How to Manage Your Baby or Toddler’s Naps During Holiday Traveling

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Managing Naps During Holiday TravelsHere in the United States, we are right on the verge of one of the busiest traveling seasons of the year – Thanksgiving weekend! In another day or so, lots of us in the U.S. will pack up and travel to see friends and loved ones, and to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with them.

Of course, while all that traveling can be fun (provided we don’t have any weather delays – fingers crossed!), it’s by no means relaxing. And if you are traveling with a baby or a toddler in tow? Not relaxing at all. In fact, your holiday weekend may end up feeling like a whole lot of work!

One of the toughest things about traveling with a baby or toddler is the fact that your little one’s normal sleep schedule is bound to be thrown off (sometimes way, way off) by your travel plans. Nighttime sleep may be affected (for instance, if you will be staying overnight at a relative’s house, the different sleeping arrangements can cause issues). And it’s almost guaranteed that naps will be affected. Nothing throws off a naptime routine quite like uprooting your little one from her familiar surroundings and whisking her away to a new place.

We know holiday travels can destroy your little one’s naptime schedule, leading to short naps (or no naps at all!). We’ve been there. We’ve felt the pain first-hand! So we’re offering you some simple ways to make naptime as painless as possible while your family is traveling. Put these 5 tips into practice during your Thanksgiving travels, and make naptime more restful for everyone.

1. Stick to the schedule as much as you can.

If you want your baby or toddler to nap well while you’re traveling, you’re probably going to have to stick to his normal schedule as much as you can. So if he normally naps mid-morning and mid-afternoon, do what you can to make sure he’s able to nap at those times during vacation, too. Don’t plan activities that’ll force him to miss his nap; instead, try to prioritize his sleep.

Of course, some circumstances might make this impossible, and that’s okay. If a nap can’t happen when it “should” every once in awhile during your trip, simply roll with it, and then do your best to make sure the rest of his naps are restorative.

What’s more, if you have a highly-adaptable baby, sticking closely to the schedule might not be necessary. Your baby might sleep beautifully in grandma’s arms, or in her stroller. If that’s the case, congratulations! Enjoy. The rest of us are just a little jealous. ;)

2. Pack some good napping products.

We shared this post last year on fantastic napping products. And guess what? Most of these are totally portable, so make room in your suitcase! The loveys, the noise machines, the swaddle blankets, and the stroller covers should all fit nicely in a bag. You can even find portable room-darkening blinds; the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind has suction cups that stick to any window, making it a great option for traveling. (Note: our readers in the U.S. won’t be able to purchase these portable blinds, unfortunately. But if you’re in the U.K., Australia, or New Zealand, you will!)

3. Make the napping area feel like home.

There are limitations to this, obviously; you can’t exactly pack your baby’s or toddler’s entire room and haul it on vacation with you! But you can take small steps to make sure that the place your baby or toddler naps while you’re traveling feels homey and familiar. That might mean bringing along his crib sheets and bedding, or packing the lullaby CD that you always play for her at naptime. And of course, you’ll definitely want to pack all of your little one’s comfort items — loveys, stuffed animals, favorite books, etc. Surround him with things that feel like home, and it’ll help him settle down and nap when he needs to.

4. Lay some groundwork before you leave.

This is especially important if you have a slow-to-adapt baby, or a toddler who’s really sensitive to disruptions in the routine. If that’s the case, starting a few days to two weeks before you leave, begin napping your baby or toddler in whatever she’ll be sleeping in while you travel (if possible) for at least one nap per day. Set up your pack-n-play or portable crib in her room, and have her take her naps there. This will help her adjust to to a new sleeping arrangement before you hit the road, which will be easier on everyone.

5. Give yourself a pep-talk.

Even if you take every single precaution you can, there’s still a good chance that your baby or toddler just isn’t going to nap as well on the road as he does at home. Such is the reality of traveling with a tiny child! So be prepared to be flexible, and to make the best of whatever comes.

And then, when you get home, schedule yourself a pedicure, or a massage, or an afternoon out — anything that’ll help you feel relaxed. After all that holiday traveling, you will probably need a break. ;)

Nicole’s Note
“After traveling, the biggest thing we see in the Helpdesk is that even if schedules were perfect on vacation, traveling is tiring for everyone, including your baby. Plan for an earlier bedtime for several nights to help your baby ‘catch up’ on sleep and rest up!”

How do you help your baby or toddler sleep well when you’re traveling? Share your tips!

Travel plans in your future? We have the nap resources you need to get ready:

  • Holiday-proof your baby or toddler’s naps! Be sure to check out our free guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes and/or check out Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-to” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
  • Want Unlimited Product Access? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately!
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.
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3 Responses to How to Manage Your Baby or Toddler’s Naps During Holiday Traveling

  1. AmyN says:

    This is very timely – we have a nine month old and travel has been restricted to two one-day trips two hours by car. We made sure my daughter got at least one good nap at home or at the destination before we hit the road. Unlike a lot of kids, she won’t sleep for more than 30m in the car – probably because she is used to long solitary naps in a dark room with white noise

    Next week, we will be traveling all the way across the world (13 hr time difference) with a 20hr plane journey. No swing to rescue a bad nap day, no blackout shades. I’m resigned to a very bad couple of weeks out there along with an equally long readjustment phase when we return. Help!

  2. Emily DeJeu says:

    @Amy N — I totally sympathize with you; my daughter is such a light sleeper, so she never sleeps for more than 20 or 30 mins in the car either. In fact, we made a last-minute change to our holiday travel plans; instead of driving out to my parents house today (original plan), we drove out last night, due to all the snow we were getting (we live in PA). My two boys conked out by 8 p.m., and slept like logs, which was fantastic. But my 2 year old? She slept for about 45 total minutes and cried for the rest of the trip. It was rough! I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony, though, of the fact that I posted this article and then, not even 12 hours later, was struggling with some holiday-related sleep drama of my own!! ;)

    WOW to your big trip — where are you going? I think you’re probably wise just to resign yourself to the fact that sleep (at least during the traveling itself) will be wacky and tough. Hopefully you can all get yourselves adjusted to the new time zone within a few days, though.

    Best of luck to you, Amy! And do let us know how the trip goes, and what tips you have to share with the rest of us when you get back. :)

  3. Lee says:

    @ Amy N – we travelled from South Africa to Hawaii (12hr time difference) with our then 20 month old son. The flights were not too bad he managed to sleep some and not as great as in his cot.
    BUT when we got to Hawaii we put onto his hometime schedule immediately. He had his 10am nap every day till 12pm. We followed his bedtime routine, had his favourite books & sleep time music and he was a champion. I think mummy & daddy had a tougher time dealing with jet lag. And our family in Hawaii just had to adapt our little man’s schedule. It all worked out and the family was totally impressed at how good James was.
    Good luck with the long flight and don’t underestimate your little one. They are so adaptable.
    I’d also suggest that you get your hands on some homeopathic remedies for yourself, baby and daddy, e.g. Rescue, Calming, Sleep. They helped all of us.
    And when we got home James continued with his normal routine. I took no notice of time zone changes. If it was 10am then it was nap time, if it was 5.30pm it was bathtime.