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4 Tips To Save Your Child’s Sleep and Your Sanity Over the Holidays

Christmas, Sleep
5 min read

I love the holidays! I really do! The decorated tree, the lights, the songs, the warm and fuzzy feelings…but with that comes the stress of traditions, gifts, visiting and activities. It is easy to get burnt out, and the same goes for your baby or child. There is so much adrenaline, excitement, travel and visiting (a little bit again), that it can be hard to keep your little one’s sleep on track.

So here are 4 tips, whether you have sleep trained or not, to help you keep your sanity and your little one rested on your journey and once you arrive.

4 Sleep tips

1. Consider Travel Timing:

a) Leave about 30 minutes before your little one’s nap is about to start. This gives them time to settle into the car and go to sleep. Naps in the car are not as restorative, so plan for an early bedtime for when you arrive.

b) Stop after baby’s nap at a park, tourist attraction or playground to get some fresh air before their next nap. Plan to get back on the road about 30 minutes before the next nap, so that they can settle in again.

c) If traveling by plane, do what you can to get through it! Pack snacks, pack a little bag with a few new toys or activities and be prepared to let them play with your phone lol!!  They may or may not sleep, and the less tears the better, so just do what you can and try for an early bedtime when you arrive.

2. Adjust Sleeping Arrangements:

a) Make one room into two if you need to. Use a sheet or blanket to make a divider. This way you are not in the sight line of your child. Have a big closet in the room? You can use that! It is dark and quiet, plus there is much less distraction, especially for a baby.

b) Put black trash bags on the window to keep it dark!

c ) A Pack n’ Play for baby or a toddler air mattress for 18+ months. You can get a Pack n’ Play specified mattress and sheet to make a separate sleeping space for your baby. If you have a child who is 18+ months, try a toddler air mattress. These are amazing for our toddlers who are now too big for the playpen and children, plus they are easy to travel with. They are formatted for their size and have bumpers on the sides. (Please make sure to follow all appropriate safety measures and do not use for baby under 18 months.)

d) Do not give in to the temptation to let your child sleep with you or to fall back on other habits you may have used in the past! Even bringing your child into your bed for a night or two can start a new habit, so try to avoid it if possible.

*See my list below for all the things you should bring along in a specific Travel Sleep Bag to make arriving and getting your little one down for bed or a nap super quick. We all know that when we cannot find things that we packed, it can raise our anxiety level!

3. Stick to Your Schedule

a)  Do your best to stick to your normal schedule.

b) Let relatives and guests know when your little one will be up, so that they plan their schedule around that. Not the other way around. Remember, a few missed naps can lead to some rough nights.

c)  Explain to family and friends that you are sleep training, or that your child is on a sleep schedule. It is ok to be firm and to be the “bad guy “if you have to. Remember, trying to keep the stress level down for you and your little one!

d) Try your best to enjoy yourself…it is nice that we get to see some family again this year!

4. Pack a Baby/Toddler Travel Sleep Suitcase

When traveling with your little one, whether it be near or far, I highly recommend packing a SEPARATE bag/suitcase that is just for your little one’s sleep items. Having this bag handy when you arrive at your destination can make things go much smoother when trying to get settled in. Here is an example of what to pack:

Travel Sleep Bag:

  • 1) Pajamas
  • 2) Black Trash Bags or Aluminum Foil and a Roll of Painters Tape (to darken the windows)
  • 3) A Sheet and Thumbtacks (to use as a room divider)
  • 4) Sleep Sack or Swaddle
  • 5) Sound Machine
  • 6) Overnight Diapers
  • 7) Wipes
  • 8) Diaper Creme and Vaseline
  • 9) Lovie/Stuffie (if over 12 months)
  • 10) Bath Items
  • 11) A bedtime book or two
  • 12) Crib/Playpen Mattress Sheet
  • 13) Toddler clock (if applicable)


  • 1) Playpen/ Pack n’ Go
  • 2) Playpen Mattress
  • 3) Toddler Air Mattress and Bedding

Between the travel, the festivities, the visiting, and traveling all over again, the holidays are one of the easiest times that your child’s sleep schedule can get thrown right out the window! But with careful planning and by holding your ground when you need to, you can keep that routine running just the way you did at home. The feeling that everyone is judging how you are parenting can be overwhelming in these family get-togethers, but in those moments, try and remember what is important.

The overall health and wellbeing of your child and your family, and your sanity!

Missy Morrison Charko is a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant and Founder of Say Yes to the Rest Pediatric Sleep Consulting. She resides in British Columbia with her husband and two young children. She provides private sleep consultations within the Thompson-Okanagan Region and remotely across Canada and the USA.  You can visit her website: www.sayyestotherest.com or follow her @sayyestotheresttoday  for more information.

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