* If traveling east, you can try to stay on West Coast time. Example: if baby normally goes to bed at 7 and wakes at 6, he’ll now go to bed at 10 (so you can go out to dinner) and wake at 9 (woo hoo!). The key to making this work is ensuring that your room is very dark in the early morning (ask your hosts’ permission to tack up garbage bags with painter’s tape) and using white noise to drown out sounds that might otherwise wake your child early. He may naturally adjust to local time at some point during your trip.
* If traveling west, your child will wake early the first couple of days – bummer – but help her s-t-r-e-t-c-h as close as possible toward her normal put-down times for naps and bedtime without breaking her. Hang in there – she’ll adjust in a couple of days.
* Spend some time in the new room – playing, unpacking – before you ask your child to sleep in there.
* Bring your child’s favorite lovey or stuffed animal from home – and if using a crib, bring a crib sheet you haven’t washed in a few days, so it smells familiar.
* It’s fine to do naps on the go in the car or stroller on vacation. If naps are shorter than usual, make bedtime earlier so he’s not overtired.
* If your child has trouble settling or wakes in the night, start with minimal assistance and work your way up: put a hand on baby’s tummy while you shush; then pick her up if necessary, calm, and return to her crib; and if all else fails, help her to sleep – you won’t enjoy your trip being sleep deprived! For older kids, give them the benefit of the doubt if they get out of bed a few times, returning them lovingly but without making a fuss. If you do end up helping your child to sleep on the road, or even pulling her into bed with you, just return to good habits as soon as you get back home (adjusting expectations re: time change for a day or two). Remember, knowing how to sleep is like riding a bicycle – even if the bike sits in the shed for a week or two, you never forget how to ride.