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It's the most wonderful time of year with trips to be planned and family to see and everyone being full of good cheer, right? Well, not when you have little ones. Kids don't always readily take to schedule interruptions, no matter how much fun there is to be had. As you pack your bags and prepare for everything that comes with the holiday season, try implementing some of these tips to keep your little ones on track.
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1: Prep in advance for new time zones
Traveling across more than two time zones will cause a significant disruption in your tots schedule and will probably require 2 or 3 days of adjustment time, so if your trip is going to last for a week or more, its worth getting into the local time zone asap.
Try moving your little ones bedtime by 15-20 minutes toward the vacation time zone in the few days before your trip. Childrens circadian rhythms generally catch up with them naturally after 4 days or so, though our old grownup ones take longer.
What should you pack? Check out our picks for family travel gear!
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2: Add an extra day or two to your trip
Taking a trip is exciting for little ones, especially if it involves big activities and seeing family, so include a buffer day for major readjustment. By giving them a day to settle in to their new atmosphere and schedule, youll help avoid the arrival of Little Crankypants. Remember that youll need an extra day on the return trip, too. Coming home is just as disruptive to everyones schedule, so plan for some time to recoup once you get back.
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3: Opt for a redeye
If youre flying to your destination, itll be much easier to encourage sleep if youre on a redeye. Overnight flights are dark, and your kids are naturally tired at that time of day (presumably), so they might just ignore the excitement of the plane ride and pass out, which means they wont be overtired when you arrive. To make the process smooth for all involved, make sure to pack non-sugary snacks, change them into their PJs pre-flight, and have their favorite lovies on hand.
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4: Take advantage of a layover
If you have a layover, look for the childrens play area in the airport (most big airports have one), ride the inter-terminal train, or just walk around. If you have time, go outside of the airport to a grassy area and let your kids run wild for a little while. They need to burn off energy and will more readily rest on the next flight, too.
What should every family-on-the-go have? Check out our must-haves here!
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5: Take plenty of un-rest stops
If youre driving, plan for plenty of un-rest stops — stop at a park, stop for dinner — where kids can burn off some energy. The more active they are outside the car, the more likely they are to fall asleep inside. Another thing that can help is traveling later in the day — the darker it is outside, the easier it is for smallfolk to snooze. To maintain a sense of calm, bring quiet activities, video games, books, and boring movies. Also, be forewarned that sugary snacks breed inter-family resentment in confined spaces.
Need to occupy the kids? Stock up your iPhone with these great apps for little ones!
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6: Keep everything as familiar as possible
Ritual is a very helpful tool when introducing a new time schedule, especially for babies. If you always put your kids down with a particular routine, song or snuggly blanket, do it on vacation, too. If theyre mentally prepared for sleep, their bodies will be less resistant.
How to handle sleep routine disruption when youre traveling with baby
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7: Control the light
Natural light and melatonin have a huge impact on our bodies circadian rhythms. The quickest way to readjust our clocks to local time is by absorbing as much of that sunshine as possible. If youre going to bed at weird hours, make sure the room stays dark so your little one will fall back asleep when he wakes up at 4am, ready to go.
Need help getting your toddler to sleep? Try these night-time tips!
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8: Divide and conquer
If at all possible, stay somewhere where your child can sleep in her own room. She will wake up at night, at least for the first couple of nights, and if you can keep her entertained and quiet in one room (think coloring books, card games, boring storybooks), at least your partner can get some rest and be ready to take on morning duty while you catch some zs.
Need ideas on where to stay? Pick a place from Babbles Top Hotels for Kids!
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9: Allow them to nap
Children who nap tend to sleep better at night, so let him doze if he needs to. The only caveat is that you want to make sure the end of naptime and the start of bedtime are at least 4 hours apart.
How to get children of any age ready for naptime
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10: Stick to regular meal times
Try to switch to local mealtimes as quickly as possible. If your kids are waking up hungry at night, offer them warm milk and then make them hold out for a nice, big breakfast in the morning. If theyre hungry in the afternoon, keep healthy snacks on hand until the new mealtime.
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11: Mentally prepare for having breastfeeding problems
If you're nursing exclusively, you may run into difficulties, as your milk let down will still be on your regular time zone. Continue to feed your baby on demand while adjusting yourself to the new time schedule. Your babys internal clock will catch up (it just might take a little longer). Be prepared to experience engorgement or a diminished milk supply for a day or two while everyones bodies adjust. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated and healthy (vitamins!), and try to get yourself onto the new schedule as soon as you can — your babys tummy will follow suit.
Find out what you need for pumping away from home
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12: Wear 'em out!
Physical exercise is a great way to force the body onto a schedule. You (all) might really need to rest on the first day, but by day two, you should get those little guys moving around. Jump in the pool or go sledding at the park near Grandmas house. Even just exploring your hotel or building a snowman can be energizing. Your kids will wear their little bodies out (and work up an appetite) according to plan. And hey, once your kids have adjusted to the new order of things, itll be just in time for you to turn around and come home again. Bon Voyage!
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