How To: Get Your Kids To Sleep On Vacation



Do you remember your favorite summer vacation as a child? Mine was a week-long trip to Disney World when I was seven. I got to stay up late and go on all the rides (which made me throw up, but who cares? It’s Disney!) It was So. Much. Fun.

Now that I’m a mom, I’m pretty sure mine spent most of that vacation wondering why it was so hot, why the lines were so long, and, oh, will my child please to go sleep so I can have a moment to myself?!

Summer is a magical time for kids. Everything is better as we tend to relax our schedules and indulge in special activities. But it’s also a season that can wreak havoc on our kids’ sleep. Especially in France where three-week vacations aren’t uncommon, it’s important to head into the holidays with a game plan so you don’t come back with overtired, over-cranky zombies.

Here’s how to make sure you and your little ones have an amazing, but still restful, vacation!

Set Your Kids Up for Success

Sleep or no sleep, there are only so many museums or three-course meals the average child will happily sit through. To avoid meltdown central, find a balance between sightseeing and kid-friendly activities. Consider low-key, kid-friendly resorts such as Imagine Roussillon and Pagel. (Check out Ciao Bambino or Tots Too for similar ideas.)

Prioritize Sleep Before Vacation

Knowing that schedules will get wonky on holiday, be sure that everyone is well-rested from the get-go. As days get longer and school ends, it’s easy for bedtimes to drift later and later. Resist this urge and stick to your usual schedule. The more rested your children are at the start of the vacation, the more flexible they can be throughout.

Plan for Jet Lag

Some kids take jet lag in stride, while others absolutely do not. Either way, it’s a process:  It typically takes adults one day per time zone crossed to fully adjust to local time, i.e. Paris to NYC would take six days. Expect early morning/overnight wakings, extra naps… or no naps at all. For more on how to overcome jet lag, see my tips.

Follow the 50/50 Rule

I get it, you’re on holiday. The last thing you want is to be held hostage in your hotel room while your child sleeps. I typically recommend that my clients prioritize sleep 80% of the time in their daily lives; however, let’s be more flexible during vacation. Try to prioritize bedtime (and, if applicable, nap time) at least every other day to avoid your adorable jet-setters becoming overtired monsters.

Wisely Choose Where Your Kids Sleep

If your child is used to sleeping in her own room, then she may find it very exciting to suddenly be sleeping right next to your bed. How can she not want to join you at 5am? If possible, try to mimic your child’s home sleeping arrangement at your destination. That could mean renting an apartment or a hotel room that has an area separate from the main bedroom—or even a big bathroom! (Just sayin’.) If you do need to sleep in the same room, try to create visual barriers between you and your child’s bed. If you have a small infant who sleeps in your room, or if you bedshare, then stick with that arrangement. No matter who sleeps where, I always recommend keeping the room as dark as possible and using white noise to drown out unfamiliar noises.

Vacation Ends When You Get Home

This is the most important advice I can give: No matter how screwy your child’s sleep gets while traveling, the best thing you can do is to return to your pre-vacation sleep schedule as soon as you’re back. If they’ve been staying up til 11pm every night in order to enjoy the resort’s Hawaiian luau, great! But it’s time to lay down the law. Explain proactively that when you were on vacation, everyone got to do a lot of fun, special things. But at home, we follow our usual routine. It may take a day or two to fall into place, but this will avoid the exception becoming the rule.



About Author

Hadley Seward is a certified sleep consultant and American mama living in France. Meet her at Bonne Nuit Baby or follow her adventures at @_bonnenuitbaby.


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