Sleep Tips for Traveling with Little Ones

By Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH June 28, 2013
While vacations with your little one can be stressful and certainly nothing like the carefree days of traveling solo or with your spouse, they do provide much-needed relaxation for the entire family. Yes, time away from home can result in temporary sleep disturbances, but these are far outweighed by the benefits of a family trip.

A few sleep tips to make traveling more enjoyable for the whole family:

Bring Your Sleep Environment With You
  • Keep your sleep environment as similar as possible to your home environment by bringing a familiar sheet, lovey, sleep sac, pacifier, portable sound machine, and anything else that is part of your baby’s sleep environment.
Keep Your Schedule When Possible
  • Try to stick to nap times and bed times as much as you can but remember that it may not be possible every day.
  • If your little one skips his nap, make an extra effort to put him to sleep at an earlier time for bed that night.
Don’t Forget to Bring . . .
  • If you are staying with friends, it's a good idea to bring your baby monitor. You will be able to enjoy your time with the adults knowing that your little one is sound asleep.
  • Bring a box of black trash bags and some painter’s tape . . . you can make any room into a darker room!
  • Throw some binder clips into your suitcase. You can always clip a lightweight blanket to the curtains to help block out the outside light.
Maintain Consistent Routines for Naps and Bedtime
  • Keep your nap and bedtime routines as similar as possible to what you do at home.
  • Allow a little extra time for your routine if your little one seems over-stimulated from the day’s adventures.
  • Avoid creating new habits while away from home. Continue to put your child down drowsy but awake and try your best to respond in the middle of the night as you would at home.
Figuring Out Where to Sleep
  • If you co-sleep at home, traveling with your little one can be much easier. Be sure to continue to follow all safety precautions for safe co-sleeping.
  • If traveling by car, throw a Pack ‘n Play in the trunk since hotel cribs are often unreliable.
  • A Snooze Shade is a great investment because it will help your baby ignore any visual distractions while falling asleep.
  • When you get to your hotel, be creative! A bathroom or closet can make the perfect makeshift room.
When to Leave on Your Travels
  • Most babies travel best at times when they would normally be sleeping. Plan to start your travels just before naptime, take a red eye, or drive through the night.
  • If your baby is not a car sleeper, plan to leave right after a nap or first thing in the morning.
  • Use an application on your phone for white noise while in the car or even on the airplane.  (Be sure to put your phone on airplane mode so that an incoming call does not wake your sleeping angel.)
Relax, enjoy your time away, and stick to your baby’s schedule as much as possible. At the same time, agree to be flexible. Just remember, as long as you jump back into your sleep program as soon as you get home, your baby should be back to his old sleep habits in no time!

Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Feel free to email her with any questions. You can find out more information at her website and on her Facebook page.