Traveling with a baby is sometimes like trying to fold a fitted sheet: challenging, unpredictable, and someone usually ends up in tears (probably you). On top of all the logistical and tactical challenges are the mental ones –
Is my baby going to cry the whole flight/car ride? (I hope not!)
How much Ms. Rachel is too much? (The limit does not exist.)
How do I handle naps? (I’m about to tell you!)
Even if you plan to keep a perfect sleep schedule on vacation, sleep on your actual travel day might be a little bit of a mess. Here are my suggestions for making the day as smooth as possible.
1) Don’t stress about keeping your normal nap schedule
If you go into your travel day trying to meticulously plan when and for how long your child is going to nap, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead choose to control what you can:
If you’re driving: If you’re driving and can leave over nap time, it can be helpful to knock out a stretch of road while your child is asleep. Don’t forget to bring along a portable sound machine and your child’s lovey if they use one.
If you’re flying: When picking flights, my preference is always to leave home + arrive at my destination early. That way, bedtime is least likely to be interrupted. If you have a baby on multiple naps, you may even be able to have a late-afternoon nap after you land. If you have the ability to be picky with the timing, always opt to travel in the morning vs. afternoon and evening. (That and always try to fly direct!)
2) Keep feeds on track
If you have a baby under 12 months who is getting the majority of their calories from breastfeeding or bottles, do your best to keep feeds at or around their normal times. You can’t necessarily control sleep on travel days, but you can control when your baby eats.
3) Pay attention to sleep times and totals
While you may not be intentionally offering naps at your child’s normal nap times, they may get tired and fall asleep at various points throughout your travel day. They may end up napping for cumulatively more or less time and more or less frequently than they normally do. Just pay attention to about how much sleep is happening so you can plan your next moves when you arrive.
4) Adjust bedtime if necessary
If you have a baby on multiple naps/day or you’ve flown west, you may be able to fit in an afternoon cat nap when you arrive to bridge the gap to bedtime. If so, that’s a great way to refresh after being cooped up in a car or airplane.
If you don’t arrive with a ton of time in the afternoon but your child is clearly wiped, it’s okay to move up bedtime by 30 or even 60 minutes. Travel days are exhausting for everyone.
5) Do the best you can
Remember, perfection is not the goal on travel days. Do your best to be flexible and show yourself some grace. Traveling with kids is inherently unpredictable and acknowledging that can help manage expectations and reduce stress. Embrace the journey, and don’t forget to take care of yourself amidst the chaos.
For more travel hacks and tips for sleep while away from home, get our complete travel guide here!