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When you’re traveling, there are so many reasons children have trouble sleeping. They are excited about the change of scenery. They lose the comfort of home and everyday routines. Kids get more attached to bedroom items from home. They may be on a new time zone, and suffering from jet lag.
Use these steps to ease bedtime for children while traveling:
- Bring it with you. Of course, you can’t bring the bedroom with you. You will have to prioritize. It’s probably a good idea to bring your child’s pillow, since they might find hotel pillows uncomfortable. Bring that favorite stuffed animal, too (but don’t lose it!). If there are special books, bring those, too.
- Stick to bedtime routines. This isn’t always easy. You may be landing in a city late at night. You may have plans that interfere. But stick as closely as you can. If your child takes a bath each night, then reads three books, that is easy enough to duplicate. If your child likes white noise, get a portable sound machine to take with you.
- Be aware of distractions. At home, your child may have his or her own bedroom. While traveling, you could be sharing a guest room at a family member’s house or sharing a hotel room. Try to keep noise and light to a minimum. You wouldn’t sleep well if you suddenly had people chit-chatting next to your bed one night.
- Help your child avoid jetlag. As tempting as it may be with a crying baby or whining child, try to avoid letting your child get out of whack in a new time zone. Even if they want to nap in the late afternoon, don’t let them. Instead, keep them engaged in a light activity like coloring or crafts.
- Avoid the junk food. We sometimes give our children food on the road that we would never feed them at home. So you then have a child who may be jetlagged, overstimulated, and now you’ve jacked them up with sugar. Plan ahead, and ensure your child gets nutritious food and healthy kid travel snacks. Give them lots of water (not juice!) for hydration.
- Slow things down at the end of the day. Even if you’ve hit three museums or spent the day kayaking, you still need to take a good hour to help your child unwind from the day and settle down. Don’t expect to zip into your hotel room and tuck them in for a good night’s sleep. Watch a favorite movie of theirs, or read some books. Better yet, have some relaxed time just talking about what you saw that day, or asking the child what he or she wants to do tomorrow. If you got prints of your pictures, look at them.
In the rush and stress of travel, it can be easy to forget that children get just as tense about these things as we adults do. If you have a tough time settling to sleep, you can only imagine what a child — who has fewer mental resources for such things — experiences.
Take these steps to ensure your child gets to bed on time, and is well rested for the next day of family adventures.