This is a collaborative post.
At some point during baby’s first year, you may decide that you want to spend the night at a relative’s home, visit friends out of town or take a short vacation. An overnight trip is a great way to let loose and bond as a family! While your first thought is about all the fun you’ll be having, the prospect of getting your little one to sleep soundly in an unfamiliar environment may seem daunting. This is especially true if they still have trouble falling or staying asleep in their own bassinet or crib.
While all infants adapt differently and have their own unique personalities, the parents who’ve done it before will tell you this: The difference between an uncomfortable and amazing overnight trip depends on how well you pack and prepare. By filling your car, suitcase and diaper bag with the right supplies and researching your destination in advance, you’ll have the best chance of stringing together several hours of sleep and waking up refreshed as a family. Spend some time on each of the areas below and you’ll be an overnight trip pro in no time!
Equip Yourself with Baby’s Sleep Essentials
Grandma may have a pack and play at her house, but most destinations will be without an appropriate sleeping place for your little one. Bring a travel bassinet or other safe bed for baby. Keep in mind, he or she is sure to snooze better if they’ve slept in the same bed before.
If it’s a totally new one, try placing a used, fitted sheet on the mattress. The familiar scent will make your child feel more at home. You can also place a worn t-shirt or used blanket inside and then remove it when it’s time to sleep. No matter what strategy you choose, always follow safe sleep practices for infants.
Along with a travel crib or cot, bring each of the items your baby uses to nap or get to sleep. This includes their favorite stuffed animals, blankets and pacifiers. It’s also helpful to pack more pajamas than you think you need. If you’re staying one night, for example, bring an entire pack of bodysuits or cozy infant sleepers with you. If your child uses wearable swaddles or blankets, pack a few of those, too.
It’s easy to forget white noise machines and sound soothers, so consider buying a portable one. Your local baby supply store or favorite online shop should have an affordable option. Finally, have extra feeding supplies on hand, as well as an infant first aid kit. The last thing you want is to be without a bottle or a box of baby pain reliever when you’re in a strange location!
Talk to Your Host
Whether you’re staying with a relative or at an exclusive resort, find out as much as you can about your sleeping arrangements. Typical questions include how noisy it gets outside the room both day and night, where the room is located and if it has helpful amenities like blackout curtains or air conditioning. With your answers, you can decide whether you need to adjust baby’s nap schedule or bedtime. It’ll also help you determine whether you need to bring anything else to make baby more comfortable, like travel drapes or a portable fan.
Let your host know that the information they give you is meant to help keep your little one—and their place—as peaceful as possible. Show your appreciation by bringing a bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates or bottle of wine. Hotels are especially grateful for thank you notes and five-star online reviews.
Prep Your Sleeping Area
Once you settle into your destination, take some time to prep your room. Set up baby’s bed, place all feeding and diapering supplies close by and add comfort tools like your curtains, nightlight and sound machine. Double check your packing list to ensure you’re not missing anything.
Let baby get acclimated to the new environment before it’s time for sleep. Resting or napping in the travel bed is an excellent warmup for nighttime. Know where the thermostat, electrical outlets and light switches are before you turn in for the night. Having your bearings will prevent unnecessary wakings.
Keep up with Baby’s Routine
While you’ll probably have to make slight changes to baby’s schedule and habits, it’s helpful to keep your routine as regular as possible. By adhering to the normal nap schedule and mimicking your nursery conditions, you’ll help keep your little one from becoming cranky and overtired. After all, you’ve left home because you’re trying to enjoy yourselves!
If you miss a nap, you can try pushing bedtime up by 30 or 45 minutes. Just remember not to make the conditions too different, since the stress and anxiety can make babies less likely to sleep. While you may not realize it, other parts of your daily schedule may also be critical to a good night’s sleep on the road. Allow your child plenty of playtime to help them get rid of excess energy, especially if they’re sitting in a car seat for hours at a time.
Making the Best of a New Normal
As you complete your checklists and embark on your trip, it helps to remember that even adults don’t sleep as well when they’re away from their own bed. Pack your patience along with the comfy baby clothes and breast pump, reminding yourself that it’ll get easier with every vacation. Besides, mom or dad, you’re still in the process of developing a new normal! Understanding what sleeping tools and tactics are best for your kid will take time before it feels easy. Embrace the challenge and every trip will be more fun for everyone!