Who doesn't love to get away?! Visiting out-of-town family, basking lazily poolside, taking in a day of sights, or curling up to relax with nowhere to be. Vacation is great, am I right?! Except if you're a parent of a little one, you're probably thinking that type of trip is more in line with your pre-baby self. As a mom myself, who's had plenty of travel with babes in tow, I would have to agree with you. But guess what? That doesn't mean you can't have an amazing vacation...it just might look a little different. And I'd say that starts with sleep. If everyone can get a good night's rest while traveling, that's definitely a huge win. Want to know how to help your baby sleep while traveling?
We have you covered with these steps you can take - starting from the very second you start planning your trip.
Step 1: Choose Accommodations Wisely
With a baby, where you stay matters. And no I'm not talking about the cushiest hotel room you can get. In fact, I would recommend forgoing some of the extra amenities just to find a place where your baby can have her own room - at least if she's been sleeping separately from you for any length of time.
Why does your BABY need their own room? I realize this may come at an extra expense and isn't always realistic. But with suites pretty widely available these days, it's possible to get your baby their own space to sleep. The reason this matters is because your baby has finally learned to fall asleep on their own. By allowing them to have their own room, it will mimic the comfort of home. Otherwise, I guarantee you they won't be wanting to do anything else but be with you if you try to set them up next to you when they're not used to that.
If you either cannot find a hotel with a separate room or will be staying at someone's house (which happens a lot around the holidays), it's best to try to somehow create space for your baby away from you. Even if that means having to set your baby's pack 'n' play up in the bathroom. It sounds weird, but it can work. Your baby doesn't care, and I promise you will all be a lot more rested.
Step 2: Set Realistic Expectations Before the Trip Begins
As your trip nears, keep your baby's sleep time sacred. Even as you are trying to tie up last-minute details before the vacation begins, don't let it get in the way of your baby's naps and normal bedtime.
And when it's time to leave with your beauty-rested little one in tow, start your trip with a smile and the reality that your baby is going to end up off their schedule some. If you head off on your trip with the unrealistic expectation that your baby's sleep routine is going to be perfect and nothing will mess it up no matter what, you're just going to end up stressed out and frazzled when you see that that's not the way it's going. So, leave with a plan - and your baby's most important sleep items (as we'll discuss below) - and just do the best you can. Allowing yourself to be flexible and knowing that a new environment is an adjustment for your baby will enable everyone to be much happier while you are away.
Step 3: Bring Your Baby's Comforts Along for the Ride
Whatever your baby relies on to help calm and relax them needs to come along with you on your trip. This can include:
- Sleep Sack or Swaddle
- Lovey or Favorite Stuffed Animal
- Cuddle Blanket
- A warm bottle (or boobs)
Even if you have gotten away from utilizing these "sleep props" at home, you'll want to have them at the ready while on vacation. Just because you have the best sleeper in the world at home doesn't mean the new surroundings and different schedule won't give way to new sleep behavior. And this goes for the plane ride, as well. Swaddling and feeding your baby to help calm and relax can make for a much easier time in the air.
All of these comforts of home should be at your fingertips to help calm your baby to help them fall asleep faster.
Step 4: Maintain Your Baby's Sleep Routine
You may be traveling somewhere entirely different, but that doesn't mean you can't follow the same step-by-step sleep routine you do at home.
We recently wrote about what a solid bedtime routine looks like to set your baby up for successful sleep in our article, "How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib."
There really shouldn't be much need to stray from these steps just because you're on vacation.
These may include:
- a calming bath
- infant massage
- clean diaper, jammies, swaddle or weighted sleep sack
- dim lights and turn on calming music (whatever you use at home should be brought with you)
- nurse or feed
- rock and snuggle your baby
- Lay them down awake
Now for that last part - you may need to adjust. Since it's a new place your baby may have some anxiety. If your baby has trouble falling asleep on their own, it's completely OK to be there to help them fall asleep. You can always get back on track when you return home.
Step 5: Get in a Good Nap
Even if your baby still takes two full naps at home, the likelihood of that happening on vacation is small. And honestly, who wants to spend their entire vacation chained to a hotel room anyway? You've worked hard as parents and you deserve to have some fun. So you're going to have to let the schedule go a bit.
However, skipping naps altogether isn't the best choice either. Otherwise, you'll just have a very fussy baby where he gets progressively more tired as each day comes. And that doesn't make for a fun trip for anyone.
Decide ahead of time when you think you can get in one solid nap for your baby. My family all personally tires on vacation around 1 or 2 anyway, so this is the perfect time for everyone to relax and snooze before evening activities. (And if your baby has their own space has mentioned before, it will go much more smoothly!)
Following these 5 steps will help your baby (and you!) sleep much better while traveling so that everyone can have a great time.