8 Tips for Traveling with Babies
Updated: Jul 11
‘Tis the season for traveling with a baby (and you know, the whole family).
Summer brings beach days and barbecues, play dates at the park and icy cold treats. And family vacations and flawless travel with a baby…right?
Take it from two experienced moms and sleep consultants – traveling with a baby isn’t always flawless, but if you’re prepared and have a plan, sleep and travel with a baby can go somewhat smoothly.
We’ve compiled our best 8 tips for traveling with babies right here and we also have an entire mini course complete with a full packing list to ensure you’re successful!
1. A solid sleep foundation is key!
We’re not kidding – solid travel sleep starts at home, before you’ve even thought about packing for your trip. Having solid routines can be started at any time with your child. If you’re planning to sleep train, make sure you’ve completed it at least a few weeks in advance of your trip so your baby can bring their newly learned sleep skills with them! A few days before your flight is NOT the time to think about sleep training your child. Setting a solid sleep foundation can take some time, so make sure you plan in advance or wait until after your trip to sleep train.
With setting up successful sleep routines, you’ll want to focus on developing a few different sleep associations for your baby – that way, if one or two go missing on your trip, your baby has other ways and strategies to help them sleep. For example, if your child is used to taking a bath, then getting pajamas on, reading 2 books, putting on their sleep sack, singing a song, turning out the lights, and going into their crib, but you don’t have time for a bath on your trip one night, it won’t be the end of the world, because your child will have all of these other associations to help them recognize that it’s time to sleep – and that’s what a solid routine does!
2. Pack for travel success.
We know that you might pack differently for different forms and days of travel – not to worry – we’ve got differentiated lists for you – remember, we’ve done this before. Traveling with a baby is like an Olympic sport when preparing!
FOR YOUR DAY OF TRAVEL:
extra outfit(s) for you and your child
window shade or blanket to cover the window
battery operated white noise machine (lectrofan micro2 or alpha are our top travel must have!)
blanket or sleep sack
baby carrier (can be helpful on an airplane)
^^^Keep these items with you in the car or plane
IN YOUR LUGGAGE FOR AT YOUR DESTINATION:
sleep sack or swaddle (plus a spare)
books to read before bed
pack n play – call ahead to see if your hotel might have a mini crib
two sets of sheets
a blackout solution- a roll of tin foil with tape, travel suction cup blackout curtains, or a SlumberPod
white noise machine (bonus if there’s a battery option!)
dim night light if used/needed
monitor (so helpful if you’re staying in a house so you can sit outside or be in a different part of the house and keep eyes on your little one!)
AND FOR NAPS ON THE GO:
car seat or stroller cover- make sure this is not just a blanket which can heat up quickly, but rather a mesh cover with adequate airflow if you can find a safety approved one!
portable sound machine
Pack everything and be prepared! We’d rather overpack but have everything we need than under-pack and be missing something we desperately needed in the moment.
3. How to handle sleep during travel days:
TIPS FOR CAR TRAVELING WITH A BABY:
If you’re planning to travel during the night and will be transferring your baby into their carseat to continue sleeping, we recommend doing it before 2:00 a.m., as the drive to stay asleep is stronger. After 2:00 a.m. your baby will be in lighter sleep stages and may wake more easily.
Stick to your schedule and routines as best as possible, and keep pacifiers, white noise, loveys, etc. close by.
If you don’t have a blackout solution for your car, use a towel or blanket – roll the window up and catch the edge of the material so it sticks in place. You’ll have a full length blackout solution for a nice car nap
Stop every 2-3 hours to keep feeds on schedule and to stretch out and move a bit
No white noise?? Put the AC on full blast – just make sure you all stay warm!
TIPS FOR FLYING WITH A NEW BABY:
Try to offer a bottle or nurse at the takeoff and landing – sucking can help relieve pressure in your baby’s ears as well as relax them enough to maybe fall asleep
Bring a baby carrier or wrap – you might want your hands free for part of the trip
Keep soothing items easily accessible…pacifiers, loveys, a light blanket, etc.
4. Baby sleep and time differences when traveling with a baby:
Navigating time changes when traveling with a baby can be tricky, so let us offer some help!
Traveling East to West is typically easier because when we’re in vacation mode, we’re usually on a later schedule anyway. Depending on the difference, you may not need to tweak anything if you are shifting to a later “vacation schedule.” Embrace it! If you want to adjust to the new time, however, simply wake your baby up at their normal time in your destination to get them on track for the day.
Traveling West to East is definitely tougher. Your little one will likely feel ready to sleep earlier, and be used to an earlier schedule, so you’ll likely experience some early mornings, which doesn’t sound too appealing when it comes to vacation. So, here’s our best tip: if your East to West time zone shift is two hours or more, add a nap! If your baby normally takes 2 naps, add a short third nap to help them get to a later bedtime. There is no need to shift schedules before traveling unless it’s going to be more of a permanent or long timeframe trip.
5. Set up for baby sleeping at your destination
Choose the best place for your baby based on where they will get the best quality sleep – that could mean setting up the packnplay in the dark bathroom, in a closet, or right next to you! Set up your baby’s sleep space as soon as you get to your destination so you aren’t scrambling with a tired baby 30 minutes past their bedtime. See if your resort or hotel offers a crib accommodation, and bring sheets from home so things are familiar.
Make sure it’s dark. Use a blackout solution like window suctions covers, a SlumberPod, or good old tin-foil and masking tape over any windows!
Bring white noise and your monitor too. Black electrical tape over alarm clock and appliance lights can help with the sleep environment too.
6. Naps on the go when traveling with a baby:
Naps on the go are likely a must for most trips. Try to plan for naps to happen around when they normally would. Naps can happen in the car on the way to or from a destination, or in the stroller or carrier. Set the mood by bringing white noise and your baby’s lovey and maybe a light blanket. Do not, however, place a heavy blanket over a stroller as this can cause your baby to overheat – instead use a stroller cover made specifically for this purpose that is designed to have adequate airflow.
Try for at least a 30-45 minute nap, as this ensures your baby has made it through one complete sleep cycle, helping to be more restorative than a shortner nap.
7. Enjoy your trip (as much as you can when you travel with a baby 😅)!
We know that things don’t always go as planned when traveling. Having lower expectations around your baby’s sleep when traveling is a good idea, and hey – you might even be pleasantly surprised! If sleep gets totally messed up while traveling, just make sure you get back to your basics when you get home.
Make sure both adults are taking turns with handling sleep responsibilities so no one gets burned out on vacation.
8. Getting back on track with baby sleep after you get home:
Traveling with a baby is notorious for causing sleep regressions. Get right back to your normal schedules and routines when you arrive home and things will go back to normal. Continuing your “vacation sleep” habits once home can set you up for a lengthier regression and make it more difficult for your baby to get back on track. Keep to their schedule and wake them up if necessary. Reassure and comfort them in their sleep space until they fall asleep.
There you have it, our best tips based on what we’ve learned to do – and not do – over the years with our own children. Safe travels!
If you’re digging this information, and are a sleep-science nerd just like us, go check out our free webinar with information all about our sleep consultant certification program…it might just change your life!