My daughter was just 6 months old when we took her on her first trip away from home. Every year we travel half way across the country to visit with friends and family on the West Coast and when our daughter was 6 months old it was time to take that trip. At 6 months of age, babies are usually already accustom to their routine and do not like to have it changed up. But when you drive 2000 miles across country you’re going to be messing with their routine. So how do you make it easier for the child? Especially at bed time?
The first thing we did is that we took our portable play pen that our daughter was used to taking naps in and playing in. Although she did not like to be in there when we were at home we figured it would give her a place to sleep and something familiar to sleep in.
Next we made sure and brought all the blankets she usually slept with. Putting these in the playpen for her to sleep with made her feel like she was at home, especially when she’d wake up in the middle of the night but not fully wake up to realize that she was in fact not at home.
We always play music in my daughter’s room so we made sure we brought her cd player and the cd. Again, this was to keep it feeling like she was in her own room at home even though she was in a strange place. We even played the music in the car so she could nap while we were driving.
We also brought a few of her favorite toys that she could play or sleep with. Even though she was going to get a lot of new toys from our friends and family we wanted her to have some of her toys that she was already used to.
We had to make sure that she had her own room to fall asleep in as well and it had to be a dark room. As long as she couldn’t hear or see anyone else in the room she would fall asleep fine at her regular bed time. Sharing a hotel room with her was a little difficult as my husband and I had to turn off all the lights and sit on the floor beside the bed where she could not see us until she fell asleep, but it did not take long.
Another thing that I do periodically when my daughter is having a hard time sleeping even now that she is older, is I would put the shirt that I had worn that day in the crib with her and now that she is older I will let her wear the shirt (even though it is enormous on her). I had heard that the familiar scent of a baby’s mom would help them sleep and it seems to work for us.
The biggest thing we tried to do is to make sure that we didn’t mess with her schedule. Since we were on a different time zone than our west coast friends and family we made sure that we kept our time zone times for things like feedings, baths, and nap and bedtime. Our friends and family had to adjust to our earlier time routines but it was easier on them than it would’ve been on our daughter.
One thing that we did not think of that first trip was to do practice runs. Specifically letting her sleep in the bed she’d sleep in (the playpen) on the trip, at home a few times before going on the trip. I think this would have helped her even more. While she was used to taking an occasional nap in the playpen she was not used to using it at night and a few nights of practicing at home where she could get used to it would have helped her be more comfortable in it at a strange place.
I hope my experience will be able to help you when you go on a trip with your little one, however if you’d like more ideas check out this article by New Mommy Oasis.