Baby Nap and Sleep Tips for Traveling Parents
It’s not always easy to take care of your little one’s sleep while you’re on vacation or traveling for work. You may be at home where it’s comfortable, but many different factors make it you when you travel.
The first problem is planning what you’ll do if they fall asleep in their car seat or stroller. For example, if they wake up before we get to our destination and start crying, we can’t go into a restaurant because we don’t have an extra seat!
So, here are my top tips for keeping your baby happy and well-rested while on the go:
One good nap a day is a must for your baby
They get cranky if they don’t sleep enough, and then you’ll be faced with a fussy baby for the rest of your day. So I try to plan my kids’ naps at least one hour before we arrive anywhere so that he is well-rested when we get there but still tired enough to need an early bedtime in a new place.
If you’re out and about and they fall asleep, don’t be afraid to let them sleep in their car seat or stroller! If they wake up before we get to our destination, I’ve found that they’re usually suitable for a couple more hours. Just make sure to pack an extra blanket, so they stay comfortable.
If your child usually naps well during the day, try to schedule one good nap before arriving at your destination. If they sleep in their car seat or stroller upon arrival, let them continue sleeping until they naturally wake up.
Naptime is essential for babies, so make sure you are well-prepared before embarking on your next family vacation!
Make sleep-friendly trips for your baby
You’ll be a happier and better parent if your baby gets good sleep while traveling, so do what it takes to make sure that they’re well-rested on the go. Your whole family will thank you!
Yes, some trips are not as ‘sleep-friendly’ as others; however, you can make it happen with a little bit of organization. Planning is key!
You know your baby better, so if you think they’ll sleep a lot, try to plan for extra time to make it happen. You can even book an overnight stay at your destination beforehand so that they get the best sleep possible on the trip there!
Try to maintain a regular bedtime schedule most of the time
Babies usually sleep better when they are in a routine. If you can stick to their regular nap and bedtime schedule as much as possible while on vacation, it will help them adjust more quickly. You don’t want to spend your whole trip fighting with your baby oversleep!
If they’re used to taking two naps a day, try to fit one in before you leave and the other nap once you reach your destination (assuming it’s during the day).
If your baby usually takes one nap, try to make it happen right before bedtime. If they are older (around two years old), then you can probably skip the naps altogether and stick to their regular bedtime routine when possible.
Make it a part of a game to help them fall asleep
If you’re lucky, they will curl up and go to sleep. However, if your baby doesn’t know how to put themselves to sleep yet or if it’s a nice day out when we arrive at our destination, I try to make a game out of it.
I’ll say things like “Can you find the bunny?” or “Where’s Daddy?” and slowly rock them to sleep while looking around for whatever animal I’m pretending to see.
Sometimes it can be helpful to make the nap itself into a game. For example, I’ll give my son one toy that he’s allowed to play with for the entire duration of his rest, and then once he falls asleep, I put the toy away. This usually works well because he wakes up happy and excited to see the toy again.
Bring the supplies you need for sleep success
Depending on where your baby is sleeping (car seat vs. stroller), it can be nice to bring an eye mask so that outside light doesn’t disturb them if they fall asleep while in transit.
If you’re bringing a stroller, make sure to get the supplies needed for naps and nighttime sleep (blankets, diapers/pull-ups, pacifiers, or other comfort items). It’s also nice to have an extra set of clothes if they get dirty during nap time!
Make a list ahead of time, and make sure to bring everything you need for naps and nighttime sleep. Please keep it simple, but be prepared!
Accept any assistance
There will be times when people offer to help you out while traveling with a baby. Whether it’s watching them for a few minutes so you can run into the store or carrying all of your bags for you, take them up on their offer! People are often more than happy to help, and it can make your life a lot easier.
If you can afford a babysitter, even for a night, then do it. I was surprised, but some hotels will even provide a babysitter for a very reasonable price!
Offer to help other parents in return, but don’t feel bad about accepting assistance when offered. Everyone wants their vacation to be relaxing, and that includes you!
Use time zone changes in your favor
If your baby is a good traveler, you can use time zone changes to help them adjust. If they usually take an afternoon nap, for example, wait until it’s closer to bedtime once you arrive at your destination and try putting them down earlier than usual.
The same goes with nighttime sleep as well – many parents will push babies’ bedtime back by a few hours when they’re on vacation to help them adjust.
If your baby is older, then you can usually stick to their routine no matter what time zone you’re in.
Take it easy
Yes, it can get hard traveling with babies. You have so much more responsibility than if they were older or without them at all.
But, it’s essential to not put too much pressure on yourself. You’re on vacation after all! So, try not to stress about sleep while on vacation.
Try to relax and take things one step at a time. Of course, there will be times when things don’t go as planned, but that’s okay. Just roll with it and enjoy your time away with your family!
My mom gives me a piece of great advice about traveling with a baby. She always says, “slow and steady wins the race.” This is definitely true when it comes to traveling with kids!