We love going away with our young kids and have learnt that helping your baby sleep when travelling is an important part of enjoying the experience.
If there is one thing that can take the fun out of family travel (and parenting in general) it is having tired children.
This is particularly the case when you are travelling as you are in an unfamiliar environment and possibly in a place where your child’s cries are (seeming) to disturb others and you feel self-conscious about how loud they are crying and how you are dealing with it.
Whilst getting good sleep won’t stop your baby crying (how else can they communicate?) it definitely makes any vacation more enjoyable for the whole family.
In this post, we will pass on our top tips for getting your baby to sleep well when travelling. This is based on our various travel experiences with our two daughters.
We have taken them on holiday at various ages from 6 weeks old to pre-school age and have visited a diverse range of places including, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Lanzarote, Thailand, Vietnam and many others.
We have now had plenty of experience travelling with babies and a common theme along the way is always trying to make sure that they sleep properly, so here are our top baby travel sleep tips.
Make Your Baby Feel at Home
Our number one tip is probably the most important, you need to create a safe and familiar environment for your baby to sleep in.
You should aim to replicate their normal sleeping environment as closely as possible. If you plan to move around a lot on vacation it is worth having your own travel cot or crib that you take with you from location to location, giving your little one some consistency even as the hotel rooms change. We use this pop-up one that takes just a few seconds to put up.
On top of this, you should take along the bedding that you would usually use at home and a special cuddly toy to make it as much like home as possible.
We have written a detailed guide to the Top Baby Travel Beds. Our favourites are the Pea Pod Travel Bed and Baby Bjorn Travel Crib
Get the Room Right
Being in an unfamiliar environment may mean that your little one finds it harder to get to sleep so it is worth being in control of the room environment as much as possible. As mentioned above, the most important thing is the actual bed you baby will sleep in, but the amount of light and noise are also important considerations.
Not too Bright – Blackout Blinds
It is worth making sure that the room environment is suitable for sleep. You never know quite what you will get in a hotel so you might want to take your own blackout blinds to make sure that the room is dark enough to create a restful atmosphere.
Not too Dark – Night Light
But, you don’t want it to be too dark all the time so we take along a night light as well. This is particularly useful for our toddler who doesn’t like to sleep in total darkness. We have one shaped like an owl.
This tip might not be for everyone but you can increase the feeling of familiarity within the environment by playing soothing music or white noise every night (you can use an app like Baby Sleep Noises).
This should cover up any local noises that could sound new and exciting to your baby (or just downright noisy in some places).
It might mean that you have to try and sleep through the noise of a washing machine rumbling away all night long so you might want to save this tip for when all else fails.
Have Some Space for Yourself
To be honest, we are usually so shattered at the end of the day that we lie down and go to sleep at the same time as the kids.
If you are hoping to stay up a bit later than your children you might want to think about having a room that offers a bit of space for yourself, whether that is a balcony or an extra living space, it can make for a more relaxing evening than whispering and walking on eggshells around the baby. This is even more useful if you plan to get your child to nap in the daytime.
We have had very mixed experiences with AirBnB but Agoda and Booking.com also have options to book an entire house or apartment.
Keep a Consistent Routine Going
The other key to getting a good night’s sleep is maintaining a consistent sleep routine for your baby. Babies love routine so it is worth trying your best to stick to your normal routine whilst you are away. That can be hard when you are out and about visiting the sights or eating out in restaurants. Many babies love to nap in their strollers or close to you in a baby carrier so that can be an option for shorter naps.
If possible we try and let them have a good long nap in the hotel room around lunchtime. This allows them to have a good undisturbed sleep.
In the evening it is best to stick to a consistent bedtime at the same time as you would put them to bed at home. This causes difficulties in places like Italy and Spain where the restaurants open late for dinner. To work around this we like to have kitchen facilities where we stay if possible.
Having a bath before bed is a great way to let your baby know that it is getting close to bedtime. It is relaxing for them and goes a long way towards calming them down for sleep. If you have a very young baby try to keep bath time as a calm time rather than getting too many exciting toys out.
Dealing with Jet Lag
We get a lot of questions from parents worried about their baby suffering from jetlag on long trips to places like Thailand.
Our main advice is not to worry about this too much, your baby will probably deal with jet lag far better than you do! They adjust quite quickly thanks to the fact that they nap at various times anyway (they have shorter circadian rhythms).
We have found that the best way to deal with jet lag is to plan a couple of easy days at the start of your trip, maybe by the beach or at a nice hotel where you can relax by the pool and don’t feel that you have to be rushing around seeing the sights.
Other than that, it is best to get on with it and get your routine in line with the time zone at your destination.
Don’t Arrive Late
If you are travelling around between different destinations on your holiday, if at all possible, try not to arrive at your hotel too late. If you get there around early afternoon you will have enough time to show your baby around their new surroundings before the bedtime routine starts.
This will give them the opportunity to settle in a bit and this should help them to sleep through the night better.
Arriving late and putting them straight to bed tends to result in a disturbed night with our little ones.
Avoid Sugary Foods in the Afternoon
If your baby has started to eat solid food then try to avoid giving them anything too sugary in the afternoon. The short term sugar hit can get them hyped up and super alert meaning that it takes them longer to calm down as you go through the bedtime routine.
How Does Your Baby Sleep when Travelling?
We hope that you have enjoyed reading our guide to getting a baby to sleep on holiday.
More importantly, we hope that the tips work for you and that you have a relaxing vacation with your little one! Let us know how you get on, and if you have any great tips that we have missed please share them in the comments below!
If you are busy planning your trip away, you may also be interested in reading our flying with baby tips, our packing list, and you really must take a toddler tablet.