Salvaging Sleep While Traveling With A Child

As a certified pediatric sleep consultant, a certified lactation consultant, and a newborn care specialist, I give families the resources and support they need to thrive during the newborn period.

Stay awhile


1:1 support

Survival calls

digital shop


Free diaper bag checklist from an expert & mom

Download Now!

Hey Mama!

I'm Kristen!

Traveling with a young child can easily be an overwhelming task for most people. Then, when you consider having to share a sleep space and/or the loss of sleep that travel days usually bring – it can be enough to make you wonder if it might be easier to just stay home! 

Fortunately, I am here to tell you that traveling (and the room sharing that usually comes with it) doesn’t mean that all of the hard work you’ve done to condition your perfect little sleeper will have been for nothing. 

There is a lot to unpack here (pun intended), so let’s get started. This blog post will be broken down into 3 different parts – traveling in a car, traveling on a plane, and sleeping at your final destination. 

Although I have different suggestions for each one of the environments listed above, there is one piece of advice that remains the same for them all: sleep while traveling is not always going to be perfect, so adjust your mindset accordingly. One day is just one day! As is true for baby and child sleep in any & all situations, we must always remember that these are little humans we’re talking about, not miniature robots, so perfection should never be the expectation. 


 Traveling in a car is the best form of transportation when it comes to salvaging sleep. When you are traveling in a car, you have the opportunity to control most of the variables. With that being said, do not expect your child to take a 2-hour nap in the car like they do at home.


Don’t stress yourself out trying to make your child fall asleep in the car at their normally scheduled nap time or by trying to keep them asleep for their “normal” nap length in the car. Instead, let them drift in and out of sleep as they please. Keep in mind that when your child is sitting in a car seat for an extended period of time, they are burning significantly less energy than they otherwise would be. 

 My suggestion for a road trip is to always leave shortly before your child’s typical nap time. That way, according to their body clock, they are tired when you get into the car. Typically, this will get you at least one nap (it might be short) right off the bat. 

Car Travel Essentials

 For younger babies, you can cover their car seat with a car seat cover to make it a little darker. We also never take a car trip without our travel white noise machine. We have the Rohm Travel Sound Machine. In our house, white noise is a cue for the brain that it is time to sleep. Around the times we would like for Genevieve to sleep in the car, we turn it on. 

 Remember, it is only your job to offer the nap, it is your child’s job to take it. Maybe you have a great car sleeper who sleeps a ton in the car – roll with it! Maybe you have an anti-car sleeper who refuses to sleep a wink – that’s ok!! It’s only one day! Let your child take the lead on travel days. If you try to force naps on them it will only stress everyone out. The last thing you need is to arrive at your destination flustered and irritated. 

Traveling And Crying

 Guess what else is most likely inevitable during a car ride? CRYING! As hard as crying is to listen to, it can be beneficial during long car rides. 

 I’m sorry – what did you just say?! Yep, crying is ok during a car ride! Why? Because crying is a productive way of expelling energy especially for little ones who still don’t have the ability to do much else. You might find that a long nap comes after a good cry! 

 Finally, after you reach your end destination, if the reality is that your child didn’t sleep for longer than 5 minutes in the car (this is usually us) then let them run around for a bit before putting them to bed at least 30 minutes early than their normally scheduled nap or bedtime. 


There is very little that you are able to control when you are traveling by plane. Truly, don’t even waste your time or money paying more or flying on different days just because the flight times are better for your child’s sleep schedule. The day is going to be off and the earlier you accept the fact, the smoother your travel will be. 

Do The Best You Can

 My advice for traveling by plane is pretty simple: do the best you can. Offer your child naps when you can – on the plane or try throwing a blanket over the stroller in the airport, but chances are they will be busy taking in everything going on around them and will have no interest in sleeping. That’s ok – embrace their wide-eyed wonder. Airports are a cool place and this will make the travel experience even more enriching for them! 

