Vacation
Whether rental house, hotel, cruise ship, cabin, or igloo, there are likely quite a few differences from your vacation sleep spot and your home. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to recreate as much of their familiar bedroom as possible.
Step One: Make it Comfortable
Unless you’re a really ‘go with the flow’ kind of person – and, sorry, but I can’t relate – you likely have some sort of specific set up at home for your kids. In our home, for example, my kids have room darkening shades and white noise machines. They sleep really well in dark rooms, and the white noise helps buffer out random noises, like car alarms, fireworks, the TV playing in another room, the phone ringing, etc. On vacation, I bring their white noise machines with us to help buffer out the new noises of the beach – rowdy neighbors, airplanes, and so on. In the past, I have rigged blankets over the windows to make the rooms a bit darker.
I also pack their essential bed ‘stuff’ – particular stuffed animals, a favorite blanket or pillow, and their most-loved books. Keeping things as familiar and comfortable as I can definitely helps my kids feel like they are able to stick to their routine.
Step Two: Tire Them Out
Now, listen, I know this is probably not the most textbook advice. But, after a few years of practice, I can tell you that it works. Get those kids good and tired, and they are much more likely to fall asleep fast – err, pass out. My kids are still young – just shy of 4 and 2. So, they are still rocking an early bedtime at home. (I’m talking 7pm!) On vacation, though, we’d keep them up later than normal every night. It’s not like we tortured them though – walking the boardwalk, going on rides, getting ice cream, playing at a nearby playground, a sunset walk on the beach, and so on.
Now, you have to know your kids in order for this to work. There are many kids who get incredibly wired when they get tired! But for us, my kids crash hard. Win!
Step Three: Do What It Takes
I’m contradicting my normal advice, which is to not introduce a behavior or habit that you don’t want to do from then on. My son has never slept in our bed, because I know he would latch onto that habit fiercely, and we didn’t want to start that. (Co-sleeping isn’t for us, but more power to you if it works for you! #notjudging)
However, during our last vacation, my husband and I had to do some things we would *never* do at home to get our kids to sleep. For my daughter, who was sleeping in a pack & play at the beach house, I had to essentially rock her to sleep. She screamed so hard when I put her down in the pack & play that she made herself sick, and only wanted to be held. So, I rocked with her until she nearly fell asleep and transferred her. This is something we never do at home.
And for my son, he was sleeping in a full size bunk bed for the first time and thought it was so cool. Too cool for sleeping, unfortunately, and kept climbing and getting up. After extra books and stories, the only thing that helped him settle down in bed and fall asleep was to have my husband lay with him until he finally dozed off. At home, this behavior would not be tolerated, by any means. But on vacation? Sure. Fine. Whatever it takes.
What tips would you add to this list?