Our family loves to travel and despite the additional effort of packing 222 more things than we did prior to having kids, we haven’t let the added complexities keep us from exploring our beautiful province and beyond.
And while the reality is that baby sleep and travel are not the most complimentary pair you’ve ever met, as seasoned travellers (think road-tripping to The Yukon in a trailer with a toddler, the UK and back x 3 with infants) we’ve got a pretty refined system in place that has taken a lot of the stress and anxiety out of sleeping away from home and I’m happy to share our experienced tips with you.
The byproduct of travel, whether short or extended, on your baby’s sleep is often the kind that you’d hope to avoid…
- Interrupted night sleep
- Missed or short naps
- Early rising
- Difficulty in settling down for night sleep or returning to sleep in the middle of the night
The question often is…how to mitigate the potential for these sleep disruptions while you’re away?
Protecting Baby’s Sleep When Away from Home
The most effective way to keep baby’s sleep strong when away from home is to plan for strong sleep before you’ve departed.
- Where will baby be sleeping when you travel?
- If staying with friends or family, would baby be able to have their own room (ideal!!!)?
- If sharing a room, will it accommodate a travel crib/toddler bed so that there is a clear division between your sleeping space and baby’s?
- Will the hotel provide a crib? Toddler bed/cot?
Once you appreciate the logistics of what the sleeping environment will look like, you’ll be in a far better position to pack for the best and worst case scenarios.
I am a HUGE fan of packing a single bag that is dedicated to my child’s sleep – it’s the “sleep duffel” and by dedicating its contents to nothing but sleep items, I am never in a scramble to find sleep related items when we arrive at our destination. I have been doing this since my oldest was a baby and while my list of things to pack has evolved over the years, my passion for this bag remains. By having a single bag dedicated to sleep stuff, the moment that we arrive I am able to set up my little one’s sleep environment. The panic behind figuring out which bag contains the white noise machine and which bag contains the sleep sack is eliminated. It’s the last bag packed into the car and if we are flying, it’s either packed within a suitcase or flies on its own (goodness help the airline if they ever misplace it though).
I keep a running list of the items that I take in my phone, but here is a sneak peak to get you started…
- 2 sleep sacks of different weights (I like to take a light and warmer weight sleep sack, as it isn’t always easy to achieve the ideal temperature when away from home)
- 2 sleepers/sets of pj’s
- Travel white noise machine (I love the Marpac or Lectrofan travel machines, Homedics also has a good one that takes 4 AA batteries but it’s a bit big)
- Black garbage bags and painters tape (to cover over windows and make the sleeping space pitch black)
- 2 x fitted sheets for travel crib or toddler bed
- Baby monitor
- Lovey/blankie/comfort item (for babies 12+ months of age)
- Bedtime books
- Overnight diapers/training pants
- Small package of baby wipes
- Diaper/barrier cream
- Water bottle
- Small handheld light/flashlight
- Toddler clock (if your little one is used to using one at home) and/or travel size digital clock (for us grown ups)
- A dark coloured flat sheet or a panel or two of black out curtains to create a room divider if we will be sharing a sleeping space
- A small bag of thumb tacks or a few 3M easy-remove hooks to hang blackout sheets from the ceiling or across a room to create a room divider
- A small travel size medicine kit with teething remedies, pain medication, etc.
- Earplugs (because protecting my husband’s sleep is just as important 🙂 )
I always make sure not to wash any of the soft items from home (sleep sack, crib sheets, lovey, etc.) so that they retain the comforting scents of home.
Each of the items on this list are purposeful for maintaining the integrity of the sleep environment that my little ones have been most used to experiencing at home. Dark, quiet and cool. The less they can see and sense, particularly as they bridge sleep cycles throughout the night or during a nap, the less likely they are to startle awake realizing that they are in a foreign space. And having all of these important items on hand when we arrive, makes setting up their sleeping space much less stressful and saves me time and energy.
For a review of my favourite travel cribs, you might be interested in the following blog, Tips for Sound Baby Sleep While Camping.
These tips and the contents of the sleep duffel may not perfect your child’s sleep while away, but I would hedge a bet that the chance for sleep disruption and hiccups will be far less with, rather than without. In addition to the contents of the sleep duffel, I encourage you to pack a hefty dose of patience and to lower the bar with respect to your expectations. As adults, it typically takes us a night or a few to settle into sleeping away from home and it’s quite reasonable that the same can be said for our littles.