11 sanity-saving tips to help your toddler sleep through the next PCS

Moving is stressful. Add in a cranky, tired kid and a move may become unbearable. Putting a plan in place to maintain a child’s sleep schedule is essential for you to have a peaceful PCS. Who knows? Maybe your toddler will even sleep through all of the chaos.

Tips for establishing a routine and schedule

1. Sit down a week prior to packing day and discuss with your spouse how to keep the integrity of your child’s sleep and nap routines while traveling. Everyone should be on board so that one parent isn’t the only one stressing about this.

2. Outline a flexible schedule in which you will determine when your child will eat, play, and sleep. This cycle shouldn’t veer too much off of the schedule that they are accustom.

3. Murphy’s Law will hit when you are trying to move an entire household. You should be able to bend and flex for the “disasters” that try to pop up. For example, if the day’s drive calls for eight hours on the road in order to get to the next hotel, plan to leave an hour earlier than normal so you can plan in an additional 15-minute stop for your child to burn off built up energy.

Tips for packing day

4. For infants and toddlers, it would be best to have them start sleeping in their Pack ‘n’ Play at least two days before the packers arrive. This will give them a chance to get used to the new sleeping space while still in a familiar place.

5. Ask the packers to work around the nap schedule. If baby is on two naps, wait until after morning nap for them to start packing up the nursery. If baby is on one nap, then have them pack up the nursery first thing when they arrive in the morning. Make a “Do not enter: Baby napping” sign and tape to the nursery door.

Option two: Remove all items from baby’s room to another room minus the black-out curtains and the Pack ‘n’ Play. This way babe can nap when they are ready and all you’ll have to do is ask the packers to not go into the room while the napping is occurring.

If babe is on three or more naps, then you will have to clear out their room the night before so that baby can nap when they are ready on packing day.

Tips for supplies

5. Create a pack list of essential items for your child at least a week or two before packers arrive. Here’s the basics:

  • Additional mattress for Pack ‘n’ Play (for comfort). If you don’t have one, then take the dimensions and get foam padding cut to those dimensions. Cover with mattress pad and crib sheet and you are good to go.
  • Monitor(s)
  • Blackout curtains (and push pins)
  • Sleep sack
  • Lovey/cuddle buddy/special stuffed animal
  • Sound machine
  • Travel toys
  • Books for travel and night

Tips for planning your route 

6. For children three years and younger, limit time on the road to six hours or less. If you are driving, try to leave towards one of their nap times. This will allow baby to get comfortable and rest as the travel has begun.

7. Research hotels along your route that have conjoining rooms or two room suites. Depending on how long the drive, the military will reimburse you for your hotel stays. These type of hotel rooms are ideal because it gives your child the alone space and quiet that they need to sleep through the night uninterrupted. If these type of rooms are not available or you don’t want to spend the cash, there are some creative options.

Option one: Put the Pack ‘n’ Play into the bathroom. Realize this would cause you all to use the bathroom in the lobby if someone has to go in the middle of the night.

Option two: Put the Pack ‘n’ Play in the closet (if it’s big enough).

Option three: Find an isolated corner of the room, place the Pack ‘n’ Play there and keep the room pitch black. (That’s right, no TV!) Try creating some type of barrier between the parents and the child, so that if they wake, they won’t see you. Also, consider that most hotels have cribs; you just have to ask for one at the front desk.

Extra tips for tricky areas

7. It can take a child some time to adjust to time zone changes. Just take it easy if the time zones are drastically different. Adjust slowly each day by 30 minutes and your child should be fine.

8. Make sure that you plan for some fresh air and playtime! This is important for the energy release of toddlers and sets the body clock for winding down when it needs to.

Tips for when you arrive

9. Maintain the eat, play, sleep schedule as best you can based on your accommodations. Try to book a hotel suite with a door that separates rooms; this will make the extended stay in a hotel easier when it comes to maintaining nap and bedtime routines and schedules.

10. Ensure your pack list has “camp out” essentials (i.e. air mattress, bedding, cooking supplies, etc.). Pin up blackout curtains in the nursery and set up the Pack ‘n’ Play, monitor, and sound machine, and post your “Do not enter: Baby napping” sign.

11. When the movers arrive with your HHG, ask them to place all nursery furniture in a staging area if they are unloading around naptime. Or place baby in a different part of the house such as a walk-in closet or bathroom with no windows. Naps might not be the best on move-in day, so adjust bedtime up accordingly.

Planning and preparation are crucial when traveling with a baby or toddler. It can alleviate the stress you may have surrounding how your baby or toddler will handle the change in environment. Maintaining a familiar routine and following the eat, play, sleep schedule will ease the transition for your child by providing predictability. Remember, don’t be so rigid in the schedule. Allow some flexibility so that it isn’t an added stressor on the family.

By Tonja Bizor

As a mother of three children, one who had sleep issues, I understand the emotional strain and stress that a child not sleeping through the night can have on on a family. I offer my families a peace of mind, relief that sleepless nights will soon turn into bountiful sleep for everyone in the family! I develop customized sleep plans while getting to know you and your child’s personality and developmental milestones. I am with you every step of the way as you give your child the gift of sleep. As a Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, I’ve undergone a comprehensive training and mentoring program which has given me the very best tools and knowledge available to help you get your little one sleeping through the night! Reach Tonja through her website or Facebook page.