Sleeping Well on Vacation

Travel Sleeping

Summer is coming quickly, and family travel is popular this time of year. While vacations can be fun for the whole family, they come with struggles, too. Keeping young children well rested while on vacation can be a challenge, but there are ways you can make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.


If your family is taking a short drive, leave 30 minutes to an hour before nap time. Your child will adjust to being in the car, and fall asleep around his or her normal nap time. If the trip is longer, consider traveling around bedtime or through the night, as your child will likely sleep in the car. Before leaving, put your child in his or her pajamas and conduct your normal bedtime routine. Once you arrive, transition your child to his or her sleep space. Make sure you offer naps often the next day, as your child will be tired from the drive.


Book early morning flights if possible. Children handle schedule changes better after a full night of sleep. Once you arrive, you have most of the day remaining for fun and time to adjust to a different time zone, if necessary.

Time Zone Changes

Adopt the new time as soon as you arrive — especially when it comes to meals. Let your child sleep when he or she becomes tired the first day. Make sure bedtime is early, and start the next day by opening the blinds and enjoying the morning sun. Follow your child’s daily schedule according to the new time zone.

Sleep Environment

If you’re staying in a hotel, consider booking a suite (or connecting rooms), and give your child a separate room. This will allow you to watch television or read at night. If you’re sharing a room, keep the room dark to promote sleep. Use e-readers or tablets with headphones. Whether you are staying in a hotel, renting a house or staying with family or friends, try to keep your child’s sleep environment similar to his or her room at home.


Stick to your normal daily schedule and routine as much as possible with respect to naps and bedtime. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, plan events around naps and bedtimes to protect sleep as much as possible. By protecting your child’s sleep, you can have an “off-schedule” day 20 percent of the time. Children who are well rested are more likely able to manage a day with less quality sleep, so your activities will still be enjoyable.

Packing Tips

– A travel blackout blind (or use black garbage bags to block out sunlight)

– A white noise machine

– A crib sheet or pillowcase from your child’s bed (so it smells like home)

– Favorite books

– An animal to cuddle with (but not for babies younger than 1 year)

Julia Walsh is a mother of two and a certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina. Contact her at or



Categories: Health, Travel