Originally published January 16, 2020
As I wrap up with clients, I always ask them if there is any more information they would like to prepare for future obstacles. 99% of the time, I get asked for travel tips! Here are my top tips to help your child (and family) get a good night's sleep when you're away.
What should I should bring?
Travel white noise machine: extra important to block out noise!
Special lovey/blanket/sheets from home: bring a bit of home with you
Black garbage bags/aluminum foil and painters tape if there won’t be blackout curtains
Pack a change of clothing for you AND baby in an easily accessible area, as well as paper towels/napkins, wipes and dipes (more than you think you need), and ziploc bags.
Where should I stay?
If at all possible, book an AirBNB or something similar. This is the most cost-effective way to ensure having a second room/separate space for your Little Monster to sleep in.
If you’ll be staying in a hotel/resort, try to book a room with some sort of nook/bend/division.
If you’ll be staying with a friend or relative, ask in advance where your Little Monster(s) will be sleeping.
Any sleep tips for when we're in transit?
Try to drive or fly during sleep times.
Any infant in an inclined car seat needs a break every 2 or so hours to be held upright. You’ll probably need to feed them, change a diaper, or get out and walk around yourself anyway!
Travel days tend to mess up everyone's schedule - an early bedtime for all ensures that everyone is feeling good the next day.
We’re all stuck in one bedroom! How can any of us sleep?
Good thing you have that white noise machine to block out noise that you or others may make!
In a hotel: is there a large walk-in closet or office nook? Stick a pack-n-play in there! (Don't close the closet door all the way!)
At an apartment/home - is there a laundry room or other room not being used? Re-purpose it into a temporary bedroom for your little one. (Safety first, of course!) Good thing you have your monitor so you can see and hear them!
Can you rearrange the furniture to make some sort of separate space? Turn a couch or move a coffee table to keep you out of their line of vision.
Hang a sheet or large blanket to divide the room, keeping you out of their line of vision.
How can they possibly sleep when we’re there? What do we do all night?
This is a common question from parents staying in a hotel room.
My #1 tip: lay out everything you need to get ready for bed BEFORE the kids go to sleep.
Does your monitor have a signal in the lobby/bar/business center? Once you're confident that your child is asleep, go relax - but keep an eye and ear on the monitor! (ask me about my brother's wedding for more on this)
Use social media to see if anyone you know can help you get a reliable, trustworthy babysitter in the area.
Worst case scenario - sit in the hallway or bathroom until the kiddos fall asleep. Then watch TV on your device using headphones - you and your partner can always watch them separately together!
What should my child sleep in?
Instead of dragging a Pack N Play, see if you can borrow one at the hotel. CAVEAT - drop-side cribs or any cribs produced before June 2011 can be very dangerous, so ask the hotel manager for more details, including a photo.
You can also check for local agencies renting out baby supplies. Again - read reviews to make sure these items are up-to-date, well-maintained, clean, and safe to use.
For older toddlers (2+), you have a few more options.
A small inflatable airbed
Fold a large, thick duvet a few times and cover it with a fitted sheet to make a comfy "nest".
What about our sleep schedules?
The week before you travel -
Start shifting your family’s sleep schedule later or forward if you’ll be crossing more than 1-2 time zones. (Some kids are more sensitive than others).
Stock up on sleep! Keep the schedule as clear as possible and focus on nailing those sleep and bedtimes. A well-rested child can handle a few schedule deviations.
While you’re there -
Know your child. Some can skip naps but need to be in bed ON TIME. Others can go to bed later but need that nap!
If you have multiple children, base your day on the most sensitive sleeper.
You can do a hard break of the schedule a couple of times, but don’t go overboard - a cranky child is just as much of a downer as missing the fireworks, and lasts way longer!!!
Balance your home boundaries with survival mode. Do what you have to, but don’t offer something your child doesn’t need. Example - while away, you may have to sit by your child’s bed until they fall asleep, but don’t let them sleep in your bed if they don’t need to.
If you’re in a hot climate, and/or doing theme parks, consider leaving for the hottest hours of the day. Lunch is cheaper and probably tastier outside the park, a trip to the hotel pool will cool everyone off, and a family siesta is usually much needed.
Moving naps are now your friend. Nothing < a cool, calm rest period < moving sleep < regular crib/bed sleep.
When you get home -
Go back to the schedule and boundaries as hardcore as you did when you first mastered sleep training. Everyone will be tired, cranky, and thrown off by the disruptions to their regular routine.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Every developmental phase has its own highs and lows, but they all come to an end.
If this trip didn’t go well, learn from your experience and take solace in the fact that it will be different next time!
(And feel free to ask me about the awful trips we took when Little Monster was truly little!)