Baby Sleep When Traveling: An Expert’s Advice

August 14, 2022

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Tips For Helping Baby Sleep On The Road

Wondering how you’re going to master baby sleep when traveling? 

You’re in the right place!  

Here at Mango Tree, we’re all about encouraging family travel.  We want to give you the best family travel tips to make your life easier away from home. 

When you’re a new parent, and someone suggests a family vacation, your first feeling may be anxiety rather than enthusiasm.  That’s totally normal. 

Maybe that’s because, for the first few months with a new baby, one topic dominates your thoughts: Sleep. As new parents, we all agonize over sleep schedules, wake windows, swaddling techniques, and night-feeding patterns. 

We would do anything in those first few months to get naps longer than a 43-minute sleep cycle.   

So maybe you’ve spent hours and days fine-tuning the perfect sleep schedules. Then, someone suggests that you throw your routine out the window and hit the road. The anxiety starts to set in… 

Sound familiar? 

But there’s no need to panic! You can you it. Really, you can.  And it will be totally worth it. 

But don’t take my word for it.  We want to give you some concrete tips that you can implement to keep your baby sleeping while traveling. 

So we turned to the experts. I sat down for an interview with Maddy Travers, certified sleep consultant, co-founder of Littlest Learners, and fellow world-traveling mom. Read on to get her tips for minimizing anxiety and conquering baby sleep when travelling. 

Maddy Travers Masters Baby Sleep When Travelling

Table of Contents

Family Travel Tips and Resources

Before we dive in, let’s be sure you have our best family travel resources at your fingertips. 

If you’re investigating baby sleep when traveling, you’re (hopefully!) thinking about traveling with your little one. Fantastic! If you’re trying to pick a destination, you should know: We have a whole collection of recommended family hotels in the Caribbean. I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s sort of our pride and joy. 

We’ve made it easier for busy parents like you to find the right Caribbean hotel for your family, with space for everyone. But don’t take our word for it: Explore our collection using search filters (like room size) that we designed just for parents.   

Wishing someone else would just handle the logistics for a change? We’re here for that too. We offer bespoke Caribbean family travel planning services. Our specialty? Helping parents narrow down the choices to identify the best Caribbean island and hotel for a top-notch family trip. 

And finally, want more family travel inspiration in your life? Sign up for our weekly newsletter, where we feature a Caribbean destination each month and highlight our favorite hotels and family travel tips and resources.  

Now, pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready to maximize baby sleep on the road…  

Meet Maddy: Certified Sleep Consultant

Hi Maddy! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.  Baby sleep while traveling: This is a topic that creates anxiety for a lot of parents that want to travel during baby’s first year. Did you travel with your kids while they were still learning to sleep independently? 

Absolutely. I am a mom of two and I traveled with both boys when they were babies. My oldest son was on a plane 10 times before he was 6 months old! 

We took a very memorable trip to Mexico City when he was 5 months – he slept through most of our sight-seeing. Our second was born during COVID, so we haven’t had quite as many opportunities to travel, but we did squeeze in a Caribbean vacation during his first few months.

Figuring out how to help a baby sleep in a new place can be daunting, but it’s totally doable. 

Baby Sleep When Traveling To Hotels 

So you’ve lived through this. How do you recommend approaching baby sleep in a hotel room?  

First, do the legwork – plan your hotel choices carefully. If your baby is used to their own room at home, try to give them their own space wherever you stay. Think about baby sleeping options ahead of time when you book your room so you can be prepared. 

Room-sharing while traveling can be tough on nighttime sleep if it’s not your practice at home. This can mean getting a larger hotel room, or finding a hotel where you can fit the crib in a closet or bathroom. 

When room sharing is a must, we recommend using a product like the SlumberPod to block out light and create some separation.

Yes! I have used the crib-in-bathroom strategy on so many occasions. Sometimes it’s hard to find hotel rooms with big enough bathrooms—but that’s my job, not yours.

 

Help Baby Sleep When Traveling
To keep your baby rested while traveling, aim for a solid morning nap.

Baby Sleep Schedules While Traveling

What about the daily routine; do you keep it up when traveling?

We recommend trying to maintain baby’s routine as much as possible, within reason, course.  Don’t let it ruin your vacation, but try to get one good nap in the crib each day. If your little one is taking more than one nap a day, it may not be practical to get them all at the hotel or home where you’re staying. 

Aim for a solid morning nap at the hotel so the baby can start the day rested.  Then, if the rest of your naps are on the go, in someone’s arms or the stroller or car seat, that’s OK.  But, even for those naps, try your best to stick to your wake windows to avoid an overtired, cranky baby. Trust me, it will make for a more enjoyable trip for the whole family.

And how about the bedtime routine?

Same thing.  Implement your baby’s familiar bedtime routine as you usually do to cue them that it is time to go down for the night. If your baby has a favorite bedtime book, bring it. Try to make time for a bath when traveling if that’s part of your baby’s routine at home.  Dim the lights. Do your bedtime routine in the same order you would at home. 

Then, once you put your baby down, leave the “room” – meaning, leave the space where the crib is.  That could mean sitting on a patio, or sitting quietly in a separate part of the room. The point is to create some separation so your baby knows you’re no longer available, and that it’s bed time.

 

Baby Travel Gear

What travel gear do you recommend to parents traveling with babies?

Let’s start with the basics: What does baby sleep in on vacation? There really are a few baby sleeping options when on the road. 

