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We're preparing for our first overnight vacation since my son has outgrown a crib.

He's been in a "big boy bed" for several months now, and still is very proud of this fact (and very proud of his bed in particular).

The last time we traveled overnight, my son was less than a year old. Now he's two-and-a-half. I'm a little worried that he might not handle sleeping in a strange place as well as he did when he was younger.

Is it common for children of that age to become upset about sleeping in a strange bed? Is there anything I can do to prepare that might make it easier on him?

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2 Answers

Try making it an exciting part of the vacation. "When we're visiting Fun Destination, we get to sleep in a hotel!" Don't focus exclusively on it, of course (who takes vacations just for the mattresses?), but get him used to the idea that it's part of the whole fun vacation experience. I don't know how typical my kids are in this respect, but they find all the "new" furniture in a hotel room to be an incredibly exciting part of the trip.

Bring along a favorite stuffed toy, pillow, and/or blanket that is usually part of his bed, and it will feel much more familiar right away. When you get to the hotel room, point out his temporary bed, let him jump all over it and explore the pillows and blankets. When you're putting him to sleep, do all the usual bedtime routine activities.

By discussing it in advance, helping him "bond" with his temporary bed, and making this seem like a total normal night (just with a different bed), you can hopefully avoid any anxiety when you arrive. And it's also possible to rely on the fact that toddlers are often capable of exhausting themselves thoroughly and falling asleep pretty much anywhere. Our struggle on vacations is keeping the kids awake long enough to get into the hotel bed!

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Familiarity is not just a place, it is objects, and process. So, bring along the toys he sleeps with and ask him to pick some bed-time books. Find out beforehand what kids channels are on the TV and look at what is shown and when, then pick out something for him to watch while you unpack and get things ready. Then when you get to the hotel follow your normal bed-time routine. Don't make a big deal out of it, just be matter of fact as if it's something you do everyday.

Also, make sure he's tired, and that you've had some nice calm time before bed. Don't get to the hotel, jam him in his PJs and tell him to go to sleep, he'll be too excited. Give some time to decompress, read some stories, maybe watch a cartoon or two (depending on routine).

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