When my husband and I got married, we always said we would have a travel fund and take some sort of adventure every year. Whether it was just a weekend away to our beautiful Canadian Rockies, or a trip to Montreal to visit my husband's home town, we would save and always make a trip work. When we had my first son, we committed to following this tradition and took our son to Mexico at 6 months old. However, though Mexico was beautiful, and we had so much fun, it was more “work” with a baby than a relaxing getaway. Gone were the days where I could laze around pool side, sipping on Pina Coladas and taking a beach nap whenever I wanted. In the end it was definitely worth it, as we made so many memories and had a great time!
Some people think a family vacation just consists of poor sleep, tantrums and grumpy parents. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. Will there be some of the above mentioned happening on the trip? Absolutely! But by implementing these tips, it will increase your chances of having a happy, well rested child to enjoy your trip with and make the best memories!
1. Plan Ahead
Wherever you are staying, call ahead of time and see where your room is located. If you are staying in a hotel, see if you can request a room away from the elevator, stairs, restaurant or pool and be in a quieter section of the building. You can even see if you can request a crib, and have it ready in your room for you.
If your baby is used to sleeping in their own space, I recommend trying to continue that when you are away from home. Having a familiar set up will help your baby and the whole family sleep better. You can book an accommodation that has a separate room or living area, or if you are staying with friends/family you can see if it’s possible to put the baby to sleep in another room. If this isn’t possible, get creative - YouTube has some great ideas! I have even hung a sheet from the ceiling to divide the room, because when my son woke up and saw us, he wanted to chat with us instead of sleep (make sure the sheet is not reachable by your baby).
2. Pack all the snacks!
Have you ever been in a vehicle with a hangry baby? It’s not a fun time. Think about great travel snacks, things that your child can eat in the car or plane just with their hands. No utensils required. Our go to’s are squeeze pureed fruit packages, crackers, homemade granola protein balls served with their milk or water. I recommend packing these the day before, so it’s one less thing you need to worry about. Just take it from the fridge and straight into the cooler - good to go! Snacks will help keep your child full and happy. They can also be a perfect distraction when you are super close to your destination, and your baby is starting to get tired.
3. Have A Well Rested Child Before You Travel
It’s important to have your child already on a good nap and bedtime routine before you set off on adventures. You also want your routine to be well established, so that it’s consistent and familiar to them. Why is this so important? A well rested child is more likely to adapt better in a new sleep environment, thus falling asleep quicker, and better able to deal with missed sleep they may experience while traveling. A well rested child is also just all around a happier traveller because they aren’t overtired before the trip even starts!
4.Nap On The Go (Sometimes)
Even though naps in motion aren’t overly restorative like they would be if your baby was sleeping in their crib, sometimes they cannot be prevented. You will want to leave about 10-15 minutes before your child’s nap time, if you are driving, or schedule a flight around nap time if possible for the most nap success on the go. Make sure your car is already packed, everyone has used the bathroom especially if you have older kids, and that the baby is well fed and has a clean diaper. Scheduling your trip around a baby’s nap will prevent them from getting overtired, so that when you are on your way they will be able to drift off to sleep with little issue.
If possible, try to get your baby to take their morning nap in their crib or pack-n-play before you head out for your adventure. The morning nap is more restorative than the afternoon nap, and will set your tone for the whole day. This is especially important if you have a jam packed day filled with activities when you get to your destination. Try and make one nap a priority to be stationary, if you can.
Some parents have also had the most success by leaving for their adventure around bedtime. Put your kiddos in their jammies, and let them snooze for the ride, then once you get to your destination you can just transfer them into their beds.
You know your child best! So if your child has to sleep on the go, definitely pick the best time to leave for your family. Whatever you decide, just always remember to adjust bedtime if they miss some sleep during the day and put them to bed earlier. This will help to make sure you avoid overtiredness, and have a great next day.
5. Recreate The Sleep Environment
Take all your sleep tools that you can fit in your travel bags. You want to recreate your child’s sleep environment in the hotel or wherever you are staying. This may include your white noise machine, something to darken the windows (tape and black construction paper or tinfoil work, or a SleepOut curtain), or you can bring a SlumberPod to go over the pack and play for complete black out (Don't have one? I got ya'! You can rent one here!) sleep sacks, their comfort items such as their loveys or special blankies. I also always take my youngest baby’s bedsheet from his crib with me and put it on his pack-n-play. The way he self soothes is he rubs his face in his bed sheets. So the familiar scent and feel of his sheets seems to help him relax, and feel comfortable falling asleep in his new sleep space.
If you are staying at a hotel, you can usually request a crib as mentioned above. However, if your child is going to be sleeping in their pack-n-play I recommend doing some trial runs at home prior to leaving. Some children (like my first dude) struggle settling down in a new bed and environment. So it’s best to practice some naps or night sleep in their pack-n-play that is in the comfort of their familiar environment - their own bedroom. This way if you have issues, you can troubleshoot before you leave and then on your trip they will have adjusted to their pack-n-play to set them up for successful sleep while traveling.
6. Maintain Your Routine While Away As Best You Can
This here is key! I know it’s so tempting to throw your routine out the window while on vacation, but trust me everyone will be so much happier on a routine. Children strive on routine! Whatever nap and bed time routine you have, continue to implement it while you are away from home. Your routine cues your child that sleep is coming. They are already going to be a little leery at sleeping in a new environment, so being consistent with their routine and predictability of events will bring them comfort. I know sticking to a routine can’t always be done while travelling, but try and stick to it as best you can.
Have Fun & Don’t Stress if Baby Gets Off Routine!
Remember what I said above? Stick to your routine as best as you can! That just means try your best, but if your routine goes off the tracks! Sometimes parents focus so much on sleep and routine that when it doesn’t go as planned we find ourselves not enjoying the moment. Or maybe it’s just me? If you have been implementing your healthy sleep habits at home, it’s time to relax, have fun, and enjoy your family time.
Once you are back from your trip, just jump back into your normal routine. If you have had a consult with me, it’s a great time to go over your child’s personalized sleep plan again and implement the tips and techniques. With time, consistency, and early bedtimes your child’s sleep will be back to normal quickly.
If you would like to a chat with me or would like to find out more about how I can help your family nurture healthy sleep don’t hesitate to reach out: email@example.com
I asked my Instagram families what their favourite travel tips were and they said...
Magnet letters and a cookie sheet for my 3 year old
Portable sound machine, blanket for the window to block out the sun, leave at nap time
Keep your expectations low!
Carry potties are a must. Makes for side of the road pee breaks a breeze!
Bring your Slumberpod. It's a lifesaver!
Snacks! For everyone!
Pack all the distractions. New toys, books, snacks
Squidz toys to stick on the airplane window, dinner tray, back of chair etc will create hours of fun
Be okay with going off schedule.
Pay for first class. You won't be disappointed, much more room for baby to explore.