Handling your child’s sleep while you’re in the comfort of your own home is one thing, but one of the biggest challenges many parents face is managing their child’s sleep when they’re NOT at home.
If the thought of traveling with your child makes you cringe, then I wrote this post for you!
If you can implement my tips from this post, you just might decide that there are far harder things you’ll do in your parenting days, and you might even ENJOY your vacation.
So, pack those bags and buckle up…but first, read this article!
5 things to think about before you travel…
Yes, there is prep work involved you’ll want to do before you leave.
- If your child is not an independent sleeper at home, they won’t be on the road either, and it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect that they would be simply because you’re traveling. Do some sleep training well in advance of your trip to help them solidify the skill so they can bring it with them!
- If you’re planning on using a different setup for sleep, like a toddler air mattress or a SlumberPod, make sure your child has the opportunity to explore and practice with these items before you can expect them to use them successfully.
- Think through your child’s sleep routines from beginning to end – make a list of items you’ll need for their bath, bedtime, and nap routines to ensure you don’t forget anything!
- If you’re staying at an Airbnb or a hotel – or where ever, really – call ahead to find out what the accommodations are: Is a travel crib provided? Do you need to bring your play yard? Will you need to room share or can everyone have their own room for sleeping?
- If you’re doing a planned trip and following an itinerary (Disney, anyone??), make sure you don’t plan too much and allow for naps if needed. The last thing anyone wants is an overtired child at a theme park. Plan for breaks at the hotel or plan for naps on the go and bring what you need for each situation.
We ended up doing a family trip when my boys were 4 and 2. We shared a house with my sister and her kids, and all the kids ended up sleeping in the same room. My boys were already great little sleepers at home, and they did surprisingly well even when there were four kids in one bedroom.
It helped that they were exhausted from all the activities – we hit up Legoland and Disney and just made sure to have the white noise cranked when anyone was sleeping. On days when we were at the park during my 2-year-old’s nap time, he just slept in the stroller around his normal nap time. We brought a fan to keep him cool and he was totally fine.
Okay, so you’ve thought things through, made your packing list, and made the trip. Now what??
Tips for When You Arrive at Your Destination
As soon as you get there, I highly recommend setting up everyone’s sleep space.
I know everyone will be excited to hit up the beach, jump in the pool, or get in line for the teacup ride, but, trust me, you’re not going to want to have to set everything up when you get back to your hotel or Airbnb and nothing is ready to go and you’ve got a cranky toddler on your hands. That’s the worst possible situation.
You’ll basically want to recreate the sleep environment that you have for them at home.
Make sure it’s dark. You can use some portable blackout shades or a SlumberPod. Black electrical tape can help cover any small appliance lights on alarm clocks, microwaves, etc.
Use white noise. It will help your child sleep better AND it will help drown out any other noises from room sharing.
Bring sheets, blankies, pacifiers, pajamas, and sleep sacks that your child is used to sleeping with. If it smells and feels familiar, they’ll sleep better.
The other thing you’ll want to try to do is to stick to your child’s normal schedule and routines as best as you can throughout your vacation. Remember, they’re already sleeping in a different environment than they’re used to, so keeping everything else the same will help them out.
Obviously, I know this trip is likely for fun and you want to make some memories. Do it! Have your little one nap in the carrier or in the stroller.
Know that sleep may get off track the less you maintain routines and schedules. It’s okay, maybe even worth it! But you’ll likely have some work to do when you get back home…
How to Get Back On Track When You Get Back Home
You had a blast on your trip, but sleep came a little bit undone – this is to be expected.
Because your child was a previously good little sleeper (tip #1, remember?!), it won’t be too hard to get them back on track. You may need to do a “sleep reset” where you refer back to any sleep training method you used to provide a consistent response. Because sleep was previously a skill, it shouldn’t take more than a night or two to get things dusted off again. With time and consistency, they should be back to normal within a few days.
And, if your child wasn’t previously a good sleeper, and you want to make some changes, reach out to me! That’s what I do! I’d love to help your family too, so you can travel stress-free for years to come.