Plane Travel Essentials

 While packing your carry-on, it is a great idea to throw in plenty of snacks from home so that your child doesn’t spend the whole day eating processed food and sugar, which will affect their nighttime sleep. 

Even if your child doesn’t sleep the whole day and then falls asleep in the rental car on the way to your hotel and it’s one hour before their bedtime, let it happen. It is going to be ok. It is only one day. 

If you had a day with minimal sleep, move bedtime up by as much as 1 hour if you need to. This will help them make up for some of the lost sleep. Start the next day at your normal time. 


So maybe you are on vacation, maybe you are traveling to see family, maybe you are away from home for another reason altogether, but the moral of the story is you have a life to live. Just because you have a baby in tow, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your whole trip to revolve around your child’s sleep. It would be a disservice both to you and your child to do so. 

Traveling To A Different Time Zone 

Let’s first start by talking about time zones and the length of your trip. If you are traveling to a different time zone and you are only there for a few days, then keep to your normal schedule in the new time zone.

If you are traveling to a different time zone and you will be there for an extended period of time, then go ahead and move your “normal” schedule to the new time zone. I typically recommend adjusting your schedule 30 minutes per day until you are on the new time.

When you get home, you can transition back in 30-minute intervals, or just jump back to your regular schedule cold turkey. You can expect a 2-3 day adjustment period either way. 

Staying Out Late

 Now, for the part that everyone has been dying to know. “We are on vacation and we want to go out to dinner or do literally anything and our child goes to bed at 7:00pm! How are we supposed to enjoy ourselves and get our kid to bed on time?!” Of course, every family will handle this situation the way that works best for them, but my advice can be broken down into 2 categories: those older than 6 months and those younger than 6 months. 

 For the sake of an example, let’s say you have a dinner reservation at 7:00pm and your child typically goes to sleep at 7:00pm. 

Babies Younger Than 6 Months

 If your child is younger than six months, you can do your normal bedtime routine including changing them into pjs, putting them in their swaddle, etc. before you leave for dinner. Put them in their stroller with a portable white noise machine and cover the stroller. Let them sleep in their stroller, enjoy your dinner, and when you get home, transfer them to their sleeping space.  

Babies Older Than 6 Months

 If your child is older than six months, this trick probably isn’t going to work. They are too interested in everything going on around them. So, if you fall into this category – live your life. Keep your child up past their bedtime. It will be ok!


 So now you’re back at your hotel and you all have to sleep in the same room. This doesn’t have to be the end of the world. First and foremost, if you don’t have a SlumberPod, you’re missing out. This product is worth every penny and then some. My husband and I have legitimately hung out in a hotel room with the lights fully on, while Genevieve slept in the same room. You can use the promo code SNOOZECLUES for a discount on a SumberPod

 If you don’t have a separate room for your child or something like the SlumberPod, then put their travel crib as far away from your bed as possible and keep the lights dim (FYI – you can request a travel crib for your room from most hotels so you don’t have to pay to check it as a bag if you’re traveling) .

Bring your white noise machine from home. I know it’s a slight inconvenience, but the smaller travel sound machines won’t be loud enough to block out all of the noise that comes from 3+ people sharing a room. Position the white noise machine 4-8 feet away from your child’s head. 

 Keep in mind that traveling, for any reason, doesn’t have to derail your entire life. Be flexible when it makes sense and stick to your schedule when you can. Enjoy yourself!

Read the Comments +


I'm Kristen

The expert & woman behind the screen. I'm also your new best friend who is ready to empower you on this incredible journey.

Favorites                     Shop

from the

Infant Sleep Course

Gain the tools, knowledge and emotional support inside a community-based course to design and execute the perfect sleep plan for your child.

Exclusive Pumping Guide

A complete guide and schedule to exclusively pumping breastmilk.

Newborn Guide

Your partner in crime for setting expectations when it comes to feeding, sleeping, and (mostly) keeping your sanity.