Babies and sleep can feel like oil and water—they don’t seem to mix well. Throw travel into the mix and, well, it can feel like a nightmare.
Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned mother of three, you know how difficult it can be to get your baby on a solid sleep schedule, let alone maintain it. However, you shouldn’t say no to a much-needed vacation just to preserve your little one's schedule.
To help you navigate baby sleep and travel, we talked to Joan Canning, Certified Sleep Coach, to give her expert advice.
How Soon Can You Travel With a Newborn?
In most cases, you should wait to fly with a newborn until your baby’s immune system is developed—usually after six months of age. Joan recommends consulting your baby’s pediatrician if you have a child that is under six months old.
Before six months of age, a baby’s immune system is still developing as they receive vaccinations at specific intervals. A baby under six months could travel, but it’s best to get the recommendations specific to them, especially if the baby was born prematurely or has any type of medical issues.
7 Tips for Maintaining Baby's Sleep Schedule
If your baby is ready for their first family vacation, here are Joan’s top tips for maintaining your baby’s sleep schedule while traveling.
- Try not to overthink it: Children can feel the emotions of those around them. Try to relax and be positive throughout your trip.
- Focus on a routine rather than a schedule: Babies love routines and sticking to one will provide some stability to their day.
- Try to have some naps take place in their crib: Stroller rides and car rides are great for a backup nap but they are not as restful as your baby sleeping in their crib.
- Bring familiar items from home: Items like a favorite soft toy or a lovey blanket are a must. Make sure to bring sheets and sleep sacks from home as well.
- Purchase travel sleep products: Travel black-out shades and a portable sound machine are great for getting your child to sleep while on vacation.
- Follow the 80/20 rule: Stick with a familiar routine for 80% of the time and relax for the other 20%. If your baby gets off track with a really busy day, try to keep the next day mellow so they can catch up on lost sleep.
- Focus on their sleep schedule when you return: If your baby’s sleep regresses when on vacation, devote some time to their schedule when you return.
Life happens. Your baby’s sleep may be affected by travel. The best you can do is be proactive and try to keep as much of a routine as possible. If all else fails, you can focus on getting your baby’s sleep schedule back on track when you’re back from your trip.
Where do Babies Sleep When Traveling?
Babies should sleep in a safe crib, bassinet or pack ‘n play when traveling. They may have sleep items available if you’re staying with a hotel or rental company. Though, Joan recommends requesting items well in advance to ensure they are available for you.
If you’re looking for crib alternatives, pack n’ plays are very convenient for travel. Bassinets or side-sleepers are also an option if your baby can safely sleep in them.
Before bringing an item on your trip, always check the height and weight requirements to ensure it’s safe and convenient to travel with. You should also check that the baby’s sleep space is actually approved for sleep.
Read our guide to safe sleep for information on the rules of safe sleep and picking a baby bed that is right for your child.
How to Get Baby to Sleep in a Pack n’ Play
Pack n’ plays are a great option for travel. They’re also a safe place to sleep, according to the AAP.
If your baby has never slept in a pack ‘n play before, then Joan recommends not trying this out on vacation as it may confuse or disrupt your baby’s sleep even more. However, if you have time to allow your baby to become familiar with the pack n’ play before your trip, here are Joan’s top tips for getting your little one to sleep in a pack n’ play:
- Let them check out and hang out in the pack n play so that they have the opportunity to get used to it
- Distract them with an interesting new toy
- Stay right beside them for a period of time. Then, work towards being able to leave them hanging out there as you leave the room
- When they feel comfortable in that space, then you can practice sleeping in there too
- To help them sleep, use a sheet or sleep sack that has your scent on it
Lastly, practice makes perfect, right? Your little one isn’t going to snooze in the pack n’ play right away. Continue working at it and be patient.
Baby Travel Essentials
Bringing along the right travel gear can help your little one feel more comfortable on your trip. Here is Joan’s list of baby travel essentials:
- Multipurpose items like a car seat that can connect to a stroller
- Travel stroller
- A pack ‘n’ play that can be used for play and sleep
- Baby carriers
- Backpack-style diaper bag
- Baby wipes
- Their favorite toy or lovey blanket
- Sleep sack
- Portable sound machine
- Travel black-out shades
Joan recommends looking for items that are lightweight, multipurpose, safe and convenient to travel with. The good news? We’ve got all of that covered for you–wrapped up in a sustainable bow and a discounted price. Shop our travel gear selection for safe and high-quality secondhand items you can take on your next trip.
The best part? Once you’re done with these items you can sell the gear back to us and get up to 90% of the sale price. We’ll even pick up the gear from your house and do all the work to sell it. Yes, it’s seriously that easy.
I became passionate about learning about brain development, individual temperaments, child psychology, and the unique needs of children when I began studying Early Childhood Development at San Francisco City College. I loved working with a variety of families. I enjoyed learning about each individual family’s dynamics, communication styles, and how they built connections. The variety of children and families taught me so much about being a flexible and adaptive caregiver. Working with families of multiples has always held a special place in my heart.