Sleep Sense

How to deal with travel challenges from plane
travel to jet lag to an unfamiliar hotel room

SARASOTA, FL – The allure of holiday travel. For parents of babies and young children it can seem a little, well, less alluring. Creating a regular routine is the best way to keep young children happy and well rested, and nothing disrupts a routine like travel. But unless parents want to give up on travel altogether (including those all-important visits to the grandparents), it’s important to learn how to minimize the impact of all those disruptions to prevent the dreaded meltdown.

According to Dana Obleman, internationally recognized child sleep expert and author of The Sleep Sense™ Program (, the key to a successful trip with young children is planning ahead. “It’s normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries of the regular expectations when they’re somewhere new,” Obleman says. “Parents who can keep things as normal as possible for their kids will have the most success keeping them relaxed and well rested, which makes a huge impact on how happy and well behaved they are throughout the trip.”

Here are Obleman’s top five tips for parents traveling with young children this holiday season:

  1. Don’t overschedule: You may have been able to visit several major attractions or walk several hours per day when traveling pre-kids, but that’s more than most kids can handle without getting overtired and cranky. Stick to a maximum of one major outing per day, and budget time for rest.
  2. Keep a consistent bedtime: An occasional later bedtime is not the end of the world, but if it becomes a pattern your child will quickly get so overtired and confused he’s unable to fall asleep when you finally do put him to bed. Plus, having a consistent bedtime before your trip allows your child to start off well rested, giving him a better chance of adapting to jet lag quickly.
  3. Don’t let others tell you how to parent: If your trip involves a visit with family, you’ll likely get plenty of advice about how you should be parenting your kids. But remember: Consistency is key. Stick with your regular routines as much as possible and be polite but firm when others offer “helpful” suggestions about how you should handle your kids.
  4. Bring some comfort from home: Travel can be confusing — and even upsetting — for small children, so be sure to bring your child’s favorite toy or blanket for a little security, and bring plenty of activities to keep young children entertained during a plane ride or road trip. But don’t resort to sharing a bed with your child — this will interrupt both of your sleep and make it much harder for your child to sleep alone when you get home. Bring a pack and play or ask for a hotel crib instead.
  5. Use the power of the sun: Light is the most powerful time cue there is. Help your child adjust to a new time zone by using blackout blinds to create darkness at bedtime, and minimize light for a couple of hours beforehand to stimulate melatonin production. In the morning, let the sun come in, and try to get an hour or two of fresh air in the early afternoon.

Traveling with young children doesn’t have to be a disaster — but it can be a challenge. These tips can help keep holiday travel merry and bright. More tips on how to help kids get the rest they need to be happy, engaged, and ready to learn can be found at

About Dana Obleman and The Sleep Sense™ Program

Dana Obleman, mother of three and a professional child sleep consultant since 2003, has made numerous television appearances, been featured in national and local newspapers, spoken at multiple parenting trade shows and baby conventions, and co-hosted the popular radio program “Parenting Today.” She has degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education and is a professional member of the National Sleep Foundation.

Since 2003, more than 109,000 parents have successfully used The Sleep Sense™ Program to improve their children’s sleep. Unlike sleep training programs based on a philosophical stand on the issue of “crying it out,” The Sleep Sense™ Program accommodates different parenting styles. Parents get an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan that allows them to make choices to determine the right approach for each child, and specific guidance on how to measure success.

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