Travelling with Kids: 6 Tips For Keeping Your Children Well Rested on the Road

Children travelling in car

By: Joleen Dilk Salyn 

Are you heading out on the open road this summer with kids? Are you filled with dread at the possibility of listening to your overtired child crying and complaining the whole time?
Relax! That doesn’t have to be the case!

Use the following 6 tips to help your child stay well rested (and happy!) during your road trip.

1. An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Pound of Cure

When a child is overtired, they often are more resistant to sleeping in new locations, adapting to new routines and interacting with new people. To avoid this frustrating situation, ensure your child is caught up on their sleep before heading out on the road by keeping a regular nap schedule and age appropriate bedtimes at least 1-2 weeks prior to leaving.

2. Troubleshoot While Still At Home

If your child will be sleeping in a Pack and Play while you’re travelling, offer them a few practice naps in it at home before you go. This way, your child can take a nap in the security of their room while testing out the new sleeping quarters, and you can troubleshoot any areas of concern and make the necessary adjustments ahead of time 

3. Stick to a Regular Routine

While it’s important to still enjoy your journey and allow for some flexibility, children will be better travel companions with a consistent routine because they won’t be overtired and cranky.

A nap in the car is not as restorative as sleep that is flat and motionless, but it’s preferred to missing a nap completely. If your little one easily sleeps during travel, then drive while they snooze. It might take them a while to unwind and go to sleep, so try leaving at least 20-30 minutes before their normal nap time to compensate for this.

However, if your child is too stimulated to doze off at all, then aim to be at your destination by their nap time. If this can’t be accommodated, then opt for an earlier bedtime that night.

4. Time Zones

Travelling through time zones will make everyone feel a little ‘off’ for a few days while the body resets itself. Since our internal clocks are regulated by the amount of sunlight our brains perceive throughout the day, make sure to expose them to the bright morning sun each day and follow the new time as soon as possible.

5. Same Sleep Environment, Different Location

Children respond incredibly well to consistency. This includes having similar sleep environments, even when sleeping in different locations.

To assist your child with falling asleep easily in a hotel room, replicate their regular sleep environment as much as possible by taking their lovey, white noise, special blanket and crib sheets.

6. Back On Track

It can be fun to take a family road trip together, and often we relax the rules while we’re gone. Naps get skipped and bedtimes slide a bit later.

Once you’re home though, get right back to your regular routine and bring bedtime up earlier for a few days to help compensate for any sleep debt that has accumulated from the missed sleep. Depending on how sensitive your child is to being overtired, expect a week or more recovery time.

Do you have tips to share where sleep is concerned when travelling with kids?

Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.

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