Q: Any tips for handling time zone changes with kids (like New York to California)?
How do you get a baby to sleep away from home?
A: Both of these sleep-related issues came from readers during our last call for family travel questions, so I thought I’d answer them at the same time since they have similar answers. (BTW, feel free to ask away about anything that’s on your mind family travel wise at the email below).
Whether you’re taking a road trip to the next state, or flying across the country, your best offense against your kids losing sleep is a good defense. Start before you leave home: if you know you’ll be changing time zones, try to adjust bedtimes a little earlier or later each day for a week before your trip to compensate. That way when you’re at your destination, the new sunrise and sunset times won’t be quite as jarring. If you’ll be using a pack and play for your baby on the road, have them sleep in at home for a few nights to get used to it in a familiar environment so the first time isn’t in a strange place.
Next, get a bedtime routine in place and keep notes on what works. Does your child rely on a nightlight? Do they always take a bath with a special bubble bath? Do they have to have an extra special pillow, lovie, blankie, Good Night Moon? Take a look at the easily packable items and then add them to your suitcase. I’ve been traveling with my son since he was 14 months. When he was young, I always brought his favorite stuffed toy (a frog named Boo Boo who still flies with us although my boy is now 12), small blanket, a nightlight (super easy to throw in your bag), and a few kids books that were part of our bedtime ritual, and I’m happy to say he slept like a dream.
Remember, kids like routine, so try to stick to what works for you at home.
If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead and ask them what amenities they offer for kids; many have nightlights to lend, special bath products, and child-size robes to make kids more comfortable. Also ask if there’s a refrigerator in the room for bedtime milk or bottles (some hotels will clear out minibar items so you can have the fridge space). Although it might seem like a lot to haul, many people also bring their own sheets for hotel cribs so that it has a familiar scent.
I’m also a fan of white noise apps (I’ve been hearing raves for the BabyShusher—you know, “shhh shhh”), to make a room sound more like home or to drown out hallway chatter. I actually use one myself when I’m on the road. (Don’t forget your phone charger; and maybe pack an iPod if you want to use your phone and intend on using the app all night).
Sweet dreams and safe travels!
Have a family travel question?
Email Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org