How To Manage Sleep Routines When Traveling

Planning to travel with your tot? In this article, we speak to award winning Certified Child Sleep Consultant, Mary Cantwell of Rest to your Nest about how to manage sleep routines while traveling.

kids travel sleep routine

Traveling with your child is one of the best experiences and gifts that you can bestow on them to open their eyes to the world. As a sleep consultant I get asked a lot if I ever traveled with my children when they were little, and the answer is a resounding yes!  My parents and siblings live out of state, so we’ve traveled quite a bit with our kids since they were only a few months old. While it does take some planning (as does anything with kids), with the right tools you can feel at ease hitting the road to visit family and friends or traveling to another state or country, while ensuring that your time away is fun and relaxing for everyone.

In this article we will discuss the following travel sleep topics:

  • Setting up a new sleep environment
  • Tips if staying in a hotel
  • Tips if staying in rented accommodation
  • Encouraging sleep while traveling
  • Adapting to new time zones
  • Packing list for facilitating sleep
  • The best baby/kids sleep products for travel

Scroll down to read more.


Setting Up An Optimal Sleep Environment

The first thing to consider is the sleep environment.

You want to do everything possible to convert the room that your child(ren) will be sleeping in, into a similar environment to their bedroom at home. Your child’s sleep environment should be cool, dark and in a separate sleep space from yours if possible.

If you are staying in a hotel, at a friend’s or family member’s home or renting a place, then we will approach each a bit differently.


Tips for Staying in a Hotel

If you are staying at hotel, a majority of establishments will have black out shades already in the room so this addresses keeping the room cool and dark. For the separate sleep area, you can usually reserve a crib from the hotel.  If your child is older then a year, they typically sleep better in a crib since it provides more space and the mattress is more comfortable.

If your hotel doesn’t have any cribs then you’ll want to find a baby equipment rental site that provides cribs, strollers, high chairs and so on. These are wonderful and affordable services that provide the comforts of home for your child. Alternatively if you travel frequently, consider investing in lightweight mini travel crib.

You will want to put your child in the farthest part of the room away from the front door so that they are secluded from any noise in the hotel hallway. You will also want to travel with a noise machine like the Baby Shusher that you can place near your child to block out any unwanted noises.


Tips for staying in rented Accommodation 

If you’re renting a place, then you’ll want to make sure your child’s room is dark as well. I recommend either bringing travel black out shades for the windows or you can also utilize black trash bags or even tin foil taped to the windows to block out light in order to help with melatonin production. It may sound a bit odd to bring these types of materials with you when you travel, however it will prevent your child from waking to early due to sunlight streaming into the room.

As I mentioned above, you will want to have a separate sleep area for your child in a crib. If you are not able to transport these items with you, look into renting equipment from a local child equipment rental company. Again, make sure you bring a noise machine with you to block out unwanted noise like children playing, dogs barking, cars etc.


Encouraging Sleep While Traveling

On your travel day, if your child is still taking naps, you should try your best to have them napping in the car or plane during their nap times.

Sleep will be a bit off on travel days which means naps might not be as long or as restful but once you get to your destination you can roll your child back to their normal sleep schedule.  If you are traveling to another time zone, then you will want to gradually move them into that time zone.

The other thing you’ll want to be mindful of is the impact of artificial lighting. When exposed to artificial lighting for an extended period of time, your body may struggle to produce its natural sleep hormone, melatonin. You can help keep you and your family’s natural circadian rhythm by wearing Blue light Blocking Glasses.


Adapting To New Time Zones

An example is if you have a 2-hour time difference, you halve it the first day and put your child down for naps and bedtime an hour later or earlier (depending on what time zone you traveled to) and the following day you move bed time and nap time another hour to fully convert their sleep schedule to the new time zone.

If you’re traveling and only staying for a few days, keep your child on your time zone because by the time they adjust to the new time zone, it’ll be time to head home again. If you’re going for at least a week then go ahead and make the transition. Typically, traveling east is easier for our internal sleep clocks to adjust to, so let’s assume that the location that you are traveling to is one time zone east. If you’re looking to get them on that time zone and bedtime is normally 7pm on your time zone, then shoot for 8pm bedtime the first night and then 7pm the second night.

However, traveling west it is a bit harder, so if you are traveling west to the next time zone and your child’s bedtime is 7pm, you should target a 6pm bed time the first night and then the following night, you’ll land on 7pm.

For nap time and bedtime, keep the routine as close to what you do at home as possible so that it cues your child that we are transitioning to bed time. So if your routine is dinner, bath, book, songs and bedtime then you want to maintain the same routine at your destination so that it prompts them to start powering down for nap time or bed time. Be sure that their room is as dark as possible. Also, keep in mind that another powerful cue to help set your internal sleep clock is to head out into natural sunlight when they wake up.


Packing list for facilitating sleep

This will vary on the way you’re traveling and age of your children, but I love having the following items on hand.

  • Travel crib
  • Pesticide/Chemical Free sleep sack
  • Pesticide/Chemical Free bodysuits
  • Baby Shusher
  • Nursing pillow (if holding an infant on a plane)
  • Comfort toy
  • Blue Light Blocking Glasses


Our Top Travel Sleep Product Picks


Lifestyle image of mom and baby with Nook Niche Feeding Pillow in Sky


At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Safety Test.

This means we’ve looked at third-party testing, examined ingredients lists and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition.

All tried & trusted, the below products are free of harmful chemicals such as PVC, Phthalates, BPA + BPS, Formaldehyde, Lead & Other Heavy Metals, Flame Retardants and Toxic Dyes.

Learn more about the ingredients we avoid and why here.


Nuna Sena Aire Mini Travel Crib in Champagne

Nuna Sena Aire Mini Travel Crib


Available in more colors





Malabar Baby Wearable Sleep Bag Greenwich


Malabar Baby Quilted Wearable Baby Sleeping Bag – Greenwich


Ranging from $50 to $66

Available in more colors and prints





HART + LAND Baby/Toddler Pima Cotton Footed Bodysuit PJ - Fly Away


HART + LAND Baby/Toddler Pima Cotton Bodysuit PJ – Fly Away








HART + LAND Baby/Toddler Pima Cotton Footed Bodysuit PJ - Avocados


HART + LAND Baby/Toddler Pima Cotton Footed Bodysuit PJ – Avocados







Nook Niche Feeding Pillow in SeaGlass


Nook Niche Organic Feeding Pillow



Available in more colors




Albetta Tiger Cuddle Toy

Albetta Tiger Cuddle Toy



Available in more prints


RA Optics Adult Blue Light Blocking Glasses Day-Taylor





Available in day & night lenses


RA Optics Kid Blue Light Blocking Glasses Day - Reese





Available in day & night lenses

Ages 2 – 7


RA Optics Baby Blue Light Blocking Glasses Navy Day - Quinn





Available in more colors and day & night lenses

Ages 1 – 7




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