Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sleep while Traveling with Children

Traveling with children:

Our children, are currently 4 years old and 18 months old.  Hartly has been to about 20 different places and Tayo maybe about 8 different places.  My children, and we, are no strangers to travel.  We are often asked what we do when we travel with them and the most frequent asked question is how we get them to sleep when we travel. All children and families are different. These are just a few things that we have found that help immensely with our children (and us) to get our sleep while sleeping away from home. 

- Expectations
- Routine
- Nap(s) 
- Food
- Activity
- Baby Wearing
- GoCrib 
- Baby Monitor
- Bathroom/Closet/Dark
- Static

This one is huge.  When Frank and I got married everyone told us, 'say goodbye to sleeping', 'say goodbye to traveling' among other things.  We smiled because we knew that you can have children AND sleep.  You can have children AND travel.  Will it be the same? No.  Can you do it? Absolutely. 

Sleep when traveling will be different than at home. 
 Our boys are incredibly awesome sleepers.  Currently our littlest(18 months) takes a nap from 1pm-4pm and sleeps through the night from about 8pm-9:30am.  Our oldest(just turned 4 years old) no longer naps but is in his room from 8pm-when I often have to wake him around 9:30am.  (I say in his room because I do not force him to go to sleep but he must be in bed after our bedtime routine. Sometimes he falls asleep right at 8:30pm and other nights he reads in bed until 10pm.)  When we travel we are often up later than usual and we often wake up earlier than usual.  We have come to accept that, in general, our kids do not sleep past 8am when we travel.

In addition, when Frank and I decided that we would still travel with our children we knew we would not cover as much in a day with littles tagging along as when we were solo.  We would rather go somewhere and see only 5 awesome things in a week than not go at all or push our kids to see 15 and everyone be grumpy and overtired. We do a lot less in a day when our littles are with us than if we were alone.  And we do not rush them.  If they get fascinated with a pile of rocks outside of a museum, we spend time looking and playing with those rocks instead of ignoring their interests and rushing them into what we think is the main attraction.

Children, like humans in general, are creatures of habit.  Taking them away from their normal sights and smells and sounds… is hard.  We try to take things from home that are familiar and we try and keep a semi-normal bedtime routine.  I bring their favorite lovies (stuffed animals and blankets) as well as a few favorite books and pajamas.  At home we start our bedtime routine together.  Often we have a bath and then potty, diapers and pajamas.  We then read to both boys as Tayo drinks his last bottle of the day.  Then one of us takes Hartly in the other room to brush teeth and have a couple more books and cuddles. Tayo brushes his teeth and gets his bop and some snuggles as I sing him his favorite song (currently The Wheels on the Bus). Then they both get noise on (more later in static section).  Last hugs and kisses and close the doors.

Obviously this may not be exact when you are traveling… Maybe you are all in one room or the kids fall asleep on the way back from dinner… you will have to be flexible but it is important to try and maintain some sense of normal.

We have found with our children that nap routines are important too.  When Tayo misses naps, he does not sleep as well at night.  The opposite is true of Hartly - if he naps, he can't get to sleep at night.  This goes back to routine.  I know this is particularly hard if your little still takes two naps.  We are very grateful that Tayo has recently switched to one.  How we handled when he took two - We would try to have at least one of the two at the hotel/place you are staying, in his nighttime area.  For the other one, I would usually wear him (refer to Baby Wearing).

Eating can be hard when traveling (don't we know it, we are vegan!) but there are a few very important things about food when traveling (at home too).  We find that (seems so obvious but worth saying) that if our boys do not get enough to eat during the day, they do not sleep as well at night.  Sometimes when traveling my kids are more finicky or they are too interested in new stuff to eat.  Sometimes you can't find a place to eat when you get hungry. Oftentimes their eating is off (especially if in different time zone), so we always have bananas, granola bars, apples and nuts and other foods readily available.  It is also important to pay attention to sodium.  We eat out a lot when we travel and too much salt on the food ends up in A.) them drinking so much water that diapers leak or children wake up many times during the night or B.) they wake up thirsty in the middle of the night.

A lot of children have trouble sleeping because they do not get enough physical activity during the day.  So often when traveling kids are put in a stroller and they don't get enough time to run around, crawl, play.  On days that my boys get a lot of play, they get a lot of sleep.

