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Travel Sleep Tips for Babies, Toddlers & Children

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Getting babies, toddlers, and even older children to sleep well while traveling can be a struggle. If your child doesn’t sleep well, then mama doesn’t sleep well. And we all know, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! Here are some travel sleep tips for babies, toddlers and children from a child sleep expert.

Travel Sleep Tips for Children

I learned how to pack in restful vacations for the whole family during an interview with Davis Ehrler, post-partum doula and creator of the 3-Day Sleep Solution workbook and educational DVD. Her program teaches parents of kids ages newborn to eight years how to instill good childhood sleep habits through understanding children's biological needs.

As the mother of three daughters, Davis knows how challenging it can be to get a good night's rest while traveling with children.  Here are her vacation sleep tips to help you on your next trip.

Be patient

According to Davis, it will take two to three nights for your child to adjust to the new surroundings and schedule while traveling. She says, “The first couple of nights you don’t sleep well on vacation. We adults might watch TV until we fall asleep or read longer than usual, even if we don’t do that at home. And some of us will even have a glass of wine or two.”

Davis advises, “Children are no different than we are. Parents expect too much from themselves and from children while traveling. Know that (children) need some time to adjust. Period.”

Squeeze in naps

If your child is still taking naps, Davis suggests returning to the hotel room to put your child down midday. When I asked what she thinks of using long car rides or stroller walks to induce vacation naps, Davis said although she insists on regular naps in the child's crib or bed at home, “On vacation the naps may take place in strollers and in cars and at the beach. It’s sleep, but it’s junky sleep. But you have to do what you can to make (the naps) happen.”

Arrive before bedtime

According to Davis, reaching your destination before your child’s bedtime allows you to start off your vacation on the right foot. Getting a good first night of sleep is better than playing catch-up throughout your stay.

Recreate bedtime routines

Davis says, “You (might) blow their naps, but be sure get them to sleep at night.” To do that, you should stick to at-home bedtime rituals even while on vacation, such as reading stories, taking a bath, or singing lullabies.

Make it feel familiar

Davis suggests bringing along your own crib sheets so the new environment will feel like home. This is because babies and young children rely much more on their sense of smell than do older kids and adults.

Book more than one room or divide the room in two

Davis recommends booking more than one room while traveling with children. She says, “If you can, get a suite or condo. It will always make your vacation so much better.”

If you must bunk down with the kids, Davis recommends using a visual barrier by hanging a bed sheet so your children can’t see you. “If they can see you, they’re going to want mommy and daddy.”

Break some rules

You should follow strict guidelines for ensuring good sleep 80 percent of the time, according to Davis. She says, “Break the rules 20 percent of the time. Vacation should be your 20 percent.” She compared strict sleep habits to a strict diet while on vacation, saying, “No one wants to eat salad every night on vacation!”

Davis Ehler 3-Day Sleep Solutions Author and Family

Sleep Specialist Davis Ehler with her three daughters

Get back on track at home

Davis says, “Have a blast on vacation. Then, have the tools to get back on track when you get home.” She warns that it will take another two to three days for the family’s schedule to return to normal after the trip, just as it took a few days of adjustment at the start of the vacation. To do that, get back into a regular nap and bedtime routine right away. “Don’t bring your vacation habits home with you.”

Do you agree with Davis’s suggestions for getting children to sleep on vacation?  Do you have any sleep tips you’d like to share?  Let us know in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.


  1. Exceptional, I passed this on to a friend of mine, and he actually bought me lunch because I found this for him, so let me rephrase: Thanks for lunch.

  2. Can you share Davis Ehler contact info please?
    I’d like to ask for help with my kids

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Deborah – Sure! Here is the email listed on her blog: davis(at)3daysleepsolution.com. Good luck getting some better sleep in your household!

  3. I think it’s more safe take a baby on travel when he/her anti-body activates aside from the vaccines. Thanks for sharing your toughts.


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