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6 Tips for Traveling with Kids

It’s easy to throw the routine and schedule out the window when you’re on vacation. You want to experience everything, and that means you can’t be tethered to the hotel room or condo for naps and a reasonable bedtime…traveling with kids, traveling with a baby, traveling with a toddler

I get it!

But here’s the thing…

If you help your child stay on track while on vacation, you’ll enjoy the vacation more (no more cranky baby!), you’ll have child-free time while he’s napping (if you honor his nap schedule), AND the transition back to home and the normal routine will be easier!

That last one is perhaps the most important, because I’ve worked with too many families to count who went on vacation and schedules were put on the back burner…and they paid for it when they got home!

Whether you have an overnight planned at grandma’s house or a two week beach vacation, these 6 tips will help your child stay on track…AND make going home to the”normal” routine a smoother adjustment!

1. Don’t overschedule

Remember when it was just the two of you? Tromping off to the mountains for a long weekend to ski, or a special trip to Europe to see the sites?  Or more likely, traveling all over the country to attend friends’ weddings?

You got up when you wanted, had a late brunch, walked around the city for hours and fell into bed much later than you normally would at home…

But now you’re a +1 (or 2…)

When it’s just the two of you, you can pack as much as you want into each day, but when you have a baby with you, it’s important to remember that they don’t have your stamina, or attention span!

So when you’re planning each day, err on the side of less activities. You and your child will appreciate a more relaxed schedule.

2. Don’t ditch naptime

When you’re on vacation, you’ll be tempted to have your child take stroller or car naps. So much to see. So much to do. And lots of friends and family to catch up with.

You’ll likely need to fall back on a car or stroller nap, but try to make it the exception, rather than the rule.

If you do car and stroller naps for all (or most) naps:

  • Your child will not get the quality or length of a crib nap while on the go…and will likely get overtired
  • Your child may start to prefer motion to fall asleep (depending on how often the car/stroller naps happen, age and how strong his sleep skills were prior to the trip)

If your baby is on a 2 or 3 nap schedule, try to have the morning nap in the crib. That’s typically the best nap of the day, and easiest to fall asleep for.

I know it’s almost impossible to be home for every nap when you’re away from home, just remember that when your baby gets enough sleep, he’ll be happier, and everyone will enjoy the time you are out and about that much more!

3. Keep the rules the same

If your child does not co-sleep, don’t start when on vacation! I haven’t met a child yet who started sleeping in the parents’ bed while on a trip and made an easy transition back to the crib (or his own bed) when they got home.

If your child isn’t allowed to watch tv or play with your ipad right before bed, don’t start when you’re on vacation! When you get home, you’ll be busy unpacking and getting back to the normal routine and you’ll let your child continue that first night back home, and next thing you know, your child won’t want to give it up!

Just ask yourself if this new ____ will be something you can (and want) to do when you get back home. If so, then go for it! But if you know it’ll be hard to continue at home, don’t start doing it on your trip.

Kids don’t understand that vacation life is often different than “real life” (ie more desserts!). They don’t understand that these aren’t permanent changes. Try not to make changes on vacations that will be hard to stop once you get home.

4. Pack the “familiar”

Does your child have a lovey or blanket that he sleeps with? That’s something to pack in the carryon (don’t check them in case your suitcase gets delayed). I would also suggest leaving your child’s lovey and/or blanket in the hotel. It could easily get lost (eeks!) or dirty (and you may not have access to a washing machine, or have time to wash it before bed).

Do you use a toddler clock at home? Bring it along! It will make sleep (naps especially) easier in an unfamiliar place. Kids Classic has a unisex travel version (smaller and uses batteries instead of an AC adapter).

Does your child sleep with white noise? Bring your white noise machine to help create a familiar sleeping environment. Even if your child doesn’t normally sleep with one, it isn’t a bad a idea to use one to block out unfamiliar sounds.

And bedtime books. Don’t forget a couple of books! Think back over the past week and bring 2-4 that your child requests most often (or for older babies, the ones that seem to capture their attention most). You don’t want to get stuck making up stories from the hotel magazine!

5. Have the same bedtime routine

If you typically read 2 books, and your child gets 4 or 5 stories when you’re away, your child will expect the extra stories when you get home.

If you have a 10 minute bath before bed at home a 30 min bath on the trip, the bedtime routine will be twice as long when you get home (or you’ll get a long of pushback with the shorter bath). Neither of those are good options!

If you can do an abbreviated (not longer) version of the routine that you normally do at home, the consistency and predictability will help your child settle down and fall asleep more easily.

6. No night owls!

Chances are your child will be walking, playing and exploring much more on vacation than when he’s at home. Combined with more fresh air from being at the beach or walking around the city all day and he’s going to get exhausted!

If your child is a solid 7:30pm bedtime kind of guy at home, you may notice tired signs a lot earlier on your trip (~30-45 minutes earlier).

If that happens, try to get him in bed in that window of opportunity when he’s tired but not overtired…it’ll be much easier for him to fall asleep and he’ll be  less likely to wakeup in the middle of the night (or earlier than normal).


So whether you’re off for a quick overnight or a two week trip, keeping to a consistent routine, honoring your child’s sleep schedule and recreating a familiar sleep environment will help your child sleep better on the trip and adjust faster once the vacation is over!

Image courtesy of samuiblue |

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