12 Great tips to travel with your child after sleep training

As a sleep consultant working with families, I sometimes feel that parents are hesitant to travel after sleep training because they fear it might undo the progress they have achieved.  But- is it necessary? Is it realistic to avoid having fun and live life until your child is older?

No, it is not realistic and not healthy for anyone in the family. It is OK to be flexible with your child’s sleep routine for a few days.  If you have just recently worked on helping your child to sleep independently, try not to travel in the first four weeks, but after that, if all is going well, enjoy your holidays!  Start with a short trip and if all goes well- and it should, you can try a longer one!

In this post I will give you 12 fabulous tips to protect your child’s established or newly-acquired sleep routine as much as possible during the holidays and after that.  Check them out!

1. At least one of the naps should happen in the playpen (either in the hotel or wherever you are staying).

Naps can happen anywhere when you are travelling but when the child sleeps on the go, there usually is a lot of motion. If your trip is short, this might be OK, but if you are travelling for longer periods of time, i.e. more than a week and your child starts to have all her naps with motion, it can be harder to fall asleep in the crib once you get back into your routine at home. If possible, have your child do at least one nap a day in her crib, cot, playpen, or whatever you use when you are away.

2) Favor the morning nap

If your child takes more than one nap a day, attempt to get a good morning nap that will be beneficial for most of the day if you cannot get all the naps.

3) Environment

The place should be dark (use any portable black cover to shut out light.) You can find options/ideas on Amazon or you can even take garbage bags, tape and scissors and cover the gaps between the wall and the drapes or cover the window.  

4) Take familiar objects with you.

Bedsheets, loveys, pillows, pj ‘s and even bedtime books are reminders of the sleep rituals at home. Bring it to your hotel room and keep the rituals as familiar as possible.

5) Make use of white noise.

Even if you do not use white noise, consider that you might need it when you are away. You might be close to a noisy place or have loud company!

6) After a day out and about, make bedtime earlier.

It is wise to make bedtime a bit earlier during trips to avoid over tiredness.

7) Room-sharing.

 If you are room-sharing in a hotel, use a coat rack (most hotels have those) to hang a sheet and make a room divider. If you are in a house, grab a piece of furniture and separate your sleep space and that of the baby.

8) Make sure the child is active during the day.

Good naps, earlier bedtime and a lot of activities is a good recipe for healthy and sound sleep.

9) Different times zones.

If you travel to a destination with a time zone-difference of 2 -3 hours away, consider keeping the baby in the same schedule he was at home. If you travel to a place with a bigger time difference consider shifting the child’s schedule before you travel, moving sleep and mealtimes 15-20 minutes towards the time it needs to go. Or you can try to adjust the child’s routine once you get there e.g. if you travel from Toronto to Vancouver and bedtime in Toronto is usually 7pm, in Vancouver he will be tired by 4pm.  For the first night, try to keep him awake until 5pm by keeping some artificial light on. For the second night, try to hold out until 6pm, then 7pm and soon he will be tired according to the local time.

Another important tip is to make sure you expose the baby right from the start to a lot of daylight. That will help the working of the biological clock.

10) Be patient with night awakenings.

Support your child if he/she wakes up during the night but try to keep her in bed. If needed, get a chair, and sit beside the crib or bed and soothe her, but try not to respond with something you do not do at home. For example, if your child never gets a bottle at home, do not offer a bottle in a hotel to get her  back to sleep but also do not allow her to cry-it-out. Either sit beside her and keep her company or, in the worst case scenario, if she cries and do not go back to sleep, hold her to calm her down, but try to place her in bed again while still awake.

Remember, it is a different place, and she might be scared, so keep her company. During the day remind her that mom is close, and she is safe there.

11) Travelling by plane

On the day of the trip, let the baby have good naps. Not sleeping during the day in order to have her sleep in the airplane can backfire because an overtired baby will probably cry more during the flight. If you breastfeed, do not forget to do it during take- off and landing to help with the pressure in the baby’s ears.

12) When you come back…

Problems often arise because the family is slow to return to a regular routine. When you arrive home, act like you have never left. Put the baby to sleep with her bedtime ritual, remind her before she falls asleep that she is safe at home and leave the room if that is what you normally do. If she cries, try to soothe her in her bed or in the worst case scenario, pick her up to cuddle a little but bring her back to bed. If it is hard to leave the room because you notice she is very upset, sit down right beside her bed for a couple of nights or until she feels more confident. Even if you need to do this for a few nights, do not give up. It is much easier to remind her of good habits right after your return than later.

Do you believe now that it is OK to travel? I hope you are more confident and will enjoy your holidays and trips, knowing that when you come back you can manage everything!