As a Work-at-home-Mom, nothing gets me more excited than the idea of vacation, especially when it's somewhere far to escape the hustle of every day life. But with excitement comes anxiety: I am filled with dread as the day approaches thinking about all the possible scenarios where I won’t be able to guarantee my children a nap, or the ability to go to bed on time. As much as I want to throw EVERY routine out the window completely when traveling (perfect wake windows, nap times, decent bedtime), nothing better leads to a grumpy child than one who is overtired and overstimulated. And nothing leads to a more stressed-out Mama than a pissed-off baby in paradise.
How will you enjoy your vacation with your little ones without needing another one when you get home? In this blog post we will cover it all: What to Bring, impromptu vacation schedules, sleeping arrangements, and and exactly how to recover lost sleep from your vacation when you come back home.
So let’s dive into: How to Sleep While on Vacation with Baby or Toddler: Must Pack Items, Regressions, and Flying.
Let’s start with what NOT to Forget when traveling overnight with children:
For starters, you’ll want your child to feel comfortable in new (temporary) surroundings and take a decent nap and sleep all night. The key idea is to create a hotel room that appears similar to the child's room at home:
🎒 White Noise: THIS IS HUGE! A small, portable white noise machine is imparative when traveling, especially when used at home during naps and sleep. A white noise machine can block out your noisy neighbor, Grandpa’s loud cough, or the elevator dinging all night. See our recommendation on our Sleep Must Haves!
🎒 A portable Toddler Bed: The Regalo My Cot Portable Toddler Bed is a multi-functional cot for your little one who needs a safe, comfortable place to rest. An essential item for travel, sleepovers, Grandma’s house, nap time, picnics, and camping, the My Cot was designed for portability. Easy one-handed set up in seconds wherever or whenever you need it, the My Cot can hold children up to 75 pounds and 48’, and is ideal for children 2-5 years old (the Extra long version shown in the video below is 54’ long and good for up to 8 years old).
The Regalo Cot is made of an all-steel construction, giving parents peace of mind at night that your child is sleeping safely. The easy-to-travel- with cot is built with durability, safety, and convenience in mind, and store away easily until the next use. Sturdy canvas material lines the cot while a fitted sheet is included for added comfort while your little one rests or plays, a much needed idea especially while on vacation!
🎒 Nightlight: GREAT for toddlers that are potty-trained or scared of the dark, and for nighttime nursing Mamas. Nothing is more confusing than an unfamiliar area at night, especially when you’re only half awake. Some white noise machines act as night lights as well.
🎒Comfort/Security Item: NEVER FORGET your child’s security item! This might be a favorite pacifier, stuffed animal, lovey, blanket, etc. Bring multiples in the rare case your luggage is temporarily misplaced or item is lost while on the go.
🎒 Blankets & Sheets: Children have super sensitive noses, and can smell even the slightest change in detergents, so to keep them feeling safe, BYOBlankets!! Also pack a dark sheet and some thumb tacks that you can use to hang and act as a partition between you and baby if he/she is used to sleeping in a separate room.
🎒 Extra IPhone/IPad: Don’t even stress about taking down & packing the baby monitor! Download the "Cloud Baby" app, which uses Wifi to create a makeshift baby monitor using two smart devices, awesome right? One device acts as a camera (don’t forget to turn on the Do Not Disturb option and turn off any alarms), and you can see from your second device exactly what baby is up to. My video camera monitors are screwed into the wall so this always saves me!
🎒 Pack n Play: You can't always rely on hotels or rental houses to have a crib for you. It's SUPER easy to take a small PNP on the plane, they usually fly for free, and gives baby a sense of familiarity. Play it safe- I feel better knowing mine is super clean.
🎒 Bottle opener- goes without saying. You deserve it! Cheers!
Sleeping Arrangements on Vacation: How & Where?!
