Traveling with Children

Are you looking forward to a wonderful vacation with your family?  Until maybe you realize that you will have to SLEEP there too – with your children?!   Whether your child is currently a good sleeper or a not so good sleeper, you may have some hesitation when it comes to traveling with them, especially if you are going to be changing time zones.   I will talk more about changing time zones later in another post.  For this post, we will be talking about general travel tips no matter where you are going.

The first tip I have is to make your destination look, feel, sound and smell like home.  Here are some ways to accomplish this:

Bring your own sheets – If your child is used to sleeping on certain sheets in their crib or bed, try to bring a set for them to sleep on in the hotel or wherever you happen to be staying.  If you happen to be staying with family and don’t feel comfortable doing this, see if they can wash their sheets in the same detergent you use so you will at least get the same smell.

Bring your child’s special lovey or blanket for them to sleep with – You may want to bring a back up as well just in case the first gets dirty or something.  No matter how you are traveling, I would encourage you to have your child’s lovey convenient to get to while you are en route.

Bring your child’s sound machine – This is why I love the sound machines that also have battery backups and are on the smaller size – perfect to travel with!  If you do not have a sound machine you can travel with, there are apps or sounds you can download to your phone, just make sure you try them out for a few nights before you go to make sure your child is okay with the sound.  This will give you another piece of home, and also drown out some of those outside noises that will be heard at a hotel or other location.

If your child will be sleeping in a pack n play, think about letting them occasionally sleep in it at home.  This may make the transition to a hotel in the pack n play a little easier.

See if you can get a slightly separate sleeping area for your child – Think about getting a suite or other room that has more than one sleeping area.  This is especially important if your child has recently stopped sleeping with you, or still tries to sleep with you.  Just remember a baby monitor!

Making actual traveling part a little bit easier.  No matter how you travel, there are some ways to make it a little less stressful.

Have your child pack a small bag for themselves – This tip is for slightly older children, but even toddlers can pick out some things they would like to have close by them.  My kids loved packing backpacks for themselves to have in the car with them when they traveled from Virginia to New York.  They had a blanket, a stuffed toy, some books, and some other small toys or activities they could do in the car.

Pack some snacks – Make sure you take along some snacks, for all but the shortest of trips.  Pack some extras to have when you get to your location in case food isn’t immediately available.   Try to pack things that are not too messy and do not need utensils to make life easier.  This may be a good time to pack some of those special single serve snacks, especially if you do not normally get them.   Do not forget to bring some snacks too.

DVDs, CDs, and Books on CD – If you are flying, see what the plane has as far as televisions.  You may want to bring a portable DVD player if you have one.  If you have a DVD player in the car, or a portable DVD player, do not forget the actual DVDs!!  You may want to pack one of two that your children have never seen to keep them entertained.  Do not forget about Books on CD, you can get copies of children’s books.  Extra points if you have the book too so your children can look along!

Schedule the travel – Think about when the best time to travel would be for your children.  For young children, it may be better to do some or all of the traveling at night when they normally would be sleeping.  However, if they do not always fall asleep in the car, be careful about this.  My children were around 5 and 7 and we drove from Virginia to New York.  We left in the evening, assuming the kids would fall asleep on the way there.  We got to New York around midnight and they were both still awake!!    For younger children who are pretty happy in the car, it may be a safer bed.  Some families will also leave in the middle of the night, waking their children slightly just to get them in the car and then hoping they will fall back asleep.  Again, with our older children this did not work so well (but we did get stuck not moving for an hour and forty minutes after about thirty minutes into our trip.

Make things comfortable – If you will be traveling at night or during your child’s nap time, bring whatever sleep props they normally need (pacifiers, blankets, stuffed toys, etc).  There are travel pillows and such which may be helpful for older children.  You do not want to introduce anything that may be a risk to a younger child though.

Relax and Have Fun!!!!! –Ultimately this is the most important part of a vacation, isn’t it?  If you have to resort to old habits or start new habits to get your child to sleep, just be sure as soon as you get home, you go back to your own normal rules.

Do you have other tips to make travel less stressful on your children?  Do you have any questions for me?

2 Thoughts on “Traveling with Children

  1. Bring your own sheets, never thought of that. That would have been perfect for my youngest who is so sensitive to smells. We also tried to keep to the same sleep schedule we kept at home. Just so we were all well rested. I remember at Disney, we’d always go back to the hotel mid-afternoon, to nap, maybe get in a swim before heading to the parks again. Our kids were always well behaved and ready to go and I would see exhausted parents with kids draped over them and oh my if they woke up – all hell broke lose. OK, I digress down memory lane 🙂

  2. Lot’s of good advice here – traveling can be weary with children, planning the timing and having their comforts helps . . .

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