Whenever I’m on vacation, I lose sleep over these two things:
• If I sleep to get back in sync with the local time, I miss the local vacation experience.
• If I force myself to stay awake and not sleep, I’m bad company PLUS miss the local vacation experience.
Fortunately, with planning, and even more important, adjusting my expectations, I can travel from the U.S. East Coast to Europe with just a few tweaks. And I can embrace the sweetness of pre-dawn walks when I travel to the Pacific.
Vacation and Sleep can Co-exist
Families face a bit more of a challenge. Here are some tips for maintaining your family’s sleep schedule while traveling.
Adjust for Travel Days
Whether you’re flying, driving, or taking public transportation, travel days need to be designated as travel days. These experiences are their own part of the vacation. Travel days “bracket” the vacation, creating their own enjoyment and memories.
Arriving and expecting a full tilt of “visit experiences” is not realistic.
Families with Kids Who Nap
When away from home, try to keep the nap and bedtime schedule close to home. In other words, be aware that if you push napping-aged children past what they’re used to, there will be a backlash. At the same time, you want to be flexible. Travel Mamas take some tips from Davis Ehrler of the Three-Day Sleep Solution who suggests that when it’s vacation, the 80/20 rule comes into play: Try to stick with family bedtime rules 80% of the time. Vacation is the 20% when those rules a broken.
Bring Home with You
Everyone in the family will be sleeping and therefore everyone will have a bedtime routine. If you don’t have a family bedtime ritual to take with you on vacation, start one immediately. This is one of the key behaviors that helps everyone transition to sleep. Add one special thing to your evening hygiene of bath, toothbrush, and p.j.’s on. A special book, song, prayer, reversing a morning ritual such as turning down the sheets, gratitude list…and for the kids, a favorite lovey from home.
You can even add other special components of your bedtime ritual such as a portable essential oil diffuser or a glass of water next to the bed.
Keep the Room Dark
One of the many reasons a family camping trip reboots our health – and our relationships – is we connect with the greater rhythms of the planet. A connection that we never quite left behind. If you’re traveling and staying in a hotel or guest house, make sure the windows are covered well. Scout around for ambient light in the room and eliminate it.
One certain way to block out the light is to get a high quality, comfortable sleeping mask. Make sure there aren’t any nasty petro-chemicals used in its manufacture – certain to disrupt your sleep and a whole lot of other things. A sleeping mask is an ideal item to add to a morning and evening bedtime ritual: take it off and put it in a special place when you rise, put it on when it’s lights out.
White Noise Machine
Consider traveling with a white noise machine. There are many portable ones available and they cut out distracting sounds that not only prevent you from falling asleep, but can surprise your family and wake them up during those all-important sleep cycles.
Stay Active – Cut Down on Screen Time
A recent article in CBC News stated that Canadian children “aren’t moving enough to be tired” and are “too tired to move”. What a conundrum! Use vacation to break out of this. Stay active with your family – sightseeing, enjoying the beach, helping the family you’re visiting with chores.
And when you take a break, don’t play video games. Enjoy a local book store or library. Or just sit in a park and look at the clouds.
It’s vacation, after all!
Enjoy local food, cooking with local ingredients, and avoid fast foods. Count chemicals – not calories. Eat for pleasure in terms of taste, texture, and most of all color. The odds are the good nutrition will follow.
Be caffeine aware. It will keep you up at night despite your best intentions at bedtime. Caffeine is hiding in all sorts of snacks and beverages. This post gives an outline of how caffeine affects sleep and where to look for it.
Be Flexible – Embrace Changes
With awareness and a few cornerstones when it comes to your family’s routine, vacation can be a time of restoration and reconnection. Schedules won’t be maintained perfectly, bad weather will happen, and the adventure of a vacation can vary from disappointing, to so-so, to beyond your wildest dreams.
Just as embracing travel days as an adventure and opportunity, the entire family vacation can be embraced in the same way.
A tool to help you stay on schedule (approximately!) is the Bedtime Blueprint. It tells you everything you need to know so you can schedule your days for peaceful nights.