Travel & Holiday Survival Guide
Updated: Jan 26
Just the idea of traveling or navigating holidays with kids can be daunting, but yet also exciting. On the one side, you are excited to see family, get out of the house, experience the joy with your children, but you also need them to eat, sleep, and not be crabby. You want to enjoy your vacation or holiday and you have every right to - so let me help you navigate crazy days!
First piece of advice: go into crazy days with zero expectations.
If you set yourself up for success then everything will go as planned. Be prepared for everything, but don't expect anything.
General "Off Day" Tips
1. Try to follow wake windows for you child's age range, so as not to send them into an overtired cycle. Yes, you may need to stretch a wake window here or there, and that's okay and expected. Children 2+ are generally better with stretching their max wake window.
2. Watch for sleepy cues. Your baby will signal when they are tired or overstimulated. Respect these cues, and try to put them down to sleep.
3. Imitate sleep routines as best you can. Continuing with your sleep routine will feel familiar to your child and signal that it is time to sleep, even if it is a shortened version.
4. Bring sleep items - sleepsack/swaddle, white noise, pack 'n play, sheets, comfort item (for children 1+), etc.
*Pro tip: wash the pack n play sheets and sleep with them the night before so it smells like home (this is especially great for babies <1)
5. Make sure the sleep environment mimics home and is safe. The room should be dark and temperature between 68-72 degrees (be aware of this if you are traveling to different climates), and nothing dangerous is in reach of the child. I personally love and use the Slumberpod. It creates a perfect "tiny room" for your child. You can use the code: RAINBOWDREAMS$20 for $20 off at checkout!
6. Set boundaries. Communicate your needs and your children's needs. If you want them to take a nap on time because you know otherwise you'll be dealing with an overtired crabby child (hello, been there done that! And now I choose not to go down that path), then you have every right to put your child down for a nap. Say you are visiting family for Christmas Eve, and you can see your kids fading as bedtime was 30 minutes ago, excuse yourself and take the kids to bed. Family and friends will understand and it won't always be like this!
Day of Travel
If you are flying, I recommend flying out in the morning, preferably around nap time for babies on 2+ naps. During takeoff and landing, try to either nurse or offer a bottle or pacifier to help with pressure in their ears. Once in the air, I like to put my infant (0-6m or depending on your infant's size and likability to contact nap) in a carrier or wrap because it generally ensures a decent nap on the plane. If you chose to buy a seat for your child, use a car seat. The airplane is like a giant white noise machine, but I still like to use our travel white noise machine.
If you are traveling by car for longer than 1-2 hours, then try to plan being in the car during nap hours and have the kids fall asleep while driving. Based on my family's travel experiences, Ella has never been a great car napper. Jack, on-the-other-hand, can pass out anywhere. Since Ella only takes a nap in the afternoon, I would try to leave during Jack's first nap and get to our destination for afternoon naps. However, do what works for YOUR family!
Travel days are exhausting for everyone. There is a lot of stimulation, excitement, and possibly short/interrupted naps. For that reason, an early bedtime can help infants from becoming overtired and overstimulated.
If you find the holidays to be both enchanting and magical, yet incredibly exhausting, you can probably assume that most parents feel the same way. Although the holidays are so much fun for your kids, there is usually an increase in tantrums, crying, and overstimulation. Short or interrupted naps can also play a role in your child's behavior. Here are some tips for surviving:
1. Plan your day around naps. (I know this has been a common theme - but it works!) If your child will take a nap in the car, great! If they do not nap in the car or your drive is short, then plan to be at your destination with some time to spare before nap so they can play and get some energy out.
2. If your child is 0-6 months, bring your carrier or wrap for hands free contact naps. Clip your travel sound machine onto the carrier or your shirt and, voila, it's nap time!
3. Bring all necessary sleep essentials and set up your child for a normal nap. If you do not have a Slumberpod, use a dark bathroom or closet!
4. If you have a toddler who just won't nap, it's okay. Kids 2+ are generally okay if they skip their nap, but do offer quiet time so that their bodies and brain can rest.
5. Early bedtime! If you have had a long day with short naps, and your child is starting to get antsy or meltdown, it is okay to excuse yourself and go home (if you are planning to go home). If you are staying over, it's okay to feed your child dinner early and put them to bed. Then you get a quiet, hot meal, and their bodies get to make up sleep they missed from the day.
Stroller and Car Seat Naps
They happen, so be prepared for them. Make sure that they are in their car seat or stroller safely! I cannot stress this enough, as it is one of my biggest fears. Keep them strapped in if transporting in the car seat and always, always be watching. For older babies who have good head support, I use the stroller snooze shade, for darkness and to lessen stimulation.
When doing naps on the go, your number one item will be a travel white noise machine! This will drown out extra noise and spare you from naps getting interrupted.
Stroller and car naps are going to happen, and some days it will be easier to plan your day for naps on the go, especially while traveling. If they are able to get at least one sleep cycle in during a nap on the go, that would be ideal.
If naps on the go were short, it is okay to add in an extra cat nap or, my go-to move, early bedtime!
As mentioned above, naps in the carrier or wrap are also a great way to get a nap in on the go!
Time change can be anxiety producing, but most children do fine with it. What is most important is making sure they get their daytime sleep in. Naps and bedtime are predictable, do your sleep routines, and watch wake windows + sleepy cues.
The general rule for handling time changes is if you are traveling somewhere with a 1-2 hour time change, keep them on your "home" time zone. If traveling somewhere with a 3+ hour time change, you can prepare your child a few days before leaving to get them on the new time.
Follow your child's lead. If you forget to prepare for a 3+ hour time change, it's okay! Make sure to spend time outside, stick to your normal wake windows, and sleep routines. Spending time outside in sunlight and naps/bedtime in the dark will help reset their circadian rhythm.
Your child will most likely do fine with time changes, so try not to overthink it.
You do not need to chose between enjoying your vacation or holidays becasue of your children's schedule. A vacation is meant to be enjoyed and a break from your day-to-day, and holidays are meant to be magical, and spent with family and friends. Adapt a 80/20 perspective going into the holiday & travel season. This means, 80% of the time you stay on schedule with naps and bedtime, but 20% of the time I encourage you to plan a dinner out or book an outing during nap time! Not only will this help children become adaptable, but it will help us enjoy our lives. If your child is expected to nap on the go or skips a nap, plan for an early bedtime. If you want to go out to dinner and bedtime is going to be a little later, plan for good naps during the day or even a car cat nap on the way to dinner!
If you have an off day, remember you can always get back on track the next day. It takes about 3 days to form a habit, so one day will not ruin your child's sleep!
I hope that you all enjoy the holidays and/or your vacation!! This time of year is hectic yet very special. Your children won't remember the craziness of these days (or the tantrums), but they will remember the time spent with you and family/friends, the fun things they get to do, and the magic that is the holiday season!
Need More Help?
If you find yourself struggling after traveling or the holidays or you are still unsure how to handle traveling/holidays, do not hesitate to reach out! I would love to help set up a plan for traveling/holidays or help get everyone back on track. Book a complementary 15 minute consult and we can find the right package for your family!
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