4 Sleep Tips for Traveling with Baby

How to get your baby to sleep well on vacation.

Let’s be honest: Traveling with a baby can be daunting. In your pre-kid life, you could could enjoy carefree walks on the beach, a cocktail or three, or just sleeping. But as a parent, you now have to worry about feeding, sleeping and pooping schedules. It’s normal to be worried, especially if this is your first trip with a little one or if you’ve finally hit a good sleeping rhythm. But never fear: you can enjoy a vacation and not wreak havoc on your little one’s sleep by following a few simple steps.

Here are 4 sleep tips to make sure your little one keeps sleeping like a baby while traveling.

1. Before the trip: plan your travel well. Anticipate your baby’s sleep schedule on the travel day. Most babies will easily nap during plane or car trips, so take advantage of that downtime. If you’ll be taking a long flight that spans several nap times and/or bedtime, try to keep your baby’s schedule onboard the same as you would at home.

Parents taking long-haul overnight flights should remember that most airlines don’t turn off the overhead lights for a few hours, so aim to book a flight that departs a few hours before your baby’s bedtime. To that end, try to arrive at your final destination a few hours (or more) before your baby’s bedtime. It’s a total buzzkill to start your vacation with a screaming, overtired baby who needs to be fed, changed and soothed… when all you want is a cocktail after a long day of travel.

2. Once you’ve arrived, find a good balance between prioritizing sleep and staying cool. Any sane parent will tell you that her idea of vacation is not being trapped in a hotel room with a sleeping baby and bad daytime TV. But it’s almost guaranteed that if you ignore your baby’s sleep schedule for more than a day or two, all hell will break loose.

What’s a mama to do? Find a healthy balance between her sleep needs and what you want to accomplish that day. For example, you might decide that 50% of your baby’s naps will be in the crib at “home” and the others will be on-the-go. Or, if you have a non-stop day planned, compensate with an early bedtime that night. Find a balance that works for all of you.

3. Embrace routine. Even the most adaptable babies thrive on familiarity and routine and yours may find it challenging to sleep in a strange new place. Stick to familiar sleep routines that will help her to feel more secure and encourage her to sleep longer stretches.

For example, if she’s used to reading certain books, bring them along. If she’s used to white noise at home, consider a portable white noise machine or download a free white noise app for your phone. And I always recommend making the sleep environment as dark as possible:  use a portable blackout curtain or simply affix dark garbage bags to the windows with masking tape.

4. Just remember, you’re traveling with a baby. Life doesn’t end when we become parents, but it changes. Take your baby’s age and temperament into account when your plan your itinerary. A 2-month-old will probably snooze happily for hours while you tour the Ufizi Gallery; a wriggly 9-month-old most likely will not. Take advantage of your travels but also don’t set yourself up for feeling like a failure by the end.

Hadley Seward

Hadley Seward

Hadley Seward is a certified sleep consultant and founder of Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in France and New York City, she works with exhausted parents around the world to get their kids’ sleep back on track. Meet her + follow her adventures at @hadleyinfrance.

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