My Baby + Sleep posts are very popular around here, so be sure to check out my Baby Sleep Series for more tips on improving sleep! Traveling with a baby or toddler can really wreak havoc on sleep for both you and your child. For the small child, new and unfamiliar environments can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. No need to avoid travel out of fear of compromised sleep. As parents, we can do a few things to help our children sleep better while away from home. This is not a quick fix, just practical solutions that may offer a better travel experience.
1. How to prepare a sleep station…
Once you arrive at your destination, set up a ‘sleep station’ or a special area where your child will sleep. A sleep station may include a pack ‘n play (playard) with a soft and comfortable sheet, along with a lovey and sleep sack or wearable blanket placed in the playard. If you will be sleeping in the same room as your child, attach a towel or blanket around the outside perimeter of the playard using safety pins to prevent your child from seeing you in the room. Often times, seeing a parent in the room can cause the child to think it’s time to get up. Using the blanket to block your child’s view can encourage them to go back to sleep if they wake up.
While setting up the sleep station, have your child watch you assemble it, and explain this is where he will be sleeping. Throughout the day, remind your child about his sleep area to help him prepare.
You may also want to evaluate if the room is too bright. Sometimes mini-blinds are not sufficient enough to dim the room for naps. To help dim the room and encourage sleep, bringing along a dark colored sheet and some thumbtacks to hang the sheet over window, if necessary. Taping aluminum foil is another very cheap, yet effective way to block light from a window.
2. Should I use white noise?
Even if you do not use white noise at home, this can be extremely helpful during travel. It can be a real challenged always reminding everyone to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. Using white noise can eliminate the need to be super quiet. Using a small fan, place it in the baby’s room to be turned on during naps and bedtime. A gentle humming will help lull your baby to sleep and drown out noise to prevent premature waking.
2. Keep as much the same as possible…
Traveling is a very chaotic time for a baby or toddler, as they cannot understand or prepare for your well-intended travel plans. Try keeping as much the same as possible to offer the child security and comfort. If you have a pre-nap and bedtime routine, do the same routine while traveling. Using a lovie in the bed at home with your child offers an opportunity to provide consistency during travel. When you travel, place the lovie in every new sleep area to encourage feelings of security and to cue your child for sleep.
3. Do consistent bedtime and wake-up times really matter?
Maintaining the same wake-up time and bedtime used at home can really make all the difference in the world. Night sleep is the most restorative, so going out of your way to protect it can really mean the difference between a happy spirit or a crabby spirit. This doesn’t mean, there are not going to be nights every now and then when your child will stay up past bedtime. Sometimes you just can’t avoid a later bedtime. However, trying to keep a consistent bedtime most nights helps encourage and preserve sleep during travel.
4. How to manage naps…
Travel should be a fun and enjoyable time, and it’s difficult to enjoy activities when you’re a slave to your child’s sleep. Being flexible with nap times during travel can help offer a little bit of sanity. Attempt to lay your child down for nap during a time range, rather than an exact time. We can also consider trying to fit in at least a short nap. Some sleep is better than no sleep, and often enough, a little recharge can go a long way. On the other hand, skipping naps all together can lead to trouble or what I like to call a very crabby spirit. Skipping naps is okay on rare occasion, but skipping naps several days in a row will surely lead to an over-tired, crabby child.
5. How to add a little TLC during travel…
This may come in the form of extra kisses and cuddles before betimes and naps. It may also come in the form of a few night feedings to help your baby along. Even if you dropped night feedings long ago, a small, short feeding during the night may offer just enough comfort to your child to aid him back to sleep. Extra TLC during travel may also involve a longer wind-down time before sleep to help set the stage. Taking the time for some TLC is totally worth it if it translates to better nighttime sleep, at least in my book.
Traveling with children is one of parenting’s true art forms, and it tends to get better each time, as we gain more experience about what works and what doesn’t. Preserving and encouraging sleep during time away from home can really make all the difference in enjoying your family vacation.
Print this free sleep printable!
This post comes with a free printable average sleep needs by age chart. It’s time to take the mystery out of baby sleep. This printable simplifies it! Here’s a preview:
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus get my Free 3-Day Baby Sleep eCourse! Just click here to download and subscribe
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Use it as a quick reference and don’t forget a thing!
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, rhythm or schedule, this email series will help you find one that will work for YOUR family. Yes, really. I've seen my sample routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
This free email series will help you:
- free sample routine for your child
- learn one easy routine that will help you get more done (and keep your child happy)
- get simple hacks for managing the day with multiple kids
- get a sneak peak at a book containing 25+ sample routines and schedules