Nap time + sleeping + travel = ???

Going on vacation doesn't need to be the end of your toddler's sleep schedule or routine. It also doesn't NEED to be a battle to get your baby or toddler to take a nap or go to bed while you're traveling. How can you go sight-seeing and explore new areas and not give up #naptime? Click through to learn #sleeptips for traveling toddlers from #travel #travelingtoddlers #vacation #travelingwithtoddlers

How to handle nap times, sleep schedules, and sleeping arrangements while traveling

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It’s fun to travel, but it can throw us and our little ones for quite the loop. Unfamiliar places, sights, sounds, over stimulation, and a change to our regular daily routine can make it hard to sleep, especially for kids. But, it doesn’t have to! Now, I’m no sleep expert, just a mom who’s done a fair amount of traveling with little ones and learned a thing or two along the away (and from asking other traveling moms).


  1. Keep their routines as close to the same as you can. And, when you can’t (because we can’t always do this while traveling), tell your little ones what their day is going to look like and what you’ll be doing next. It removes some of the uncertainty and anxiety for them, making it easier for your kids to go about their day.
  2. If you don’t have a huge time change, consider keeping bedtime, nap times, and wake-up times the same. Or, if it’s for a super short duration, why bother changing it? I took a long weekend 3 time zones away, but kept my bedtime roughly the same because it was easier than totally adjusting it just to somewhat get used to the time change as it was time to go home. If I’d had my kids with me, I wouldn’t have adjusted their bedtimes for such a short trip.
  3. Expect some chaos going to bed. It was likely an exciting day, full of lots of fun new stuff. Your littles might be overtired too, which doesn’t help. So, give them (and yourself!) some grace, use extra patience, and do what you can to help them fall asleep. You’re not on vacation forever, so if you break your normal bedtime “rules,” it’s not the end of the world. Consider it a perk of being on vacation! For us, this might mean…
    1. Floor beds (making a bed on the floor out of extra bedding or couch cushions).
    2. It might mean all of us snuggling in together and sleeping in the same bed (something the kids LOVE)…
    3. Falling asleep watching a movie (gasp! LOL)…
    4. The kids sleeping in an empty closet (happened in a rural farmhouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), the in room Jacuzzi (thank you, Cabo, for the fun memory!), or on the floor between two beds with suitcases completing the makeshift “crib” (gotta corral the mobile 9 month old somehow, right?). The point is, be flexible, figure out something safe and fun, and roll with it. That’s what vacation is about, right? Having fun and trying new things.
  4. Since going to sleep on vacation is a bit different than at home, try new routines. Talking about and journaling the day’s adventures can be a great way to wind down at the end of the day. Listening to music or taking a long shower/bath are other ideas. And, for some kids, doing exactly what you do at home might be the key to success.
  5. Don’t over plan your days. Keep it simple! Doing one thing in the morning, coming back for nap time, and going out again after nap might be a very full day while on vacation. Or, maybe it’d work best for you to push nap time back a bit and take a long morning and early afternoon out… you know your kids best, so do what works best (or seems like the best idea) and don’t be afraid to try something new the next day if your day didn’t exactly go as you’d hoped or planned.
  6. Naps. Working around nap time puts a huge wrench in plans and can make it hard to do everything you want to do while you’re visiting someplace new. Some things that have worked well for us are:
      1. Car naps– planning the driving time around nap time or after something tiring, like lots of walking or running around at the beach so that the kids fall asleep in the car. We’ve actually taken the scenic route back to our hotel on more than one occasion just to give the kids a longer nap. Totally worth it! Adult conversation without kids interrupting, checking out the scenery, and the kids wake up a bit more refreshed. I’m fortunate that both of my kids will sleep in the car, so I’ve also been known to purposefully pack them up and go for a drive JUST so they can take a nap. Better to burn gas money and see new scenery than to deal with crabby kids all afternoon, right?
      2. Strollers– if your littles nap in the stroller, plan on it! Take the stroller with you, include blankets and/or sun protection as needed, and let them fall asleep in the stroller while you explore someplace new on foot. Once they’re asleep, grab a cup of coffee or a light snack somewhere and use your foot to keep that stroller slightly moving while you sit back and relax a bit.
      3. Carriers and baby wearing– “baby” wearing isn’t just for babies! They’re a great way to explore some place on foot and let your little one take a nap. We used this strategy a LOT, both when Buddy Boy was 9 months old, again the following summer when he was 18 months old, and when he turned 2 and we were in hot, humid, and sunny Cabo, Mexico. Each time, I literally looked at the clock, what we had in mind for that day, and arranged it where he’d be able to take a nap in the carrier, on my back when he was older, but it still worked. Yes, my back was drenched in sweat by the time he woke up, and it wasn’t as long of a nap as he’d normally get at home, but it was enough to get him through the rest of the day. One of my favorite carriers for baby wearing in warm weather is the Lillebaby Complete Airflow 360* 6 in 1 Carrier.

Don’t forget that many hotels have cribs or Pack-n-Plays that you can use. Some charge, some are on a first come, first served basis, so do your research and ask before counting on this.


Other things to consider…

  • Taking a small security/comfort item also helps. For my kids, it’s a doll or stuffed animal. For yours, it might be a blanket, sound sleeper, light machine, or something similar.
  • If your child is used to white noise to fall asleep, consider taking an old phone and having an app downloaded on it. Then, you don’t have to worry about incoming calls or texts waking your little one up, and a phone is a lot smaller to take than a sound sleep machine.
  • I also take a night light, just in case, as I never know how dark the room will be.
  • If you’re worried about your little one opening the door and not hearing it, taking a wedge or door stopper is also a good idea. Many rooms have easy pull down handles, making it easier for kids to open the doors that they might not otherwise be able to open.
  • While we’re on the topic of safety, masking/painters tape can be quite helpful for plugging off outlets and other “childproofing.” Plus, it can be fun to play with. A hair tie or rubber band put over the bathroom door can help prevent your little one from locking the bathroom door shut with you on the other side.

Have a great trip! Go with the flow, be flexible and understanding, and both you and your little ones will have tons of fun, even with less sleep for all of you (I must admit, that no matter how much I plan to sleep, even going to bed at the same time as my kids, doesn’t always mean I come home from vacation feeling refreshed and caught up on sleep).


What are your tips for ensuring that your little ones get as much sleep as possible while on vacation?