Oh Baby, Let’s Travel

Eight Sleep Tips for Traveling With An Infant

Cara Dumaplin, Founder

May 19, 2016

As we are approaching the summer months, our calendars typically have the letters V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N neatly etched upon a few days or weeks. However, if you are traveling with a baby, “vacation” can often feel like more “work” than staying home. Many parents who have followed a personalized Taking Cara Babies Sleep Plan are so grateful to finally have a sleeping baby that they fear traveling and returning to those rough nights of little to no sleep.Vacations create priceless memories. Please go!

I would like to offer you 8 tips for baby sleep while on vacation. Allow these recommendations to help set your mind at ease and help make your trip a delight.

1) Start with a well-rested baby.

Preparing for travel often requires many errands and out of the norm routines. Remember sleep begets sleep. Be very consistent with naps and nights prior to your trip. A well-rested baby sets you up for success. Beginning a vacation with a sleep deficit simply guarantees a rough trip. Please note- if you have just started your 14 Night Sleep Plan, please avoid travel for one month to allow your baby the luxury of adjusting to his new sleep regimen.

2) Plan accommodations.

If at all possible, book a hotel that has a suite, separate living area, or attached room. Your baby has been accustomed to sleeping in her own space. Room-sharing is often the beginning of tough nights while on vacation. Babies are so aware of your presence even while sleeping. Room-sharing can lead to frequent night awakenings.

If the plan is to stay at a relative’s home, inform them of your baby’s incredible sleeping habits. Let them know that a separate bedroom would be so helpful. If this simply isn’t an option, try to place your baby as far away from your bed as possible.

3) Recreate the bedroom.

Try to replicate your baby’s room as much as possible. Bring your sound machine, special blanket/lovie, pacifiers (lots of them), sleep sack/swaddle, and even his own crib sheet.

If at a hotel, request an actual crib. This can be so much more comfortable than a pack-n-play. Also, check out Baby’s Away for renting baby equipment/cribs if you are staying at a relative’s home.

Some babies do great sleeping in a pack-n-play. If this is your option, try setting up the pack-n-play in your baby’s room a week before your departure. Practice nights in it while in the familiar environment of your infant’s bedroom. This can set her up for success while traveling.

4) Maintain your bedtime routine while away.

Your baby is very used to the routine we have created for her. If you typically do a bath, give a mini massage, dress in jammies, read a book, then nurse before placing her in the crib- do that while traveling. This is a familiar routine that cues your baby’s brain that bedtime is coming. Consistency is key!

5) Try to get one good nap a day.

On vacation we often try to pack in as much activity as possible. After all, aren’t we there to experience something different from home? Unfortunately, these activities can turn into a disaster with a cranky, over-tired infant. If your baby is taking more than one nap a day, attempt to get a solid morning nap at the hotel (or at the home in which you are staying). Send your spouse out for a coffee run, talk to the concierge, plan out your day, or scope out the surroundings all while allowing your little one to get those important Zzzz’s.

Starting the day rested can then allow future naps to happen in the stroller, car seat, or baby wrap.

6) Be aware of the time change.

Time changes can get tricky; however, I’m going to try to make it as simple as possible.

If your travel is less than four days, strongly consider keeping him on his home time zone. If longer than four days and the time difference is one to two hours, slowly adjust by 10-20 minutes each night earlier or later (as determined by the time zone to which you are traveling). You can even begin doing this a few nights prior to your trip.

For three or more hours and longer than four to five nights of travel:

If traveling west to east, continue with your infant’s normal time zone. For example, if you are traveling from LA to NYC and your baby typically sleeps 7:00pm to 6:00am, that would be 10:00pm to 9:00am. This could make going out in the evenings easier and could possibly feel like “sleeping in”.

If traveling east to west for more than four to five days, slowly begin adjusting the schedule on Night 1 of your travel. For example, you have flown from NYC to LA. It is 4:00pm local time, but to your baby, it feels like 7:00pm and bedtime. Slowly and gently try to push bedtime to 4:30-4:45pm. The next night, attempt to push bedtime later by another 30-45 minutes. Keep in mind it may take about 4-5 nights to get your baby adjusted to local time.

Light plays a vital role in adjusting to the time change. If your baby is waking up at 4:00am local time (which could be 5-7:00am on his clock), keep the room darkened, offer a feeding, and allow a short play-time. (These are fabulous travel black out shades). Attempt the first nap a bit earlier than normal. After that first nap, allow bright lights and fun activity. Be active outside and exposed to daylight as much as possible.

Watch sleepy cues for naps and follow the guidelines in your Nap Schedule designed in your baby’s sleep plan.

7) Break the rules a bit.

If you have been 99% consistent at home with your baby’s sleep, now is the time for that 1%. Relax a bit. Have fun. Go with it. You have a great sleeper so don’t stress over how much (or how little) sleep your baby is getting. This is a short-lived vacation. You will get your great little sleeper back when you return home. Yes, your sleep coach is giving you this advice! J

8) What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Okay, so you didn’t go to Vegas, but whatever happened on vacation, stays there. Once you are home, go right back to your normal routine. Pull out your baby’s sleep plan and read it thoroughly. Get right back on it. Be 110% consistent. Typically within 3-5 nights, you’ll have your great little sleeper back again.

9) Okay, I know I only said Eight Tips, but here’s a bonus one:

Keep track of your kids in the airport! Ee-Nee, Me-Nee, MyNee, Mo!

Cara Dumaplin

Cara Dumaplin


Cara Dumaplin is not a blogger. She is, however, a mom to four kids who keep her laughing daily. Although she swore she would never date a doctor, it is with joy that she admits marrying her husband, a pediatrician, was the beginning of a crazy-amazing life together. (Albeit, she has had to learn to forgive him for constantly feeding their kids Pop-Tarts for breakfast.) A registered nurse with 18 years experience, Cara’s eyes light up when she discusses her passion of educating, encouraging, and empowering new parents.  Follow Taking Cara Babies on Facebook or Instagram for helpful baby sleep tips, successful infant sleep stories, and a glimpse into this chaotic, yet blessed life. For more blogs by Cara, you can click HERE.

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