Traveling, the holidays and your child’s sleep!

Traveling, the Holidays and Your Child's Sleep

With the holidays coming up, it can be a really stressful time for parents who want to keep their kids in a good sleep routine, while still getting out to visit with friends and family!  We recently had a discussion in our Facebook group about traveling, the holidays and your child’s sleep! We got some great questions about how to survive the holidays and we hope our answers help you too!

Question: We will be going to a celebration to ring in the new year and so will not be able to do routine. In addition we will have to put baby down to sleep in the stroller and due to music we are using ear protection so can’t use white noise as we do to help sleep. Any suggestions to help little guy sleep there as well survive the night when we get home?

Answer: Usually the excitement of the evening and the later bedtime will exhaust them enough to settle to sleep. If your child has a favorite stuffy, soother or sleep friend I would pack that along with comfy pyjamas. Chances are it will go easier than expected 🙂 Have fun and enjoy your night! Once you return home the goal will be to try and get back into the scheduled day (if your little one is older than 6 months) as quickly as possible.  Wheeling the stroller around will most likely work wonders to get him to sleep if he does not settle at the event. If he isn’t falling asleep then try stepping out into a quieter area for a few minutes until he is asleep.

Sleep Tip: Whenever I travel anywhere in the evening for dinners at other people’s houses I always bring my children’s pyjamas to change into. That way when we leave if they fall asleep in the car, I can just transfer them to bed. I always go prepared! Even if you think the dinner will be served early, you never know! And you can’t control when other people serve dinner etc. So it almost always ends up being a later night.
ANOTHER SLEEP TIP: If you are out somewhere all day and your child will not nap at someone else’s house, take them for a drive and let them sleep in the car for 1 hour (or less if that’s all they will do.) We typically say that an on the go nap is not as restorative but if it is between that and no sleep while you are out for one day, take the car nap!

Question: I will be traveling with my 9 month old in January and will be sharing a bedroom with family members – there may or may not be a crib available. What do you suggest for sleeping arrangements and trying to keep her on schedule despite all the distractions and new environment?

Answer: If you can, bring a playpen so that she has her own space to sleep. Otherwise, you would just need to make do and get her back to independent sleep when you get home. Sometimes when traveling, they are so exhausted that they fall asleep easier than we think. A sound machine will be key especially if you are all sharing a room. Also make sure the room is dark enough.  Can’t bring a playpen? Check to see if your hotel can provide a playpen or crib you can use.

TRAVEL AND SLEEP TIP: Once you get to your destination, try to allow your children the opportunity to see and explore the new bedroom and surrounding so that when you try to put them to bed, they aren’t freaked out. It also helps to have them play in their playpen for a few minutes so that they can become comfortable in there as well. If you can, have them nap at home in the playpen or at least play in it a few times before your trip or sleep over.

QuestionWhat is the best way to manage little one’s sleep with events that are after bedtime? I was thinking of just putting my son in the carrier to keep him relaxed and cuddly. He is 6 months old. We are currently on a 3 nap schedule but I wasn’t sure if I should maybe do a 4th nap?

Answer: That’s exactly what I would do with the carrier. I would get them into their pyjamas and have them ready for sleep, pop them in and help them to sleep. Adding an extra nap wouldn’t be a bad idea. I would probably make it an on the go nap though so that he isn’t thinking it’s an early bedtime and you struggle waking him 🙂 Have fun, go with the flow and remember to take the following couple of days to work on getting back on track 🙂

SLEEP TIP: For those who have babies that are on 2 naps per day, if you are going to miss a nap and have a choice on the matter, the 1st nap is the best one to miss. If you have no choice, you can go with the flow for that day! If there is a missed nap, bedtime and overnight might be harder but you can work on getting back on track the following day!
STAYING OUT LATE: Christmas or Holiday get togethers are a great opportunity to be social and have fun with family and friends. For me, when possible I would also choose to put my children to bed wherever we were and transfer them as opposed to keeping them up late. The hour or so they may stay awake during and after the transfer is much easier than the 4-6 hours of staying up past bedtime… and then I got to hang out without responsibility and enjoy my time with other adults 🙂

QuestionThis is our first time being away since having our daughter. We are going to a very low key New Years party. We will need to do a “Cole’s” notes version of her night routine (she’s usually asleep by 730pm). Then transfer her to go back to my parents home at the end of the night. Any tips? Second part … my parents seem to forget what it’s like to have a baby and that they nap and need quiet and routine. How do I nicely have those conversations without sounding like a mother hen?

Answer: The tips in the video below will help with transferring her from her sleep space back to your parent’s house. She may need a little extra help to fall asleep as the room will be new but try and spend some time in there (if you can) before putting her to sleep in it – Oh grandparents! Funny how they all seem to forget what life with a baby is like 🙂 I would probably say something funny like – “well, not everyone can be as perfect as me” or “this baby missed that memo and if she doesn’t sleep well, I’m up all night.” “Remember me as a teenager.. that’s what I turn into when I get sleep deprived now..”  Sometimes there isn’t much we can say and we just have to keep doing what you do.


It’s always nice to be able to put your little ones down at someone else’s so you can continue the fun however, transitioning them from a comfy bed to the car and back into their own bed may not be the easiest.

Here are a couple of hints that have worked for us over the years to transition from car to home:

  • Turn off the interior lights of the car – they are quite bright for a sleeping child and trust me, it’s only a mistake you make once 🙂
  • Once you arrive home, remove your child from the car before turning it off. The humming of the car is quite relaxing and turning it off while they are still sleeping can wake them.
  • If they are still asleep I try and get them into their bed and undress them (sweater, hat, mitts) in the crib/bed.
  • If they are awake, I (when they were little) would sometimes feed and offer a little cuddle to help ‘reset’ bedtime and as they got older, I would sit with them and rub their back for a minute to help them resettle.

Below is a video of us explaining some tips on how to transfer a sleeping baby from the car to their beds. It does not always work out as planned but it is worth a shot!!

If all else fails and the transfer goes very badly, baby or child wakes up and is wired because of the little amount of sleep they got (let’s say they slept for 20 minutes in the car or you put them to bed at someone else’s house and woke them to take them home…) for the one time, get them up and play for 30 minutes or so and then do bedtime routine once again. Use this as an absolute last resort though because this can cause some expectation the next night for some children! You will also want to be sure that you set those limits again the following night and bedtime is bedtime. IE: they are not getting up to play again the next night! This will prevent it from becoming a new expectation of theirs.

As always, the goal is to try and protect your little ones sleep as much as you can during the holidays but it isn’t always realistic so you will really want to focus on getting back on track once the chaos settles. Make a point of staying home, getting the day started on time, working on the schedule and maintaining your consistency so that your little one gets back to healthy sleep quickly and the whole family can get back to sleeping well.

You can also read more about traveling and protecting your child’s sleep with our article here.

If you find yourself not able to get your child back on track after the holidays, check out our services and contact us for a consultation or a Pick Our Brain phone call!
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Restful Parenting | Holistic Sleep Consultants

We are Holistic Infant and Child Sleep Consultants and we work with families to teach them how to help their little one's get the sleep they need using methods that you will be comfortable with. Offering private sleep consultations and group workshops to parents from Ottawa, North Bay, and all around the world.

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