Rest on the Road: Sleep Tips for Traveling with Kids


Travel Sleep | Central Mass MomVacations and travel are going to be a bit different for a lot of families this year. With travel restrictions and many avoiding air travel, there might be some long-distance car rides in your future. You might even find yourself deviating from your initial vacation plans due to health concerns/risk. One thing that doesn’t change is your children still needing to sleep as best they can while they travel. 

Sleep in Transit

When you are on your way to and from your destination, a nap or bedtime might be involved. You might always be dealing with some transit between events at your destination. Maybe you are walking around Disney and don’t want to run back to the hotel for one kid to get a nap in. That’s okay. Nap CAN occur while you are moving around. I suggest not making it a habit, and definitely make sure that your children are still getting most naps in a stationary setting. But it’s okay to deviate from the norm a little. 

The most important thing is to make sure that these naps are done safely. If it turns into a stroller nap, make sure your child is secure in their stroller correctly and keep a close eye on them. The same goes for a car[seat] nap. Check out this blog post on Car Seat Naps.

*Inclined sleep is not considered safe sleep, infants should be placed on a flat, firm surface, on their backs, in a safety-approved crib.*

Schedules and Routines

It’s okay to be flexible, but not too flexible. Overall you want to keep the same flow of your day. You may need to push some naps around or have them on the go. If they fall asleep off schedule, that’s okay – work with it. Bedtime might need to be early due to a short or missed nap. Maybe bedtime was a little late because you are just getting back to the hotel.

Try to keep close to your regular times when possible and keep the routine familiar. Remember kids thrive on predictability. If you have a little routine, such as a little song and dance before breakfast, don’t skip it. The bath, PJs, book bedtime routine should stay similar as well. This brings comfort and familiarity to your child, giving them the cues they need for those points of the day and making them feel more at home. 

Sleep Space

If possible, set your sleep space separate from your own. A trip to Grampy’s means all four of us sharing a room, but if we are traveling somewhere where I can choose accommodations, I at least make sure the adults have a separate room than the kids. This way we don’t have to worry about being super quiet or going to bed way too early. 

The kids’ sleep space should be similar to home. You want a dark, cool, and quiet area for them. To achieve the dark, cave-like atmosphere, you can use temporary blackout shades for the windows (tin foil and tape make a great DIY blackout curtain) or a blackout tent, like the SlumberPod, that goes over a travel bed or crib. Bringing your own white noise is also helpful, especially in new places that have new noises to distract. If you don’t bring your own from home, you can get a travel-sized one or check and see if you can rent some at your destination. 

“First Night Effect”

Typically the first night in a new location is the worst night. “First Night Effect” impacts both children and adults. When sleeping in a new place, your brain is unable to totally relax. Part of your brain automatically stays awake. So, if the first night is terrible for everyone, don’t let it overwhelm you. It should get better from there. 

Give yourself a little grace. Remember this is a vacation. You still want to enjoy it. It’s okay to do what needs to get done to get enough rest and still enjoy your trip. 


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