Don't Be Sleepless in Seattle (or anywhere!): Keeping Sleep Routines During Travel


As a parent, the word "travel" takes on quite a different meaning than it did before you were toting along little people, and the mountains of gear they seem to require to go anywhere outside of the house. In our family, we don’t call these trips vacations, they are Away Games. It’s all hands on deck for parents when you travel with kids and as much as you prepare, how everyone will sleep can make even the most experienced traveler nervous.

Sleep is guaranteed to be different when you aren’t at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole trip exhausted with an overtired little one. Here are four tips to help your kids sleep well while you’re away, and one for helping them adjust quickly when you get back home!

  1. Keep routines as normal as possible. Try to follow your regular schedule, especially for feedings, and keep up your bedtime routine as best you can! You all will get to enjoy your trip more if you have a well rested baby, rather than pushing their limits every day. Let them grab naps on the go if they need to, but keep their bedtime consistent as much as possible. If there are going to be late night events every night, choose one where you’ll stretch your little one to stay up late, rather than every night; ask if Aunt Rosie can wrap you up a piece of her famous pumpkin pie to-go rather than staying until dessert is served at 9 pm; or see if you can grab coffee and breakfast with your cousin who you rarely see rather than drinks after dinner.
  2. Mimic their room at home while you’re on the go. Get them a dark, quiet place to sleep without distractions. A bathroom or big closet is a great place to set up a pack-n-play, or you can even bring a sheet and clothespins to string up and make a room divider to keep baby separate. Bring a sound machine with you and turn the volume up! This is a great way to drown out noise and also signal to them it’s time to sleep. Bring any comfort or sleeping items that they normally use from home like pacifiers, swaddles, or stuffed animals.
  3. If you’ve got more than one kid who will be sharing a room, put them down separately (if possible) and carry them to bed later so they don’t disturb each other while they are falling asleep. If this isn’t an option, put the child who is the toughest to get to sleep down first, then send in the other(s) once he or she is asleep.
  4. If you’re feeding in the middle of the night, set up a spot near their bed where it’s easy for you to feed them and get them back to bed quickly without disturbing others.
  5. Once you’re back home, stick to a strict schedule for a few days. Keep bedtimes and naptimes really consistent and make rest a priority! Everyone’s exhausted when they return from a trip, and the quicker kids can get the rest that they need, the quicker they will be back to their normal, sweet selves!

Traveling with your kids can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! The most important thing is resist creating any habits that you don’t plan to keep up at home. If you don’t normally rock baby to sleep, don’t start now; if they take 3 naps a day, don’t try to let them get by with just 1. Your little ones will have a lot more fun if they are well rested, and you will be less stressed about surviving if you are too! Don’t let the fear of how they will do keep you from taking that trip you’ve been wanting. Some of our best family memories are from trips that didn’t quite go as planned, but still were a blast. And, the more you travel with your little ones, the easier it will be!

About the Author:

Hi, I'm Elizabeth King! I'm a Professional Sleep Consultant and founder of Sleep Baby Sleep Consulting, wife to my college sweetheart, and mom to three wild and wonderful little boys. I'm so passionate about supporting parents and helping parents enjoy their little ones and sleep at the same time. I've helped hundreds of families get their little ones sleeping better and I love to encourage families while they are on this journey. I think everyone is happier when they've gotten a good night sleep!  
When I'm not working, I love being outside with my boys, reading, and cheering on the Clemson Tigers! 
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