Travel Tips Part 3: Home Away From Home

Yes, I read all those parenting books about necessary schedules and consistent atmospheres. Although I feel at least somewhat in control of B’s schedule when we’re home, there’s simply no hope when we’re traveling. It’s just not the nature of our trips. I’ve also felt the guilt-induced panic as my child repeatedly never takes a nap in the same place. We’ve set up his pack-n-play in countless hotels, homes and churches, sometimes within inches of the bathroom, with no barrier between he and the sound of my early morning blow-dryer, other times across the room by a loud air conditioner wall unit, with an obstacle course of toys, suitcases and a stroller between us and him. Adventurous indeed (for middle-of-the-night feedings).

My advice in this post is really quite simple, short and sweet. Instead of agonizing over different schedules and varying atmospheres while traveling, simply do your best to make things familiar by focusing on what you can control.

Bedtime ritual. Can I control what time B goes to bed when we’re traveling? Hardly. But regardless of when I am able to put him down, I can do the same bedtime ritual beforehand that we always do at home. So whether at 8:30PM or 11:30PM (Yes, 11:30PM!), I bathe him (or wipe him down with a wet rag), nurse him, brush his teeth, read a book (or recite it from memory, if he’s dozing) and sing a song.

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White noise. While pregnant with B, I sat through countless worship services where Nick’s band played music quite loudly. After B was born we plugged in a sound machine that we bought at Target, and it plays womb sounds when he sleeps at home. While traveling we’ve used a variety of white noise options. There are countless apps to download onto a phone or iPad. Bathroom vents or heaters have worked multiple times. As I write this, B sleeps to the air conditioner unit in a hotel room of a Baptist encampment in West Texas where we are spending four nights. The white noise muffles other random sounds, including our movements around the room after B goes to bed and before he awakens the next morning.

Be flexible. Remember, you are away from home. Things will probably seem different to your baby. B awakens during the night more often when we’re traveling. I can roll my eyes and stomp over to him at 2 AM, or I can remember that we have chosen to travel as a family and that this is simply part of our choice. If he wakes up crying because he doesn’t know where he is, I comfort him, sometimes feeding him again, understanding that it’s all part of the adventure. By traveling with our son, we demand flexibility from him. Likewise, he needs flexibility from us as he adjusts to a new schedule and atmosphere.

It’s all part of the journey. One day too soon he won’t wake up to nurse anymore. So for now, I enjoy the extra cuddle time before putting him back to bed a second (or third, or fourth) time a night. My prayer is that B is learning from experience the truth behind a framed quote in our kitchen – that home is wherever I am with you.

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