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Baby Sleep and Travel

Full disclosure: humble brag oncoming.

While I am not a huge fan of that trend, it will thankfully help you this holiday season!

Ready?! I’m an expert on baby travel sleep.

Child Travel Sleep Tips

My family lives about 6 hours away from us. We make it a point to see each other every 4-6 weeks, whether I travel there, they travel here, or we meet halfway.

The first time I travelled with Audriana, she was 4 weeks old and I’ve learned a lot of tricks of the trade since then. I now take fairly regular road trips with both girls, sometimes without the help of my husband.

Although I have learned a lot about planning and keeping things low-stress, they have learned to be flexible and accommodating throughout our journey. The combination makes for more pleasant trips with our family.

Preparation for baby sleep and travel

In the days leading up to travel, it’s always best to make a working list of everything you will need in the notes app on your phone. Keep adding to the list as you remember items.

In addition to the obvious (diapers, pajamas, etc.), some important sleep-related items are as follows:

A travel sound machine, like the Yogasleep Rohm. This little guy fits in the palm of your hand, but packs a powerful punch of soothing, continuous white noise. It’s rechargeable but lasts for hours, so you’ll be all set for that long car ride!

Room darkening solution, of which I have two recommendations. If you’re on a budget, stick to travel blackout curtains like these Amazon Basics. For $23 (at the time of publication), these do the job and won’t break the bank. If you’re willing to splurge and know you will be travelling often, invest in a Slumberpod.

It fits over pack and plays or mini cribs and creates a temporarily separate sleeping space, which is totally blackout. Keep in mind you can also check out rental sites like BabyQuip, where parents rent out these items in your area for a much lower rate than the cost of purchasing.

Speaking of pack and plays…

bring your pack and play!!

If you don’t have space in your car or do not want to check it on the airplane, make sure your Air BNB, hotel room, or relative has one, or look into renting one on BabyQuip. I cannot stress this enough.

Many parents come to me, months after travelling, reporting their baby or toddler slept all night long in their own crib until they decided to just cosleep during vacation, which became the new norm upon returning home.

Establishing a separate sleep space for your child, even if it’s in the same room, will make the transition back from vacation much smoother.

On Travel Day

The number one question on my final call with my families is always “how do we handle naps and bedtime when we travel?” Here’s the honest truth, coming partly from experience as a mom.

On your travel day, your motto should be “it is what it is” or “go with the flow” or even “eff it.” Seriously. Travel days can be stressful, and the more we worry about our kid’s sleeping schedule, the more unnecessary pressure we put on the entire family.

Nap them when you can, using your normal schedule as your guide.

However, don’t worry if they are shorter, longer, or even skipped altogether. Remember, they are not in their sleep space and they’re excited about the adventure, which all affects sleep.

Feed them as close to their schedule

Keep in mind that they might eat less than normal. This always used to bug me out.

My girls were never voracious eaters, so when we travelled and they only took 18 ounces for the day, I was convinced I was doom for a whole night of wakings (spoiler alert- I wasn’t).

I had to remind myself that they weren’t expelling much energy cooped up for hours in a car seat, so their bodies didn’t need their normal amount of fuel. They always rebounded the next day.

Get your sleeping space set up as soon as you arrive at your final destination. You’ll likely be exhausted from travelling, and this may be the last thing on your mind. But having it set up an ready to go will ease the bedtime transtition.

Build in extra time for the bedtime routine on that first night.

Since you’ll be sleeping in a new space after an exciting travel day, getting your little one acclimated using a longer routine with extra soothing will help them feel more comfortable.

On Vacation Days

If you’re able to plan a light activity day on your first full day of your destination, this will help recover from the long travel day.

Aim for at least 1 nap in the pack and play, the length of which should be at least an hour (or longer if your child is only taking 1 nap per day). The other naps can be on the go and shoot for an earlier than normal bedtime to make up for lost sleep from the day prior, shifting bedtime about 30-60 minutes earlier.

On the remainder of your vacation days, just go with the flow. Seriously. If your little one has great sleep skills, they’ll nap when they can and make up for it at nighttime. If you sense they’re getting cranky one day, modify plans the next in order to offer them a long nap in the pack and play or an early bedtime that night.

You want to be able to enjoy your trip, making the most of your time without feeling nap trapped!

Of course you’ll need to make accommodations on the fly, which is what parenting is all about, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to a schedule for your entire time away.

Time Zone Travel

Ahh…travelling with a baby and crossing time zones sounds like the sleepless gift that keeps on giving. However, they are usually more flexible with time changes than we are. Kids who are well-rested a resilient and adjust accordingly.

As your travelling between time zones, on travel day, use the time on the clock as it is in your home location.

The next morning, stay as close to the local time as possible until you get back on their schedule, but with local time. It takes about 1 day for every 1 hour of time change for the body to adjust, but I find kids do it much quicker when they jump right into the new time zone on Vacation Day 1.

Give your entire family grace as you’re travelling between time zones and remember the old adage “West is Best, East is Beast.” If you’re travelling West, you’re body will have an easier time adjusting on the way there and a harder time adjusting on the way back. The reverse is true for the latter.

The Three R’s For Travel

In conclusion, you don’t have to be afraid to travel with your kids! Using my “Three R’s” for Travel Tips, you’ll be able to have a stress-free vacation (well, maybe not like the ones you had pre-parenthood…IFKYK…but fun nonetheless).

Relax: you have permission to enjoy the vacation! Try to give your kids a little structure with their sleep schedule: i.e. 1 nap per day at the hotel OR opt for an early bedtime if naps are on the go. However, don’t worry if you’re not by the book.

Recreate the sleep environment: If napping on the go, invest in a travel white noise machine like the Rohm. This will help block out car or airplane noise. Wherever you’re resting your head (hotel room, Air BnB, or family’s house), bring the white noise machine and blackout curtains or Slumberpod! My family still laughs at me, but I travel with blackout curtains and thumbtacks, so that I can make any room cave-like dark for sleep. Whatever your choice, recreating the sleep environment will make your kids more comfortable sleeping in a new space.

Reset when you get home: When you return from vacation, expect to do a reset for 2 or 3 nights before everyone gets back on track.

Go back to basics, adhere to the schedule, be firm with bedtime routines, and you’ll be impressed by how flexible your kids can be!

Are you travelling this holiday season and need some in-depth travel help or want to get your sleep on track before that big vacation?

Set up a free discovery call so I can assess your sleep situation and chat with you about how I can help keep your entire family well-rested!

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