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If your baby is finally sleeping through the night, you might be hesitant to pack up and take a trip for fear of ruining everything you’ve worked so hard for. Or maybe your baby has always been a great sleeper, but you’re worried that changing their environment could set them back. You’re not the first parent to worry about your baby’s sleep while traveling, and you certainly won’t be the last.
Every parent who travels with their babies has been there. In fact, we just experienced our very first travel-caused sleep regression, but don’t let that scare you. We’ve taken dozens of trips with our baby, Parks, without it impacting his sleep. And even though we didn’t get so lucky during our most recent trip, it took only took two days to get him back on track. Here I’ll share my baby travel sleep tips to help manage your baby’s sleep while traveling so you can enjoy your trip with a well-rested baby.
- How to Navigate a New Time Zone
- Getting Baby Used to a New Place
- Pack N Play Versus Portable Crib
- Importance of a Sleep Sack
- Setting the Right Mood for Baby’s Sleep While Traveling
- Sticking to Baby’s Sleep and Nap Schedules
- FAQs for Managing Baby’s Sleep While Traveling
How To Navigate a New Time Zone
Changing time zones with a baby is tricky and it’s a huge reason many struggle to manage a baby’s sleep while traveling. Here are a few things to think about when deciding how to approach a time zone change while considering your child’s sleep schedule.
The first thing to consider is the length of your trip. If you’re only going to be in a new time zone for a few days, it probably isn’t worth it to adjust your routine. In this case, I recommend sticking to your original sleep schedule. This could mean you’re starting and ending your day earlier or later than normal.
When traveling across multiple time zones, you might want to add an extra nap to keep your baby from becoming overtired if the time change makes bedtime later. Or, if bedtime is coming earlier than normal, you may have to plan for a later bedtime as you transition to the local time zone.
Finally, start your baby’s day at the normal time to maximize the daytime sun. As you slowly work to adjust to a different time zone, take your baby outside as much as possible. Sunlight helps to regulate melatonin and your circadian rhythm. This helps you and your baby adapt to the new time.
Getting Baby Used to a New Place
Your baby might come around to the new space faster if you play with them in it. Having fun in the new space will help your baby create a positive association with it. Doing so will help them feel safe and more comfortable in their new surroundings when you lie them down to sleep.
Another thing I recommend is making the new space look and feel as much like your baby’s room as possible. For babies accustomed to falling asleep for naps and overnight sleep in complete darkness, renting or purchasing a Slumberpod or portable black-out curtains to mimic their sleeping environment could make them more comfortable.
Pack N Play Versus Portable Crib
When it comes to your baby’s sleep space, the first thing you should consider is your method of travel.
If you’re road-tripping to your destination, you’ll have more room to pack a Pack N Play or travel bassinet. If you’re flying, you probably want to minimize the amount of stuff you bring with you because checking luggage adds up. Instead, always ask your hotel or Airbnb/VRBO hosts if they offer crib rentals. You can also consider renting a Pack N Play or a baby’s crib from services like Babyquip. A rental service ensures any essentials you need are delivered to your hotel room in time for your arrival.
If your baby is used to napping or sleeping in a Pack N Play, using a Pack N Play could be the best option for you. They’re easy to pack if you have the space for it, and they’re typically cheaper to rent than a crib. But, if your baby is accustomed to using a crib, renting one at your destination is certainly an option! Regardless of which method you choose, don’t forget to pack or rent crib sheets. This is the best way to make sure your baby is comfortable with whatever you choose.
Importance of a Sleep Sack
For my son, Parks, the sleep sack is a huge source of comfort. It has become an important part of his nap and bedtime routines. He may not need the sleep sack anymore, but he expects it. Doing away with it during travel would be stepping out of his routine and he notices when it’s missing.
If your baby is used to a Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit or a sleep sack, don’t forget to pack it while taking a trip. Anything you can do to create a sleeping environment similar to what your baby is used to at home will work in your favor. The sleep suit is a huge part of that routine and provides added comfort for your baby all night long.
If you’re traveling somewhere colder, the sleep sack will help keep your baby warm if they’re still too young for blankets. Seek out a sleep sack with a higher TOG rating for colder temperatures.
Setting the Right Mood for Baby’s Sleep While Traveling
When planning for your trip, make sure to pack the items that will help you recreate your baby’s nap and bedtime routines and environment. This might be a portable sound machine, books, and bathtub toys.
You might be thinking, “We’re traveling! We don’t want to pack all that extra stuff!” Trust me, I totally get it.
That’s why we have a portable sound machine that is a fraction of the size of the Hatch we use at home. Not only does the sound machine offer a comforting noise our son is used to, but it helps drown out the noise we might be making if we’re in close quarters.
We also have smaller-sized versions of our favorite books so they don’t take up as much space. These live permanently in a travel bag so we never forget to pack them.
As for bath time, we have a travel kit with a soft-bristled brush that we take with us when we travel so we can rub his head the same way we do at home.
Sticking to Baby’s Sleep and Nap Schedules
Maintaining the normal schedule your baby is used to isn’t always going to be possible while you’re traveling. And you certainly don’t want your entire trip to revolve around your baby’s naps.
I recommend starting and ending your baby’s days at the same time and aiming to have your baby’s first nap of the day be a great, solid nap. Doing this starts your day out with a well-rested baby, and affords you more flexibility later when you’re out and about.
What this looks like for us is a 7 a.m. wake-up time. We’ll feed Parks and then we might walk to a coffee shop or go to breakfast. Then, we’ll come back to the hotel and put Parks down for his first nap around 9:30 a.m. Since he’s asleep in an environment set up to be similar to his nursery at home with a sound machine and a dark room, we are typically able to achieve a great first nap of the day. When he wakes up around 11-11:30 a.m., our day truly begins!
FAQs for Managing Baby’s Sleep While Traveling
What do I do if they just won’t sleep?
If you’ve done everything you can to set your baby and yourselves up for success while traveling and your baby still won’t sleep, go back to the basics.
Implement the same techniques you used to get your baby to sleep at home. Whether you did sleep training or had a softer approach, your baby hasn’t forgotten all that they learned during that time! They’re just in a new space and it might take them a little longer to adjust. It doesn’t mean you’re starting back at square one. They just need to feel safe and comfortable in their new environment.
Where should a baby sleep while traveling?
A baby can sleep anywhere that is considered a safe sleep environment. This can be a Pack N Play, a portable crib, or a bassinet. Wherever you lie your baby down to sleep while traveling, make sure to follow the Safe to Sleep guidelines and keep safety above all.
Do vacations cause sleep regressions?
Yes, vacations can cause sleep regressions, however, it’s important to know that it’s temporary and won’t be as hard as you expect to get your baby back on track, especially if they already have a good sleep foundation set. The best thing to do is be prepared and do everything you can to make sure your baby feels comfortable in their new sleeping environment. Making changes to the room to mimic their everyday sleep environment is a good idea. Keeping their bedtime routine the same is also a great idea.
Why is my baby so fussy now that we’re home from vacation?
Your baby might be a little fussier when you get home from vacation because you’ve changed up their environment (and potentially their normal routine) twice. You took them on vacation and asked them to sleep in a new place and adjust to a new timezone, and just as soon as they felt comfortable and settled there, you brought them home again. It’s totally normal and the fussiness won’t last long. They’re just a little uneasy because of all the change. The more substantial the time difference and the longer the trip, the harder it could be to transition your baby back. But rest assured that if you created great sleep habits, your baby will come around in no time.