How to get your child to sleep when on a trip

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When the school season ends, both parents and children look forward to a trip away. Whether that trip is to the grandparents, to a friend’s house for a sleepover, or on some faraway destination holiday, they all have one thing in common, they get kids excited. While you can channel this excitement into getting your kids to do more around the house (or the Disneyland trip won’t happen) to behave better with their siblings (or they won’t be able to go to best buddy Mark’s birthday) and to eat all their vegetables (or they won’t be allowed to visit their grandparents) you can’t use these getaways to get your kids to sleep better. Once on a trip, kids are so excited that their sleep schedule goes out the window. Here is what to do to make it work.

The excitement is the main factor that causes an issue with sleep schedules but there are other issues as well. The time difference is something that we can barely get our heads around as adults and our bodies still have a tough time adapting so for kids it can make them question the very fabric of existence (although they may not describe it like that). In addition, sleeping in a different bed, in a different city with different sounds and different smells is, well, different! This can be really tough for any child. Again we have all noticed how this can disrupt our own sleeping schedule so it can cause havoc for a child.

It is difficult to completely solve this issue as being excited and not being able to sleep is something you will likely have to deal with. Don’t be surprised if they get a little cranky and need a nap the next day because they couldn’t sleep the night before. Let them have a nap but don’t let it take too long or you will risk the same problem happening every night for the remainder of the vacation.

Part of the lack of sleep is driven by excitement but some of it stems from anxiety. Traveling is something that by now we are all really used to. We are so used to it that we don’t notice how strange it is. For children, they still see it as strange. The different rules don’t make sense to them and this can make it hard to relax. The solution here is easy, help them to understand. A couple of weeks before the trip, start to explain to them everything that is going to happen. You can tell them all the exciting stuff that they will get to do and see but also explain some of the stuff they will have to do too. Maybe you could mention that they will need to sleep in a cramped space on the plane, but they will also get to watch movies and eat nice food.

Do whatever you can to make the new sleeping space as comfortable and familiar as the one they are used to. That may mean bringing their favorite blanket, their favorite pillow, and their favorite stuffed toy. When you are stuck for space in the carry on this can be frustrating to pack but trust us, you won’t regret it when it is the one thing that finally gets them to sleep. It is smart to also pack a nightlight. Even if they are happy to sleep in the dark at home, new surroundings may scare them. 

Young children need between nine and thirteen hours of sleep every night to allow their bodies to recharge and to fuel growth. While it can be difficult to ensure they get these hours every night you must do what you can to create an environment where it is possible. These simple tips may help you in getting your kid to sleep.