First, when your baby is really small, you could use a bassinet or portable sleeper. 

Second, and our recommended of the baby travel sleep options, is a full-size travel crib.  

And third, co-sleeping on vacation is an option, but we only recommend that if you co-sleep at home.

The best thing you can do while traveling with babies is to try to recreate the baby’s sleep environment as much as possible. When it comes to baby travel gear, this includes bringing their swaddle/sleep sack, pacifiers, and a portable white noise machine—whatever you use at home. Consistency is one reason why we don’t recommend co-sleeping on the road if your baby sleeps independently at home. 

Perhaps most important, if your baby sleeps in a dark room at home, make that happen when you travel.  Lots of AirBNBs, in particular, do not have blinds on the windows—especially in the bathroom. The SlumberPod has been our favorite piece of baby travel gear because it allows us to create a separate space for our sleeping kids, and black out all distractions, just as we do at home.

Grab our recommended baby travel gear before your trip

  1. Use the SlumberPod (Amazon) to create a separate sleeping space for your baby
  2. If budget is an issue, this crib canopy fits over small travel cribs as an alternative 
  3. The Baby Bjorn is our all-time favorite travel crib, as it’s super lightweight 

Toddler Travel Gear 

You have an older son too. I remember wondering, when my older child got too big for her crib, what do 2-year old sleep in when traveling? What gear do you recommend for toddler sleep? 
 

I had the same question as our kids grew. A travel crib makes sense for babies, but where do toddlers sleep when traveling? Is there such thing as a traveling baby bed? 

We ended up keeping our son in his travel crib for as long as possible. He was so comfortable in that sleep space, and we knew it would facilitate safe sleep. So that’s a great option: You can continue to use a travel crib or pack and play for toddlers, until they can sleep in a normal hotel bed. We also like to bring our own travel sheets to give baby something familiar.  (Mango Tree note – find some fun travel sheets on our gift guide for traveling moms). 

But there are other solutions too.  Some of our clients choose to pack a travel bed for toddlers.  If your toddler is too big for your travel crib, but a full-size bed is not an option, he or she might be the right age for a travel cot. There are some inflatable and light weight travel cots available the fit in suitcases.  

If there is a full-size bed available, but your toddler is not quite ready to sleep in one without rails, there are some great inflatable bed rails that can keep your toddler from falling off onto the floor.  They take up very little space in the suitcase and will help you sleep better at night knowing your little one is safe. 

When you’re ready for toddler sleep travel gear 

  1. The Regalo travel cot for toddlers folds down and fits into a suitcase 
  2. Or get inflatable travel bed rails to let your toddler sleep in a hotel bed without falling off  
Baby Sleep When Traveling: bring the right gear

Baby Sleep When Traveling By Plane

Let’s talk for a few minutes about airplane travel, since I’m particularly focused on Caribbean travel these days. Do you recommend purchasing your baby his or her own seat during plane travel?

It depends on your baby. Some babies will nap better if you put them in a car seat in their own seat. Others will nap best in your arms. 

Think about your own baby – if he sleeps better in a baby carrier, you may do best without the extra seat. But if you have a baby that’s not wild about the carrier, and prefers car or stroller naps, you may have better luck with baby in her own seat. 

We recommend using this as the deciding factor when considering whether to purchase the extra seat or to travel with a lap infant while your baby is under the age of 2.  

Any tips for getting babies to sleep on an airplane during long flights?

Most children tend to do best with naps—and overall behavior, really—when traveling in the morning. I recommend morning flights, and direct flights, to maximize your chances of a good travel day. 

And what about time zone changes? Any advice there?

Traveling to a different time zone can be tricky. If your trip is 3-4 days or less, you’ll probably just want to keep your baby on his own time zone. For vacations lasting longer, you may need to make some adjustments to help your little one adjust to the new time.  

If you need to keep your baby up later than his normal bedtime due to the time change, for example, try adding an extra catnap. Or, split the difference between your home time zone and the new time zone, to adjust the baby only part of the way.

Tips For Travel Baby Sleep

Other Words of Wisdom

Last question: What’s your biggest piece of advice for traveling parents?

Try to relax and let yourself have fun—you’ve earned it! If you have been consistent at home with your baby’s sleep, travel is the time to let go a bit, even if it means “breaking the rules.” 

You can jump right back into your routine when you get home.  And let me emphasize – you should jump back in the moment you get home, and avoid bringing home bad habits. Meanwhile, enjoy your family time while you’re away.  See the things you want to see, and don’t let baby sleep hold you back. 

Will you have to deal with a sleep regression when you return home? Will it feel like vacation ruined baby sleep habits you’d been working hard to create? Maybe—but you can handle it, it will resolve itself within a few days, and it will be totally worth it.

Thanks, Maddy! If readers want to get more information from you about sleep training programs, how should they reach you?

You can visit LittlestLearners.com or find us on Instagram. We’re here for all your baby and toddler sleep related questions and personalized sleep coaching!

Travel With Baby and Mom

The Bottom Line

Don’t let concerns about baby sleep dominate your vacation. Even if you’re tired, it will be worth it. 

I love this photo of me on the beach with my four month old. I often wish I could relive that trip, even though I was tired.

I hope this interview helped put your mind at ease about baby sleep when traveling!  

Don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter for more family travel tips and Caribbean travel inspiration, straight to your inbox. 

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