Three Tips for Holiday Travel and Sleep

In this episode, we’ll get into all things holiday travel and sleep! Like…how to help your child sleep in the car. Or at someone’s house.

Prefer to read instead? No worries! I got you covered.

With the holiday season upon us, it’s likely that major planning has been underway. And whether you’re traveling a few hours or a few days, it can be tricky ensuring your child gets the sleep they need while on the road or in the air.

But it’s not impossible to travel with babies or toddlers and ensure a good night’s sleep. So today, I want to give you three tips for navigating naps, bedtime, and travel. This week, we’re talking all things road trips and staying at someone’s house or a hotel. So let’s dive right in.

Tip Number 1: Plan your travel in advance

Not all children sleep well in a car. Some do, and that’s great. But many don’t. You want to make sure to think of everything that your child may need while sleeping in the car. If they sleep with sound machines at home, you’ll want to bring your sound machine or buy a portable one. And if that’s out of the question, be sure to download an app or music that you can play in your car that mimics the sound of their sound machine.


You also want to pack any stuffed animals, favorite blankets, or comfort items your child is used to. And that includes the pacifier. Have all of the sleep things in an easy to access bag so that when your child begins to get sleepy, you can quickly unpack the essentials.


Now, the second part of this tip is to plan when you’re going to leave. And really, you have two options: you can leave in the evening in the hopes that your child will sleep longer stretches since it’s dark and, chances are, they sleep their longest at night. The second option is to hit the road about one hour before your child’s first nap of the day.


Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options.


If you hit the road at night, you’ll be driving in the dark, which can make it difficult to see the road and to stay awake. But in some situations, this may be best since your child is likely to sleep, and if you’re used to traveling at night, then it may work for you.


And if you prefer driving throughout the day, your child may struggle to take naps which can result in a fussy little one. However, you will be more alert since you’re driving during the daylight hours.


So that’s tip number 1: plan. Plan what your child needs in order to go to sleep, and plan what time you’ll be starting your journey.


The second tip for road trips: Have reasonable expectations.


Your child is unlikely to nap for 3 hours in a stretch while riding in the car. More likely, they’ll sleep for one sleep cycle, which can be 30-40 minutes. That’s just what’s going to happen, and it’s okay. There’s no need to stress about it or even try to extend their naps when they wake up early.


Even if they were to sleep for a longer stretch, car naps aren’t as restorative as naps at home. Why? It’s the same for adults. If you’re napping in the car, yes, it helps relieve some sleep pressure so you don’t feel as tired. But often, you’re still aware of your surroundings. You still hear the radio or conversations or the hum of the road. You still slightly feel the bumps and brakes. And even if you have a pillow and recline your seat, you may still wake up with a stiff neck or back.


So unless your child habitually sleeps in their carseat (which isn’t approved by the AAP), they will likely not be as comfortable sleeping in that position as they will when they can turn and flop in their crib.


So what can you do about this? Plan on putting them to bed for the night a little earlier than they normally go to bed, if possible. If you’ll be driving all day and through their bedtime, then just keep things realistic. Your child may not get the best sleep, even when you do arrive to your destination. It may take 2-3 days for your child to catch up on sleep and get back on track.


There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s good to know what to expect so that your expectations are reasonable.


Tip number 3 for road trips: Destination Solutions


I don’t often recommend specific products, but I will recommend the Slumberpod again and again. The Slumberpod is a great solution for when you’re staying in a new location. Unless your child is extremely adaptable, they may struggle when it’s time for naps or bed at someone else’s house. There will be new things to look at, your child isn’t used to the environment, so getting them to fall asleep quickly can be hard.


I recently had a family tell me they were helping friends move and they took their little one with them, thinking their friends would have a quiet place for their child to sleep. Well, they didn’t. They had only just moved in, so they didn’t have curtains on the windows, and it just didn’t work out. So mom had to pack up the baby and drive around for a bit.


I don’t want you to miss time with your friends or family, but I also think it’s so important to keep your little one well-rested.


The Slumberpod is the best solution for that because it’s easy to travel with, set up, and break down. So regardless of what the environment is like, you will have a solution that is easy to use.


Additionally, many times, you’ll be room sharing while you travel. And whether you have multiple kids in a room or you’re sharing a room with your child, the Slumberpod will help create some privacy.


Because once you put your little one to bed, unless you immediately leave the room, they will see you and want to engage with you. And if you need to work or just relax, you can’t really do that without worrying you won’t disturb your child.


So instead of hiding under the covers while you’re browsing your phone, you can carry about your activities and they will be safe in their pod.


In Summary: Top Tips for Traveling with Kids During the Holiday Season


The first step to successfully traveling with your little one is to plan. Plan what you need to pack to make sleep work for them, and plan what time is best to leave.


Second, keep your expectations reasonable. Your child likely won’t sleep the greatest, and that’s okay. Plan on adjusting bedtime earlier once you reach your destination to compensate for missed sleep.


And third, think through blackout solutions/privacy pods. If you’re room sharing or your child isn’t adaptable, coming prepared with a Slumberpod can literally change your entire stay.


The holidays are a joyous time, and I don’t want you to be stressed when it comes to maintaining routine and schedules. Have fun, stay out late a few nights. That won’t derail everything. However, being equipped to handle sleep on the go can really ensure your child’s attitude and behavior is as jolly as this time of year.

I’m wishing you a happy holiday season and safe travels, wherever you may be going. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I’ll be sharing more holiday sleep tools as we head into this busy season. And be sure to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing tips on how to manage your family members expectations for your child’s sleep. Talk to you soon. Sweet dreams, y’all.

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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