It can be really concerning to tackle the concept of doing bedtime when living on the road. Bedtime routines are hard enough in home where you can control everything, but on the road there are so many variables which make your life harder.
There’s obviously the excitement of a new location, foreign noises, new friends etc etc which makes it tougher. There’s the fact that wherever your around other parents, they may let their children stay up later (the “why do I have to go to bed when everyone else is still in the playground”).
Then in our case, the fun factor that we have two children, 3 years apart (so different bedtimes) and we’re living in an 18 foot long trailer, so we’re not able to close off areas etc.
Routine, Routine, Routine
So S is now a pretty good sleeper, but wasn’t until about three, E is not a sleeper and will not go to sleep without a colossal fight. The key we’ve found is a stable bedtime routine, that follows the same progression wherever you are, and whatever time you’ve managed to set up in camp.
In our case, dinner, showers, dressed in pyjamas. Everyone goes into Red at E’s bedtime (typically 6.30 ish) and we turn off the lights, turn on the noise machine and Monique nurses her to sleep.
During this time, S does stories with me by small torchlight, or if he prefers, plays his nightlight game till 15 minutes before bedtime (typically bedtime is 7pm). Once times up, it’s brush teeth, have a pee, curl up in sleeping bag and hug with daddy and mummy IF she’s done with E.
Then we count to 100, whether S passed out or not, it’s a centered practice which helps him focus on being calm and something monotonous enough to send him to sleep (and sometimes us!)
This is exactly the same, whether we’re at home, on the road or camping somewhere. It’s an anchor for both of our kids and allows them to find consistency in their day. We tried letting S stay up to look at stars, or play with new friends, or just sit by the fire a bit later, and it results in full on meltdown. Bedtime at the same time = smooth routine every night.
Find a good noise machine
Both at home and in Red, we use the same sound machine. When you’re camping/RVing, there’s a lot of noise around you normally from people moving trailers, playing music, making dinner or heading out to dinner.
We’ve used a noise machine with both children from 3 months old, and it has so many pluses. There’s a lot of literature out there which will say it’s a sleep crutch. Whilst this may be true, our experience was that once S started sleeping through the night, he no longer wanted the noise machine on.
However, with all the unusual noises around a forest/desert/beach/campsite at night, it still works to help him stay asleep. We use this one off of Amazon which is small, low power (you can run off batteries) and has a good selection of noise alternatives (though E loves waves, and S likes rain).
Don’t try and be a hero and put two asleep at same time – Find a great quiet distraction
E goes to bed about 30 minutes before S, but if we bring S into the trailer after E is asleep, it’s a guaranteed wakeup, which upsets everybody. The solution is bring everyone into the trailer at the same time but let S do something fun and quiet in the dark while his sister is sleeping.
The best thing we found is called “Lite Brite Magic Screen” and it is awesome. Basically it’s a peg board that lights up as you put pegs into it. Not too bright, but noiselessly so that he can work on something creative (it comes with pre-designed peg pictures or you can free style).
He really enjoys doing it, and has to concentrate so hard that he doesn’t make a sound until he’s done. This gives us plenty of time to get E asleep whilst then giving S quality time for a quiet torchlit story afterwards.
Finally, pay strict attention to marshmallow consumption
S loves marshmallows, he will put them away when nobody is watching and then toast some and and then be totally sugared up and unable to sleep. We have a strict two marshmallows per person rule now (even for us) and that keeps the sugar crazies away. Obviously we have another one after he’s asleep but alls fair right?