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Is Christmas travel with baby stressful?

Depending on the nature of your child, travelling by car is either a blessing or a curse. Some babies do well during holiday travel and others do not. The key to successful Christmas travel with your baby is to plan ahead. Read more

Baby Sleep Routine & Christmas Travel - Baby Winkz Blog

Are you travelling with your baby this Christmas?

Depending on the nature of your baby, travelling by car is either a blessing or a curse. Some babies do well during holiday travel and others do not. The key to successful Christmas travel with your baby is to plan ahead.

Assessing Baby’s Travel Needs

Does a car ride lull your baby to sleep or does it increase irritability? Plan to bring along comforting and entertaining items to both keep your baby busy and get them to sleep. You will likely need to make frequent stops along the way for feeding and changing, and perhaps just to get out and walk around. For toddlers, be prepared to interact and entertain.

Planning the Trip for Baby’s Sleep Schedule

Planning around your baby’s sleep schedule is a must. For babies who don’t travel well, you may want to start your journey before a long sleep period. You also want to take care not to let babies who are easily lulled to oversleep on the journey, lest their sleep routines are thrown off. It may seem like a blessing if baby sleeps the entire way, but you may pay later when baby wants to be awake when you need to sleep.

Addressing Baby Comfort During Travel

Again, take frequent breaks along the way for feeding, changing and attention. One parent may want to travel in the back seat with baby during waking periods to keep him or her entertained. If you have older children travelling as well, they may be able to keep baby entertained while you focus on directions, driving and the trip itself.

Dress your baby for the car’s interior climate. The back seat gets less access to heat than the front, and your baby will likely need to be dressed slightly more heavily because of that. Avoid the urge to roll down windows, as the airflow may be too much for your baby to handle. Layer your baby so that you can add or subtract blankets as the car warms. Don’t forget the baby window shades to keep the sun out of their eyes!

Entertaining Baby During Christmas Travel

It’s not always easy to keep your baby entertained during holiday travel. It’s a small space and they are confined to their car seat whilst on the road. Keep a bag of toys handy and take them out one at a time, letting baby play with each until bored. Make sure you are playing baby-friendly music or talking to your baby during awake times. Let them also enjoy the scenery quietly for a while if it interests them.

You can also tape bright pictures on the back of the seat your baby is facing or hang lightweight toys from the ceiling of the car with safety pins. Make sure baby cannot pull them down and tear the upholstery and get a hold of the pin.

If you suspect the car ride will be more than your baby can handle comfortably, think about booking a flight. While flying has its own baby issues, the journey is a fraction of the travel time required on the road.

Travelling with a baby or child can present some tough challenges for parents. This is especially true when it comes to adjusting to new sleep patterns. Disruptions to your child’s sleep cycle can occur regardless of whether you cross time zones, as many parents encourage sleep during the travel itself, throwing their schedule off. Here are a few tips for managing sleep difficulties during your holiday travels.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Regardless of where you are going, how long you will be gone or how you are going to get there, preparation is key. One of the first things you need to do is call airlines and hotels (if appropriate) to find out their child travel policies. Questions to ask include:

  • Can you board early?
  • Are infant/toddler care seats allowed?
  • Is there a bassinet or other infant sleep accommodations?
  • Is the flight or train booked? (You may request to be put next to an empty seat if not)

Another key to preparing is to consider how long it will take to get to your destination and how long you will be there. You can never truly ‘pack light’ when traveling with a child, but being gone for a few days will certainly require less packing than being gone for a month. Regardless of how you travel, getting into luggage will not be easy. You want to keep a bag of essentials close at hand. Your bag should include:

  • Nappies and wipes
  • Small bag of toys and/or a mini DVD player
  • Snacks, food and drink
  • Change of clothes (at least one; more for an infant)
  • Blankets and perhaps a pillow

Travel Sleep Solutions – The Journey

The big question is whether you allow or encourage your child to sleep during your travels. Whilst a sleeping child on an airplane may seem like a godsend for parents and passengers alike, it can ultimately wreak havoc upon reaching your destination. Some things to consider:

  • How long it will take to get there
  • How long you will be staying
  • Whether you are crossing time zones

If your travel time is long, napping and sleep are inevitable. This is especially true if your child is lulled to sleep by motion, as many are. You may not be able to avoid it. Consider your time of arrival: if you are arriving late at night, a child who has spent the day sleeping (off schedule) will be difficult to manage. Be prepared to entertain your child during the trip. Play games, interact and talk – even if you are travelling with an infant. Babies, toddlers and preschool children all have different activity and sleep needs. The best course – whenever possible – is to stick to regular sleeping cycles and nap patterns.

Jumping time zones presents an extra challenge and needs additional consideration. A dual time watch can help you monitor home time and destination time, allowing you to set up a schedule to help your child adjust his or her sleep patterns during the trip. Incremental adjustments are best, but not always possible.

Travel Sleep Solutions – The Destination

Many children have difficulty adjusting their sleep cycles whilst on holiday for the simple fact that they are in unfamiliar surroundings. Surrounding them with familiar items and keeping on schedule as much as possible minimises the disruption. Take your own infant crib or carrier sheets and your child’s favourite toys – especially those they associate with sleep. Read the same books at night and sing the same songs.

If you have to bunk up with an older child, make sure you explain that it is only temporary and that upon arriving back at home, they will be expected to sleep on their own again. Do this positively and offer a small reward for them to return to sleeping on their own – gold stars, a new book and a lot of praise are good.

Travelling with baby need not be a traumatic experience for either parent or child. Preparing adequately before your journey, asking the right questions and bringing along familiar items can significantly reduce the impact of travel on your children’s schedule and sleep patterns.