Some families are able to bed share and co-sleep with children on vacation with little to no regression once returning home. My kids have never slept in my bed, so when it's vacation time I'm STRESSING about how & where to get them to go to sleep. I've even stayed at hotels with one-bedroom suite options so my son could have his own room (and so we could enjoy some adult time past 8pm!) Usually however, we are all together in one room. Here are the tips that got us all sleeping soundly while on vacation:
1. If you don't have to option to book two rooms or a suite (if you do, do it!!) then find some place in the room for your child to sleep that's low traffic and dimly lit. Sometimes this could even be an oversized bathroom, and yes, your husband will have to use the hotel lobby bathroom at midnight if necessary while baby sleeps undisturbed.
2. Using simple thumb tacks, hang a sheet from the ceiling with tacks to create a partition between you and baby.
3. BYOPP: Bring your own pack n' play. Hotels only have a handful, and even calling ahead doesn't always guarantee you'll get one. If your child is too big for one, you may have to go with what works, using a rollaway or make a comfy bed on the ground next to your side of the bed (best with older toddlers).
4. Keep your bedtime routine similar to how you do it at home, and lay your child down and use your soothing techniques or words of comfort before leaving them to fall asleep (by leaving of course I mean behind the "sheet"!)
5. Bring all child's nighttime necessities and comfort items.
6. Expect a little bit of pushback the first night or two. It's totally ok, and totally common. If your child sleeps through the night at home, generally he/she should also do pretty well away from home as well.
7. Adult time: While baby is falling asleep or napping, where should the adults go??? Some couples enjoy some wine on the balcony and sneak back in the room, or even outside in the hallway! Once your babe is asleep, due to the sleep pressure you'll prob get away with a movie on low volume or reading a book with a book light.
Babies on a Plane? Scarier than snakes.
Traveling with a baby/toddler on a plane? ✈ ️Scarier than snakes for sure. I have been "that Mom" walking up and down the aisle bouncing my child furiously while avoiding everyone's evil eye. Luckily, if you have worked with SATC and/or have a good nap schedule already in place, don't worry- one day of craziness will not undo all your hard work! Always try to travel during off peak times to avoid crowds and delays, and have appropriate expectations of your child to reduce any frustration you may have.
Tips for naps on a plane by age:
Babies under 12 months old: Do anything in your power to get them to sleep- any sleep crutch you've used in he past should do the trick I.e. Rocking or feeding to sleep (although with all the excitement at the airplane and in the plane, this may be a somewhat difficult task). I also like to feed infants at take off & landing to reduce any pressure in their ears.
Toddlers over 12 months: you may be able to push his/her nap that day until you land, get them to bed earlier that night, and get back on schedule the following day. Otherwise on a long flight, I've used the "last resort" DVD player/IPhone videos to zone my toddler out to get a quick power nap in!
Now that my vacation is over, my once perfect sleeper picked up way too many bad habits and refuses to sleep alone- help!
Schedules, routines, and boring Friday nights at home are all thrown out the window on a family vacation. Vacations are often VERY stimulating, and due to short/missed naps and/or different sleep environments, children can have a more difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep...and therefore requiring a parent’s assistance to do so, which often follows them home. To help baby return to her routine at home, slowly begin to return to your normal routine in three night increments (if not right away to fast track it), and within a few days, your baby should be back into old (and desirable!) healthy sleep habits. For example: If your child was sleeping next to you on vacation, try sleeping on the floor for 1-2 nights next to them, before fading yourself out on Night 3. If baby was feeding to sleep at every waking, try rocking baby back to sleep at every other waking aside from normal feed times.
The Sleep & the City team is ALWAYS HERE TO HELP! Our Traveling & Sleep survival guide is an excellent resource with even more travel trips (road trips, Grandma’s house, more secret tricks!) or you can request a private session to address your specific situation and child’s temperament. Click either button below to learn more!
Have an upcoming flight or time change coming your way? Submit your question below or contact us herefor help before, during, or after your big vacation!
How to Sleep While on Vacation with Baby or Toddler: Must Pack Items, Regressions, and Flying