Travelling with a baby or toddler can be overwhelming! On numerous occasions I’ve heard of parents that have either figured out a complex plan of grandparents and sitters staying with the baby so they can go out of town for a wedding, etc or (gulp!), they decide not to take the trip at all.
I’m here to tell you not to put your life on hold – don’t wait years until your child is old enough to tote his own suitcase to head out of town!
Traveling with little ones just takes a bit more planning and preparation, with a healthy dose of patience! And if you do it right, you can keep him on a good sleep schedule while away and not have to reset everything when you get back home!
This is assuming, of course, that you’re headed on vacation with a little one who’s already got good sleep skills and can fall asleep independently. (If that’s not the case, go straight HERE! Your vacation will be much more enjoyable when everyone’s sleeping well.)
My favorite sleep tip for traveling with a little one is reconsidering going the hotel route.
If you book an apartment through AirBnB, VRBO or HomeAway, you’ll have extra space, which means you’re not sitting in the bathroom with your spouse once you’ve put your child to bed! Even if you get a 1 bedroom apartment, you’ll still have the living room to hang out in after baby goes to bed.
Some other perks of an apartment are the kitchen with the full size frig (unlike hotel frigs that are more like coolers) and sink to wash bottles, etc, oftentimes the units will have washer and dryers so you can pack less, there’s an entryway or somewhere to put the stroller and the best thing is that you don’t have to worry about the elevator in a hotel dinging all night or someone using the ice machine at 2am!
If that’s not an option, then be creative with the space you do have in the hotel – is there a nook/hallway/large walk in closet to put the crib (always, of course, making sure not to close the door – ensure proper ventilation!) If not, take a look at this clever, traveling mom who posted this on FB:
I love this idea of creating a cozy and dark sleep corner in your hotel room. Notice that the pack n play isn’t covered because the shower curtain is too short – these curtains are longer and should get closer to the floor depending on the ceiling height in the room. Remember, you’ll need 2 sets of curtains when you use the corner of the room and some painters tape or hooks that won’t damage the ceiling. And make sure that your child can’t reach the curtains for safety purposes! (And a tip if you’re headed on a cruise – a past client shared that she did this in their stateroom and used magnetic hooks because the ceiling was metal!)
You’ll want to put your white noise machine in there too, since these curtains aren’t sound-proof ;) Make sure your white noise machine is JUST white noise like this one, and if you travel often and want a more portable version (that you could even use in the car or on a plane!), try this white noise machine that weighs less than 4 ozs.
As you’re starting to plan your vacation, it’ll also help to try to time sleeps and feeds around leaving in the car or flight departures.
If you can schedule your flight to be taking off close to naptime (or bedtime for red-eyes/international travel) that’ll work best so your little one sleeps for at least part of the flight.
And remember if you’re traveling with a stroller, you don’t want your baby to fall asleep while you’re in the security line – you can wear/hold your baby through security, but he can’t stay in the stroller when you go through!
If you’re planning a long roadtrip, time leaving around naptime and then once your little one wakes up, plan for that stop (gas, lunch, etc).
Make a packing list (or use an app)
This is especially helpful if you regularly go away with your baby or toddler. Save it in Google Drive to refer to for the next trip. Put down all the essentials your child needs, thinking through the day from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. Put everything on that list…I know one family that recently forgot to pack pacifiers – which incidentally was the only way their baby would ever fall asleep – because it was the only thing they thought they’d never forget! (This family contacted me as soon as they got home from their trip to help teach their baby to fall asleep independently so they’d never be in that situation again!!)
While you’re at it, make one for you too – and don’t forget to add a change of clothes for you in your carry-on in case there’s a giant spill or diaper blowout on your lap!
Bring a compact floor blanket
There’s a lot of sitting in one place during travel so it’s a great idea before and after the plane/car to offer playtime on the ground and stretch out a bit (also great once you reach your destination in the hotel/apartment or for a rest in a park you might find). Because floors in public places are not the cleanest, I always recommend bringing a blanket just for this purpose to use over and over again on your trip. I love this blanket because it comes in a couple different sizes and folds up so compactly in its own pouch (4″x4″) with a clip for the stroller or diaper bag. It’s not super plush – it’s purpose is to stand between your baby and the germy floor and be compact enough that you’ll want to bring it with you! You can always put another blanket on top.
You can plan and plan and plan…but if you don’t have the right attitude going into this trip, it’ll be a disaster!
It’s so important to have the right mindset and realize that traveling with kids looks a lot different than traveling solo or just with your spouse. You need to add in buffer time – to get out the door, to get where you’re going with unplanned stops/feeds, running through the airport is almost impossible wrangling little kids, strollers and car seats…and you can’t really do the touristy things ALL day. And you’ll likely need to have a “down” day when you’re not exploring from breakfast until dinner.
You’ll also need to offer naps to babies and toddlers otherwise bedtime (and overnight!) will be so hard you’ll wonder if this was all worth it!
But it is. These trips will be memories for your family! Just don’t wing it. Plan ahead. Make sleep a priority so you can enjoy when your baby is awake (and everyone can get sleep at night!)
You don’t need to head back to the hotel/apartment for every nap, just know that if you can do at least one nap in the crib (first choice would be first nap, so you can head out all afternoon) and offer sleep in a stroller for the remaining nap(s), you’ll be rewarded with a happier baby.
If you plan carefully and make sleep one of the priorities, you won’t have too many surprises and the trip will be so much more enjoyable for you AND your child!
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Photo credit: Deposit Photos | GoodOlga
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