For our toddler and preschooler, nap time is always a necessity. Not only is it a welcome break for us parents, but our kids really need sufficient sleep to be happy, content and even-keeled. And in our family, this doesn't change when we go on vacation; though our physical location may vary, our kids crave consistency with their naps.
But as any parent knows, traveling with young children can be challenging, and consistency while on-the-go is easier said than done. Here are the five best nap time tips for families on vacation:
1. Get your kids used to napping in different places
Nap time on vacation will be a lot easier if your child has already adjusted to sleeping in unfamiliar places. If they've only ever napped in their own crib at their own house, you'll be asking for trouble if you don't prepare them ahead of time. Consider setting up a playpen in various locations around your house (or outdoors) for naps at home, to help your child adjust to settling themselves in unfamiliar places before you go on your trip. And don't worry if it's not successful the first time, just keep trying.
2. Pack familiar objects
To help your child feel at home while on vacation, pack familiar objects your child has at nap time. For our children, we pack their own pillows from home, a favorite blanket and their favorite stuffed animal or "lovey." This makes having a nap in a hotel more relaxing and stress-free for your little one.
3. Scout out prime napping locations
This tip requires a little planning on your part, but pays off in the long run. Whether you're at a beach, waterpark, hotel, cabin or other location, scout out optimal napping locations before you get settled in. Recently our family visited an all-day indoor waterpark, and we found a quiet, out-of-the-way grouping of chairs where I could hold my napping toddler for an hour, undisturbed, while the rest of the family continued to play.
4. Plan car trips around naps
One of the best tips for long car rides is planning your driving time around your child's nap time (or sleeping) schedule. If your child typically naps after lunch, plan to eat lunch together, then take off on your car ride immediately after. Ask any parent of little ones, car rides go much smoother when the children are sleeping!
5. Plan to take turns
When families are on vacation, no one wants to miss out on the fun and action. However, when you've got little ones in tow, someone has to sacrifice. To avoid hard feelings and last-minute decisions (or arguments) with family members, plan ahead to take turns on who will stay with the children at nap time.
Now, although we plan ahead, follow all five tips, and try to stay consistent with the kids' nap time while on vacation, we know that things won't always go according to plan. There are some days that we'll get caught up in the day's events or the kids will be too excited to nap. But in the end, it's a vacation, and missing one nap won't ruin the wonderful, lasting memories we're making together as a family.