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Travelling with your little one and worried about sleep?

Updated: Oct 1, 2022



Travelling with a baby or toddler can be both exciting and stressful. Many parents worry about how to navigate naps and bedtime when they are not at home.

Is this you?

Then keep reading for some tips and things I have learned as a sleep coach after traveling 5 times in the first year of my son´s life!



Travelling means a change in routine and surroundings which can affect your little one´s sleep behavior. Fear not though, babies and toddlers are very adaptable and there is lots you can do, so both of you can feel safe and comfortable when sleeping outside of home. Keep reading to find out how!


Before you embark on your journey...


"Expect the best, prepare for the worst" is my personal mantra when traveling with litte ones.

It can be a life saver later on when you have taken a minute before you start travelling to think of what could go differently than expected both on your journey and at your destination.


  • Get an idea of where your little one SHOULD be sleeping (travel cot, extra bed, cot provided by the hotel or family you are staying with)


  • Plan for safe bedsharing, even if you normally do not bedshare. You might not need to bedshare at all, but so often our little ones want to be close at night, especially in an unfamiliar location and the parent´s bed is simply not set up for it. Nobody wants to be sleep deprived on their holiday or shift around mattresses at night. I would suggest getting in touch with your hotel or accomodation (more and more hotels offer bedsharing options), or use a travel bed that can be attached to a bed frame and has an open side (I reccomend borrowing one or get them second hand). Before you leave, inform yourself on how to make bedsharing while travelling safer. I recommend checking out this post from Cosleepy on the nitty gritty on how to safely bedshare in a hotel room : Cosleepy - Cosleeping while traveling — how can you make... | Facebook. Always consider if bedsharing is safe for your family by following the Safe Sleep Seven(The Safe Sleep Seven - La Leche League International (llli.org).


  • Plan for naps on the go: Wether you´re travelling by car, plane or train, equip yourself with some handy tools to make naps easy. It´s always a good idea to bring a baby carrier that is comfortable for you and your baby or toddler, especially when you´re at the airport or travelling by train and need your hands free. If you´re travelling by car, plan a stop at your child´s ususal nap time, when they do not fall asleep in the car seat easily and transfer them there asleep.You will know best what your little one needs to fall asleep. Maybe you have a little routine going and you can bring their comforter, sing their favorite lullaby or have a playlist ready on your phone, having familiar things and rituals really helps with calming down for sleep.


  • Bring their bedtime routine. This does not have to be complicated or involve lots of things, simply bringing items like their bedtime book or the white noise machine will help to make them more comfortable to sleep in a strange place. You can always skip the routine if you feel like you do not need it, but I personally have never regretted just having one or two items from their routine with me and credit the fairly easy bedtimes while travelling to it. One last thing: Bring a couple options for sleep wear. Bedsharing, air conditioners or higher temperatures than expected in the room you are staying call for some variety, so even if you think it will be hot/cool where you´re staying based on the weather, pack some options (short sleeved pyjamas, sleep sacks, socks, etc.) to be flexible.


While travelling and at your destination...


Now that you have had a think about how travelling might go for you and the little one, practice the art of letting go.

I´m not joking...this has probably been the number one thing I have learned while travelling 5 times with my son in his first year.

Travelling is a change for your little one, and how they will react to this change will depend largely on their temperament, age and how YOU feel about it. Yep, little ones read our emotions and sense it when we are stressed, plus travelling means a lot of new input and experiences. Many little ones get FOMO (fear of missing out) and will surprise you by not taking that nap, staying up WAY past their bedtime to hang out with these cool new relatives they haven´t met OR they might need MORE daytime sleep (bless them) and manage less time awake. As you might have gathered, the more you expect things to go as they do at home, the more you are setting yourselfup to feel frustrated around your little ones sleep. I´m not telling you to be calm all the time, I realize this is unrealistic in general and especially when travelling with your child for the first time, but if you notice you get stressed or anxious around nap or bedtime, here are some suggestions for you:


  • Control what you can control (see the list above) and make sure you feel confident to have everything you need to support sleep on the go and at your destination.


  • Know when to say no Maybe your little one gets very overstimulated from all the sightseeing and new people or you are just tired from the journey. It´s ok to stay in with your little one or get room service instead of going to a restaurant. You will get a chance to do all the things the next day. Trips that are overpacked with activites are rarely enjoyable for families with small children.


  • Focus on the calm. Sleep might not come as easily as at home, and that´s ok. If that nap or bedtime takes a long time, focus on getting YOURSELF calm first, the child´s calm will usually follow and bring sleep. This could look like taking a bath together, going out into nature, listening to some guided mediations or music. Even on the plane you can plug in some headphones or do breathing exercises, I promise it is not just woo-woo, it is very effective and can make your vacation THAT much better.


  • Last but not least: Have fun! Travelling with your family will create memories that last for the rest of you and your child´s life. Don´t let sleep get in the way of that! Yes, a vacation with children IS different than as a couple, however it is undeniably more fun (fun in a playful sense). Children find the joy in little things and it´s amazing to see the destination through their eyes, notice how they explore and blossom in a new environment and with a new culture or people.



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