7 Tips to Get Baby to Sleep While on the Go

Help baby catch some zzz’s so they—and you—can enjoy a fuss-free trip.
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By Cassie Kreitner, Senior Editor
Updated July 23, 2020
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Image: Crystal Sing

It can often feel pretty challenging to get baby to sleep in their own crib, so the thought of leaving the familiar confines of home to travel with baby is likely something else entirely—especially when it comes to that first overnight trip. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay close to home for baby’s entire first year. With a little preparation and the right gear on your packing list, traveling with baby doesn’t have to be stressful. Read on for tips and tricks that will help baby sleep soundly when away from home.

1. Take Along Some Comforts of Home

Finding little ways to simulate your nursery will make a big difference when putting baby at ease in an unfamiliar place. Pack whatever you can fit (within reason) to replicate baby’s sleep routine, such as a favorite lovey, white noise machine, swaddle blanket or bedtime story.

2. Plan Ahead for Plane and Car Rides

Facing an epic road trip to Grandma’s? Planning a flight for a family vacation? However you’re traveling, try to schedule it during baby’s regular naptime so they can grab some good rest along the way. To make the car more sleep-friendly, install a sunshade on baby’s window and clip toys and pacifiers (if you use them) to the car seat. That way, you won’t have to pull over if something strays from baby’s grasp.

3. Buy an Extra Plane Seat

Kids under the age of 2 fly free on most airlines, but if you can spring for an extra seat, it will be a better trip for everyone. Not only can baby sleep better in a car seat than on your lap, it’s also safer in the event of turbulence. (Just remember, babies shouldn’t be in a car seat for more than 2 hours during a 24 hour period and car seats are not a replacement for a crib or bassinet.) If you can’t justify the extra cost, book a bulkhead seat that accommodates a bassinet attachment; many international flights offer these cots for babies up to 20 pounds.

4. Use a Travel System

You might be tempted to bring a lightweight umbrella stroller on your trip, and while that’ll take up less room in the trunk of your car, you’re better off bringing your travel system. Depending on where you’re heading, car seats may not be readily available in taxis or at the homes or hotels you’re visiting, so having your own will make things easier. Plus, it’s not as disruptive to snap a sleeping baby’s car seat into a stroller. Most planes will let you check or gate-check car seats and strollers free of charge, so you won’t have to worry about getting it on and off the plane yourself.

5. Stock Up on Overnight Diapers

Babies tend to get fussy when they’re in need of a diaper change, so put yours in an overnight diaper—even during the daytime—if you have a few hours of travel ahead of you. This will be comfier for baby and prevent you from having to change diapers in less-than-ideal spaces or at inconvenient times.

6. Use Feeding to Your Advantage

Feeding baby or giving them a pacifier during takeoff and landing will help soothe and adjust their ears to the change in air pressure. If you breastfeed and you’re not totally comfortable nursing in public or in an unfamiliar place, pack a nursing cover that can double as a blanket.

7. Stick to Your Schedule

Help baby (and yourself, for that matter) adjust to a change of scenery by keeping your child’s daily routine as unchanged as possible. It may be tough when there are people to see and places to go, but mapping out the day’s itinerary more or less the same way you would at home will keep your tiny travel companion happy and well rested.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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