Today we continue the “Temperament and Travel” series, featuring bi-weekly advice for traveling with children of each and every temperament. So far in this series we’ve covered Advice for Travel with a High-Energy Child
Today we turn to another key temperament trait that is often overlooked but can have everything to do with family travel harmony: physical regularity. What do I mean by that exactly?
Physical Regularity: Very Regular vs. Unpredictable
Very regular – Does your child keep a consistent schedule with little influence from you? Does she sleep and wake at the same times each day, nap for similar lengths of time, and even have bowel movements at predictable times? (Yes, “regular” means regular here, too!)
Unpredictable – Do her physiological needs and functions vary from day to day, with different waking times and varied lengths of naps? Is it hard to anticipate when the next bowel movement will strike? Or whether or not she will take an afternoon nap? And if she’s up late one night, does she easily make up for lost sleep as needed?
When parents and children share the same temperament trait, whether very regular or very unpredictable, this may not be an issue at all during travel and vacations together. But it can really cause frustration when parents differ greatly from their children (“What do you mean you’re not hungry now? It’s time to eat!” or “For the love of sanity, will you just sleep past 6:30 a.m. for a change? We’re on vacation!”), or siblings are quite the opposite of each other. Given the unpredictable new contexts of travel, these differences can really come to the surface. Here are tips to help smooth the way for travel with a “very regular” child.
Advice for Travel with the Very Regular Child
Use her predictability to your advantage when planning your vacation days. You will have the benefit of knowing ahead of time what to expect in the way of nap times and duration (if she naps in the travel stroller, this is art museum time!), appetite, energy levels, and probably even bowel movements.
Ideally, the itinerary will fit her existing schedule as much as possible, allowing for her regular meal and nap times, and her usual bedtime (within reason) so she can be at her best during waking vacation hours.
If your child needs to go to bed earlier than you, don’t sentence yourself to silent evenings in a dark hotel room or cruise ship cabin. Instead, consider a vacation rental apartment, condo, or suite with a separate space for her to get those much needed timely zzzzs (be sure to read tips for Changes in Sleeping Routines in Travels with Baby).
If you are more of a “doer” than a lounge-by-the-pool traveler, plan ahead to take turns with your partner staying in and resting or reading when your child naps while the other goes out to explore, exercise, or do extra sightseeing.
If flights or drives are timed with her naps, the travel gods will likely smile upon you as long as she has what she needs to be comfortable (see tips for Changes in Nap Routines in Travels with Baby).
Try to avoid red-eye flights that will interrupt her sleeping schedule. If you can’t get around it, bring a favorite pillow or blanket so you can help her snooze at a quieter gate until it’s boarding time .
When adapting to a big change in time zones, “easing into it” day by day may actually work against you, making each day a new struggle against the biological rhythms. Instead, set the alarm clock on arrival for her usual wake-up time in the new time zone and jump back into the schedule as quickly as possible.
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More tips and advice are on the way! For help for planning travel of every kind–with babies and children of every temperament–in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler.
Read More from the Temperament and Travel Series:
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
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