There are some nights with a baby you just don’t forget – especially when traveling with your baby and toddler. (So excited to have Laura guest posting on the blog today… there are some affiliate links in this post – but only of products I know and love).
For me it was 2 am, sitting there in a rigid, straight back chair in our one-bed hotel room at the Hampton Inn. I was holding our daughter Evelyn (6 months old at the time), again. She’d been up several times before this latest wakening, and we’d all but given up on trying to put her back into the pack and play.
Our normally very good little sleeper had no interest in sleeping this night, and I just didn’t feel I could be that crappy person who lets their baby “cry it out” from the other side of the paper-thin walls.
As I sat there rocking Evelyn back to sleep on my chest for the seventeenth time, I was beginning to wonder if this would be a recurring theme. Sure, we’d had plenty of challenges traveling with a baby, but she’d always been one to fall asleep whenever, wherever. Had we lost all progress?
Being in a new place, a new bed, with new surroundings and (lots) of new daily activity, it’s no wonder that babies and toddlers can have such a tough time transitioning to sleep away from home while traveling.
But you know what’s worse than a baby that can’t sleep at night? A baby that’s ultra-tired and cranky during the day!
Missing out on that all-important sleep while away from home can quite literally ruin a vacation. And while it might be tempting to break the rules, trust me when I say letting up on your routine while away from home will only create more problems.
After a bit of trial and error, we’ve found that there is a bit of a secret formula to helping little ones keep up a good sleep routine while traveling. Here are to help your baby and toddler sleep better while traveling:
Missing out on that all-important sleep while away from home can quite literally ruin a vacation
1. Stay in private rentals
There’s plenty of reasons I prefer an Airbnb over staying in a hotel, but one of the biggest ones? I’m too self-conscious about my daughter’s crying! (and whining, and stomping, but mostly the crying).
Staying in a private rentals means we have a ton more privacy (i.e. freedom to let kids be kids), and has allowed us to follow sleep training methods without worrying about keeping the neighbors up all night.
And privacy aside, we almost always rent a place that has a separate bedroom, so adults and littles each have their own sleeping space.
2. Use a familiar bed
I’ll never forget the time we tried to put Evelyn down in an unfamiliar pack and play. She was still learning to sleep and it was not going to happen in that thing.
From then on we learned our lesson. While some kids might be able to sleep anywhere, our Evelyn slept best in a familiar environment. That’s why no matter where we travel, even if there might already be a portable crib available, we usually opt to bring our own.
To get Evelyn used to the portable crib, we started her early by taking occasional naps in the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib. Now, no matter where we go, she’s always in her own “bed”.
(Susie’s tip: I also had a problem getting my daughter to sleep on the pack n’ play on vacation – so I brought a tent when she was two. It worked!!!)
3. Bring a noise machine and comfort items
Our Baby Shusher noise machine goes with us everywhere, and on the few occasions when we’ve forgotten it, we nearly turned the car back around to get it. I don’t know what it is about white noise, but I have to say, our daughter is always comforted by the sound of it. Having our portable white noise machines with us on the road helps remind her that she is safe with us, even if she’s in a strange room.
Read more about our must-have gear for traveling with baby.
With how much little space it takes up, there’s really no reason not to pack it. And while we’re usually not ones to pack a lot of toys and comfort items when we travel, Evelyn’s favorite blankie always comes with us too.
(Susie’s tip: Don’t forget your baby’s favorites. I always ask my girls to pick one stuffed animal/blanket to come on trips with us. Also, don’t forget an easy portable blackout shade if you think that your hotel/house will have them).
4. Schedule in nap times during the day
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you’re routine has to go out the window. Sure, you’ll want to have some flexibility, but nap time? That’s one thing we always try to keep in place.
Plan for your naps right off the bat. When I’m putting an itinerary together for a vacation, I always include our standard 1-3 pm nap time — just the same as I would our morning at the museum or 6 o’ clock dinner reservation.
It can be tricky when you’re still in the 2-a-day nap range, but returning to your home base to nap really is best (if you have one of those kids that can nap in the stroller, I’m super jealous…that ain’t happening for us!)
Besides, after exploring a city all day, you’ll be ready for that nap too!
(Susie’s tip: I know – I hear you grumbling by the thought of ruining your amazing vacation with naps….but seriously – a cranky baby won’t be fun! Unless you know that your baby can sleep in that stroller – plan your naps. Of course, skipping a nap once in a while won’t be horrible – but take it from my tantruming toddlers – don’t skip naps everyday!)
5. Expect a little disruption when traveling with your baby or toddler
Don’t get discouraged if the first night doesn’t go well. Even now, after a year of frequent travel, our Evelyn still has the occasional “bad first night” in a new place. Just like sleep training, if you stick to your normal routine, things will get easier and a little better each night.
(Susie’s tips: If things get off during vacation – make sure to get things “on” when you’re back home and especially nip any bad habits in the bud.)
How do you keep up with your sleep routine when traveling? Let me know your secrets. Comment below!
Laura Ishmael is an avid traveler and mama to a precocious toddler named Evelyn. Wanting to incorporate more adventure into her family’s life, she and her husband began traveling with their daughter at just 5 weeks old. She shares travelogues, city & restaurant guides, and tips for traveling with young children on her blog, Our Next Adventure, with the hopes of inspiring other adventurous parents to get out and see the world with their tiny explorers.