Seven Ways to Ensure Your Child Sleeps Well While Traveling

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After all, traveling is so much easier when kids sleep well.

There are few things I love more than traveling, but with kids it’s far from easy. My husband and I always joke that we go on “trips” with the kids and we VACATION without them.

One thing is for sure, when your kids are sleeping well, traveling is SO much easier.

My kiddos typically adjust in 1-3 days and then are sleeping just like they do at home. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t bend the “rules” and push bedtime back to enjoy the late summer nights or have a nap on the go, but for the most part, I try and make sure those babies are well-rested so we ALL have a good time.

Here’s the thing, when babies and kids are overtired, they begin to accrue sleep debt. That means bedtime battles begin and meltdowns are happening because children cannot regulate their emotions when they are exhausted. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children tend to “speed up” when they are tired.

I suggest making an extra effort to honor your child’s sleep needs. It makes for happier kiddos and in turn happier parents.

Being that summer is in full swing and holiday travel is just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to share my favorite travel tips: 

1. Don’t over-schedule.

The biggest mistake parents make is that they over-schedule themselves. They try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might normally have had back in their “child-free” days, forgetting an important fact: They have a child now.

Don’t pack in three fun-filled activities a day. Nobody is going to have a fun evening if your child is melting down at 5pm. 

2. Don’t forgo the naps.

An occasional car nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm, but if your baby or toddler spends a couple of days taking car seat naps here and there and having late bedtimes, she may become so overtired that by the time bedtime rolls around on day two, she has a complete meltdown and seems to “forget” all her sleep skills and just cries the house down.

If that happens, you might start to get very nervous because (a) your baby, who has been happily chatting herself to sleep for weeks, is now crying again, and (b) your mother-in-law is standing outside the door repeatedly asking you if you’re sure the baby is okay. You may start to give into this pressure and bend your expectations for your baby’s sleep. Stay the course! 

3. Be patient. Your baby is adjusting too.

It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because the rule is the rule at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at Grandma’s house. This may mean that your baby cries for some time at bedtime or has a night waking or two. The best way to handle it is to not do too much different than you would if the regression happened at home. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

4. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket!

Bringing your kiddo’s favorite lovey or blanket is going make drifting off to sleep in an unfamiliar place much easier. They will feel more comfortable and secure with the familiarity of a toy or blanket. If you child uses a white noise machine or sleep sack, throw those in the suitcase too.

5. If you’re not a bed sharing family, don’t start now. 

Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even it’s it is only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred location, you could find yourself dealing with a real battle when you get home.

6. Create a visual barrier. 

Having a parent in sight during sleep is extremely stimulating, and not to mention fun for a little one.  Consider these options when deciding where everyone in the family will sleep.

  • Having your baby or toddler sleep in their own room is ideal, obviously that’s not always available.

  • Get creative! Is there a bathroom or large closet that will fit a travel crib? They are perfect as they are typically SUPER dark.

  • If the whole family is in one room, move the crib to the opposite side of the room and create your own visual barrier. You can hang a sheet, use a partition or place the crib behind a corner or tall piece of furniture.

7. Lighten the load!

Let’s face it. When you travel with kids you have a whole lot of stuff to bring. That part alone can have parents exhausted even before they’ve reached their destination. Consider using a baby equipment rental service like VacaDUN if you’re in Southern California. Not only does this company rent top-quality baby gear, but it’s free delivery and meets safety standards.

Summer vacation is all about creating family memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. With a little planning and a few key points in mind, you’ll keep the whole family sleeping well for every family trip.

About Our Guest Author

Andi Metzler is the founder of Andi Metzler Sleep Consulting and an Arizona native living the SoCal life with her husband of 9 years (and college love) and two young kids. She’s a lover of travel, great food & wine, a good night’s sleep and, most importantly, family time.  Sleep and family are her jam!