Baby Wearing can be so, so , so helpful when traveling.  I never go anywhere (traveling or here) without my Ergo.  I didn't when Hart was younger and now with Tayo I feel the same.  Like I mentioned earlier, more often than not, baby will get tired when out and about.  I put Tayo on and cover him up, walk around a little and he is out. This allows for so much freedom.  Hands free and baby is snuggled close and comforted and gets their rest that they need.  It helps keep nap routine and helps in airplanes as well.  I believe in baby wearing for a million reasons but since this is about sleeping while traveling, I will stop now.

Hartly at 17 months in Spain taking a nap

Hartly around 20 months in Puerto Rico taking a little nap

Tayo around 15 months at airport during his nap time

Naptime came during flight

During an all day tour in st lucia, Tayo took his nap
Tayo in Hawaii, I had forgotten our Ergo so I used my wrap to wear him for his nap

This is a very expensive item that we have gotten our moneys worth and way more from.  If you travel a lot, I highly recommend the GoCrib.  It is a portable crib that takes less than 2 minutes to inflate and set up and less than 2 minutes to deflate and pack up. It closes into a backpack and is pretty lightweight (13lbs).  It goes on carry on with us because it is essential when we travel. It is seriously awesome and all Hartly slept in until he was about 3 and we traveled and is now Tayo's (Hartly will sleep in our bed or his own bed)… For Tayo we fill his GoCrib with his bops and blankets and stuffed animals. Hartly usually chooses two stuffed animals from home to sleep with him.

Hartly in GoCrib

Photo to show Hartly sleeping in crib in bathroom in Spain

Hartly sound asleep taking a nap in crib in bathroom in Miami

Tayo napping in crib in bathroom in St Lucia

Big one now sleeps in a bed when we travel
We always travel with a baby monitor.  Often our kids need us out of the room for them to initially fall asleep.  This is at least true when they are under 3 years old.  Now Hartly will often have me lay with him for 10-15 minutes but Tayo gets too excited or distracted if I am around.  Frank and I will often step out onto the patio or go to a different area but I like to know everything is okay with my littles.  It is very helpful to be able to watch and see them, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

***********BATHROOM/CLOSET/DARK: ***********
The first questions we ask when booking places to stay is - how big are the closets/is the bathroom and how dark are the bedrooms.  This may be the number one lifesaver when getting children to sleep when traveling.  More times than not, my children have slept in their GoCrib in a bathroom or closet wherever we are staying. We put a monitor in the bathroom or closet so we can check on them whenever we need to without disturbing them.  The pitch blackness is essential for sleeping through the night in our family.

New places have different sounds.  We always travel with old iPods of ours that have an App called Sleep Light.  At home Hartly goes to sleep listening to the sound of trains.  Tayo listens to static and a rain storm.  When we travel we turn on these same sounds for them.  It not only blocks out new and strange and different sounds but it also goes back to the routine and normal stuff from home.

Whenever I figure out one of my kids, they go and change on me.  Maybe 6months was a great age to travel with your first but 6months is a terrible time to travel with your second.  The first two years especially are so unpredictable with teething and growth spurts and different phases of development.  If it is terrible once, do not give up!  It also could be that you chose a place too noisy or too small or there was something different that you could have done.  Trial and error are essential.  

For instance, we recently went, for the first time, on a cruise with our boys and sleeping was terrible for Tayo.  We all four were in one room and we have discovered that, no matter what we did, he/we were not going to get good sleep.  Hartly, actually, was the only one that slept well (his brothers crying did not wake him up). It was just too hard for Tayo being so close to the rest of us and he woke up every single sleep cycle. The bathroom was WAY too tiny as were the closets and he wanted in bed with me.  This would have been fine but he still woke up every hour or so… It was terrible.  Does this mean we will stop traveling!?!  No way! Are we still glad we went? Yes! Will we go on another cruise anytime soon? No. But we have traveled before and since with him and he has always been great!

It often takes a few nights to adjust.  Just because the first couple nights are not great does not mean you should give up or drop all of the above.  When we went to Hawaii with the boys this Winter they both had a rough time for the first few nights but by the end they were great! Give them a grace period! It is worth it!!

We have been to a lot of places.  Below are just a few photos of a few of our destinations.

Puerto Rico With Hartly
Spain with Hartly

Spain with Hartly


OBX with boys 
Hawaii with boys 


St Lucia 

St Lucia


Cruise (still fun even though sleeping situation was bad)


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