Imagine yourself in a lounge chair on the beach looking out at crystal blue waters with a fun drink in hand. Or if that’s not your thing, imagine walking through a beautiful village in Europe smelling fresh bread and drinking the best coffee of your life. Heavenly! Now imagine these two visions with a crying, cranky, and overtired baby. The opposite of Heavenly, right? Traveling shouldn’t have to stop with a baby, but they can definitely add stress and change the on-holiday-vibe if they aren’t rested for your adventures. Here are some tips!
Bring the Right Gear
As much as possible, bring the right gear with you for napping. If your baby naps well in a car seat, fork out the extra $ for a seat and bring it on the plane (for longer flights of course). If he/she uses a pacifier, has a lovey or a blanket, bring several of each–things get lost on vacation, trust me! If he/she fancies a walk in a stroller for a nap, bring the stroller. Strollers are also helpful for layover naps in an airport. You can easily gate check your stroller with most airlines. Perhaps your baby likes a sling or carrier and naps well when you are wearing him–then this should be the first thing you pack…or wear. Don’t forget the sleep sack! Yes, you are going to pack significantly more than when you traveled pre-children. It may seem cumbersome but you’ll thank me later.
Stick to Schedule
Changing time zones drastically can make this difficult (if your baby isn’t a good away-from-home napper, you might want to save these far away trips for a few years down the road), but let’s pretend you are within a few hours of your normal time. If your baby is used to having a morning and afternoon nap, carve those times out into your schedule. Try to keep bedtime relatively the same as at home. And avoid missing these times by too wide of a margin. It’s much harder to get an overtired baby to sleep in a new place. And don’t give up! It may take a day or two in a new place to get your usual schedule established in a new place.
Mimic Home environment
When on holiday you want to mimic the home sleeping environment as much as possible. Remember, babies are sensory creatures so the lighting, sounds and smells affect their sleep. I always bring our white noise machine (or I have an app downloaded on my phone that we use–don’t forget the charger!). I also pack pillowcases for my older kids, and crib sheets from home for our travel crib so that they smell the same as at home. If you can bring travel shades, I highly recommend doing so. Or here’s a great hack for creating black out shades in a pinch: Instant Black-Out Shades.
Whether is a bath, a book or both, try to keep your bed- and nap- time routines on vacation the same as they are at home. Creating a calming ambiance just before sleeping times will help to cue baby that it’s time to wind down. Sing your usual songs, do your usual dance and you’ll have more success getting baby to sleep.
You can absolutely use a crib at your hotel if that’s an option, but you run the risk of baby not liking it or them not having any available. My anxiety can’t handle that uncertainty, so I like to bring my own! If your baby is used to sleeping in a crib, then you’ll want to choose the right travel crib and set it up in your baby’s room at home a few days before your departure. Have your baby sleep in it for the days leading up to your trip, that way it is a familiar sleeping cue, and they are comfortable. Vacation is not the time to try out a new crib for the first time. By checking gear out ahead of time at home, you will decrease frustrations on your trip. You can also tackle any adjustments that need to be made ahead of time. Now depending on your accommodations, be it a swanky suite at the Ritz or spare bedroom at the in-laws, you’ll want to choose which travel bed is best.
- For trips by plane and small hotel rooms: The Lotus Travel Crib is a great choice. It’s compact and folds into a backpack, making it super easy to transport. It has the stamp of approval from thousands of parents with tons of 5 star reviews.
- Larger rooms, road trips or staying with family: In these cases, I recommend getting a travel crib that is most like a real crib. A great choice is the Graco Pack and Play On the Go Playard, it’s highly rated and will serve your baby well from infancy through toddlerhood. It’s a great investment for the frequent traveler. The downside is that it’s a bit larger and less easy to take on a plane, but for other types of travel, it’s a great option. If you travel to see family often, then consider investing in a set of things you can leave there- travel crib, comfort items, car seat, sleep sack, etc. This will make traveling seem like a breeze in the future.
- If the baby is going to be sharing the bed with you: Now sometimes, there just isn’t room in your space or your luggage to bring along a larger travel crib. In those cases, try something like The Munchkin Brica Travel Bassinet, and the baby can be right next to you but still in a place of his/her own.
- For Older Toddlers: Once you’ve reached toddler age, it might be easier (and more fun!) to invest in one of these inflatable bed, especially if you have multiple children or are camping: The Shrunks Toddler Travel Bed Portable Inflatable Air Mattress Blow Up Bed
There is a good chance that your baby will not sleep as well on vacation as they do at home. Don’t despair, it gets better over time. Try not to let it stress you too much, vacations are supposed to be times of staying up late, and being out of routine. However, a rested happy baby will make your trip much more enjoyable. Bon Voyage!