These Travel Tips Will Make Your Family Trip Run Smoother

If you’re looking forward to your summer vacation but worried about how it might affect your child’s sleep, you’re not alone! 

Naps on-the-go and later than normal bedtimes are just a few of the challenges that many of us face as we travel this summer, and we are here to help with a few of our best family travel tips.

Packing: 

  • Bring your child’s sleep essentials! This can be everything from their bassinet, sound machine, blackout shades, lovey, sleep sack, and swaddles - everything you can fit inside your bag to make your baby feel like she's in her normal sleep environment. Your goal is to try and re-create a similar sleep space to what you have at home. 

  • Don’t forget your baby monitor, if that’s something you rely on! 

Car and airplane travel:

  • Try to plan car or airplane travel around naps and bedtime, if possible. If you know your child won’t sleep on a plane or in the car, it is probably best to ensure he gets a nap and a full night of rest before traveling. I typically do not recommend red-eye flights (no matter how cheap!) or long drives in the middle of the night, since children can often become overstimulated in these environments and do not sleep well. If a nap prior to travel isn’t possible, try and work one in once you’ve arrived at your destination, and consider an early bedtime, since travel can be exhausting for everyone.

  • If you’re going on a long flight and your little one is going to HAVE to sleep on the plane, definitely plan for this by bringing items to help your child feel comfortable, such as their favorite pillow or kid’s sleeping mask.    

Time zones:

  • If you are traveling for a week or less, try and stick to your normal time zone. It can take anywhere from 3-4 days to adapt to a new time zone, so it’s not worth it to switch over if your trip is only a little longer than that. 

  • If you will be away for longer than a week, or if you are traveling to another country with a drastically different time zone, I recommend gradually adapting to the new time. Expect that your child may rise earlier or later depending on the time shift, and she may seem a little off, which is normal (just as it is for adults!). 

Sleeping location:

  • If you’re going to visit friends or family, see if you can borrow a Pack-n-Play or crib. If you’re staying in a hotel, you can usually request a crib (but check the crib’s safety - here’s some things to look out for).

  • Bring binder clips to help deal with hotel curtains that let sunlight in (Tip from TripsWithTykes).

  • Avoid bringing your child into bed with you. Even though it may be just for a few days, if your child is not currently co-sleeping, it is not best to start now as it could cause regression.

Naps: 

  • As much as possible, schedule activities around nap times. Maybe this means that you have to skip the family bowling outing so that you don’t skip nap time and deal with a cranky child the rest of the day (and during the outing!) Sometimes you just have to come to terms that you will be late, leave early, or miss an event altogether because naps are more important for the health of your family. That being said, sometimes it’s just not possible to plan around nap time (ie. if spending a whole day at Disneyland). In that case, just make sure you fit in naps wherever you can. A car or stroller nap here or there is okay, but getting a solid crib nap should still be a priority, whenever possible.

  • Try for an earlier bedtime if naptime wasn’t sufficient. It’s possible that you might have several failed nap attempts, due to the simple fact that you might be in a new environment or your child is too stimulated. In this case, move bedtime up to ensure you reach your sleep goal for the day. 

Bedtime: 

  • Maintain a reasonable bedtime. 30 min-1 hour later than usual isn’t a huge deal, but pushing bedtime past that can have a bigger impact on your child than you might expect. Do your best and don’t be afraid to let people know you might need to leave early to get your kiddos in bed!

  • Keep your child’s bedtime routine. Sticking with the same routine you practice at home will help your little feel more structured amidst the chaos.

Dessert and treats:

  • Vacation is often a time of indulgence, which can mean more sweet treats. While you should enjoy these things on vacation, I still recommend monitoring your child’s sugar intake. Sugar too close to bedtime + the excitement of activities can cause your child to crash or have a very difficult time falling and staying asleep. At the very least, maybe just limit it to one cookie instead of two, or just cake instead of both cake and ice cream. :)

When you get home:

  • Get back on the normal nap and bedtime schedule as soon as you get home! This will help prevent temporary regression or habits from becoming permanent sleep challenges.

All in all, try to have patience and understanding with your child. It is very common for children to throw a few extra tantrums or seem overly fussy on vacation because of the change in routine. Remember that children can become overstimulated quickly, especially if your days are packed with activities, so you may want to also schedule some downtime.

There will likely always be some stress associated with traveling as a family, but try to enjoy your time as much as possible. Vacation is all about creating memories and experiences together, so make sure to have a little fun too!