Next week my family is flying from Seattle to Hawaii. We’re taking our two boys—ages 3 and 1—and we’re wondering how to handle their sleep routine on the 5-hour flight, and once we get there with the two-hour time difference. They’re pretty good sleepers at home but we’re worried that we won’t get any sleep on vacation. Any suggestions?
Yep! If you're going to be vacationing for a week or longer, it's best to get kids adjusted to local time instead of trying to keep them on their home time zone. Going to Hawaii, the sleep adjustment is actually fairly simple. On the plane trip, maintain their normal Pacific Time nap routine, if possible. If they normally nap from 1pm to 3pm and that time window occurs on your flight, encourage them to nap on the plane by bringing their sleep aids (special toys, blankets, and comfort items). Don’t let them sleep the entire trip, tempting though it may be. Wake them after an hour or two.
They will likely be zonked when you arrive—at 6pm Hawaii time, their bodies will think it's 8pm. It’s best not to push their sleep schedule more than one hour per day, so once you’re on the island, put them to bed within an hour of their normal, Pacific Time bedtime. So if they normally tuck-in at 8pm PST, put them to bed by 7pm Hawaii time, which is 9pm their time. Of course, this all flies out the window if you're getting into Hawaii late, but do the best you can.
Bedtime shouldn’t be too tough, because they’ll be tired. The challenge will be keeping them from rising at dawn—7am Pacific Time is 5am Hawaii time. Over the course of the next 3 days, gradually move their bedtime later so that they’re bedding down at their regular bedtime (say, 8pm). That will keep their wake-up time in line with their regular routine.
(When you return to Seattle, follow the same routine in reverse: Adjust their schedules back to PST over the course of several days. Remember, a child’s wake-up time helps program their body for the rest of their day. Waking them up a bit earlier than normal on departure day and on the first day home will help their bodies adjust back to their PST routine.)
Above all, enjoy your vacation without getting too worked up over the sleep routine. Just try and encourage them to nap each day, without letting their naps go longer than 2 hours. During vacations, it’s easy to let kids nap longer than you might otherwise. After all, kids will be tired from the excitement, and some babies will snooze in their strollers and packs as you trek around town. Letting kids nap all day is a recipe for staying up all night, so watch out for that. Have fun! Aloha!
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