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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Merino

3 Tips for Managing Naps on the Go

There will be many challenges you face when it comes to your child’s sleep in the early years.

One of the most frequent I hear about is trying to figure out how to navigate sleep when you’re not at home. More specifically, how can you get your child to sleep while you’re on the road?

Every quarter, my family and I love to pack up our car and head to the Rocky Mountains.

It’s about a five hour drive both ways, so we’ll usually leave in the morning, stop for lunch, do an activity, and then continue on our trek for the final stretch of the trip.

Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips to share with you.

Often, parents can feel overwhelmed when they have travel plans, and feel they must maintain a nap schedule for their children.

With the summer months approaching, you might have your own plans for traveling and you might feel that anxiety start to creep in about how you’re going to handle sleep on the go. But I don’t want you to stress about naps in the car. And most importantly, I don’t want you not to go on a trip because you’re worried about sleep.

Children are adaptable, and with the tips that I’m going to give you today, you can have a game plan for how you can make the most of your travels, while also ensuring your children get a good sleep in the car.

Tip #1: Time the Trip Right

The first tip for successful naps on the go is to leave shortly before your child’s actual naptime, if possible.

For instance, if your child normally naps around 12 p.m., you might want to plan on leaving your house around 11:30 a.m. Before you load up the car, do the nap routine at home: change your child’s diaper, put them in their pajamas or in a comfortable outfit, give them a snack or a bottle, and then get in the car to start your trip.

By the time your child’s typical nap time comes, you’ve already been on the road for a little bit and they will easily fall asleep since their routine is done and all their needs are met.

If you are planning on driving overnight, you can do the same thing – just leave a little before your child’s bedtime.

If your child has multiple naps throughout the day, pick one nap to leave before. Chances are, once they finish that nap, depending on how long your drive is, they will be able to go to sleep for the next nap easily.

When you’re already on the road, you can do a little routine for naps. While it won’t be a full, elaborate routine, giving your child cues that it’s time for sleep can be a big help.

Maybe you read them a story before it’s time for sleep, or wipe their hands down with a wet wipe, or pull the car over, change their diaper, give them a bottle, and then put them back in their car seat.

If you’re able to time the trip just right, your child will be able to get a good nap in before you make any stops along the route.

Tip #2: Bring All the Sleep Essentials

The second tip for naps on the go is to bring items that will help your child sleep. Don’t forget the essentials that they’re used to.

Here are a few ideas:

  • A portable white noise machine: If your child is used to sleeping with a sound machine at home, a portable white noise machine can be a great sleep cue that they’re already used to. Additionally, a white noise machine can drown out any car conversations and provide a soothing environment for your child to doze off.

  • A blanket, towel, or window visor: If you’re going to be driving during the day, you’ll want to minimize some of the sun coming through. Yes, it’s likely still going to be bright in the car, and no, you won’t be able to darken the car as much as their room at home. But having something that will block direct sunlight from hitting your little one’s eyes is a good idea to help promote a car nap.

  • Loveys, pacifiers, or favorite blankets: Anything that your child uses to fall asleep at home, you’ll want to remember for your road trip. Not only will these items serve as a cue for your child that it’s time for sleep, but they can serve as a comfort item while in new locations.

One of the worst moments is realizing you forgot an essential item at home, so before you leave on your trip, keep a log of all the sleep-related items your child uses day to day. You can open a note app on your phone and just type out items as you use them. Then before you head out, open up the list to double check you packed it all.

Tip #3: Don’t Stress About Your Child’s Sleep

The last tip for naps on the go is don’t stress about your child's sleep. Yes, you want to hope for the best, but if their nap is short, or if they take a while to fall asleep, that’s okay. You can get back on track when you reach your destination.

Sleep is important for children, of course. But making memories and having family experiences are also very important, and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t go on vacations or family trips with your child simply because you’re worried about their sleep.

If things are off for a day or two as you’re traveling, that’s okay. Your child will get back on track and everything will be back to normal when you return home.

And if you find that things aren’t back to normal when you get home, you can schedule a 15-minute free Discovery Call to find out more about how I can help your family foster healthy sleep habits and get back into a routine.

As you plan on your travels for the summer, be sure to check out this podcast about Tips for Travelling with Kids with Katy and Lou from SlumberPod where we share all of the tips and all of the things that you need to remember when you’re traveling with little ones.

Safe travels, enjoy the sunshine, and go make those memories!

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