Travel Tips – Surviving The Travel Day


Mar 14, 2024

Today we are talking all about travel – car travel and plane travel. (I’m sorry, I’ve never been on a train with my kids, but when I do one day, I’ll talk about that!!) 

I want to dig into all the questions that my clients ask me once their child is finally sleeping well. They want to know: Can I travel? What do I do? How do I take the show on the road?? And that’s the whole premise to this conversation today. You will be confident on surviving the travel day after reading my tips!

So first of all, if you have a child who knows how to sleep, then congratulations!! You are in a great spot to travel because you can take their amazing sleep skills and take it on the road, or take it to the sky. 

If you are someone who is looking to help your child sleep, then I want you to know that once they understand independent, self-soothing sleep, they will be able to be a great sleeper. 

A lot of families are worried when they first hear about our sleep programs because they don’t want a rigid schedule. They don’t want their child’s schedule to be what determines their vacations or what they do. They want to be able to go out and enjoy their life and all that good stuff. 

And while you are a parent and it’s just part of the game to look at your child’s schedule and be accommodating to that, we can be flexible!!  You can enjoy a night out every now and then and it’s totally fine! 

The freedom that comes when your child sleeps is amazing. And so you really CAN have a child who sleeps well and goes on vacation (and sleeps well there, too!)

So let’s jump in to my top tips on traveling by car or by air, and how to frame your entire sleep + travel experience to begin with!



The first thing to know here, whether you are traveling in a car or in an airplane, is survival is the name of the game. 

So please think about the travel day as giving everyone a big old heaping pile of grace, because your kid is not going to sleep when they’re supposed to. They might sleep every now and then.  If they’re on a 2-nap schedule, they might get 3 naps. If they’re on a 1-nap schedule, they might get 2. Or, hey, if  they’re like my girls, they’re not going to sleep at all, and that’s just how it’s going to be. 

When you travel, all of the rules go out the window!



      Tip #1 – Adjust your nap expectations.

When you are in the car, it’s going to be bright. There’s not going to be all the things that we have at home. You’re not going to do a nap time routine, you’re not going to have a structured naptime, and that’s okay. You’re just going to deal with it. 

Tip # 2 – Right away, set up where your child will sleep.

When you finally get to your destination, no matter if you had a 3-hour car ride or a 15-hour car ride, whenever you get to your destination, the first thing I want you to do is set up the place your child is going to sleep. 

Now, this could be whether you’re staying there for a while or if you’re just there for half a day. By all means set up a Pack N Play when you first arrive because maybe they’ll have a nap there, or maybe they’ll start their bedtime there for you to wake them up to go later, or they’re sleeping there. Set up their room first.

Tip #3: Put them down for an early bedtime.

But if you’re definitely there to stay for a while, I want you to set up your child’s room so that they’re ready for an early bedtime. 

It’s going to happen. They’re going to need to go to bed early because of the travel day and you’re really going to need to get them some sleep. 

They’ll be craving what they missed out on during the day because the car nap is not the same quality. Sunshine is filtering in, there are disturbances from the road, you’re stopping and starting, all sorts of things are happening. You don’t sleep well in cars, and neither does your kid. 

So they’re going to nap every now and then in the car and it’s going to be enough to get them through, but they will need an early bedtime. 

Tip #4: Do your normal bedtime routine.

So when you’ve arrived at your destination, after you set up their room, acclimate them to their new surroundings. Then I would ask you to get them down 30 to 60 minutes early, or maybe depending on what the day was like, even sooner. 

When it’s time, you’ll begin your bedtime routine. The really amazing part of this bedtime routine is the strategy. It is the thing that’s going to help them fall asleep. You’re giving them cues by giving them a bath, maybe feed or give playtime, read books, and then into bed.

They know the game. They know exactly what to do and they know how to do it. They’re prepared, and that’s really encouraging. 

Tip #5: Bring comfort items. 

So let’s back up to the whole beginning of being in the car. I would love for you to take stuffed animals or blankets or loveys, if they use them. 

If your child is under the age of one, typically, we don’t need to add anything. But if they have something that they use as a comfort item, then by all means, bring that favorite item to bring in the car. 

My favorite things to bring in the car are swaddle blankets! We have not used swaddle blankets in a while but they are an amazing thing to bring as a lightweight layer. 

If it’s hot in the car, but they just need something to hold on to, it’s there for them. If it’s chilly in the car, it’s an extra layer. If we need to block the sun because it’s coming in at a weird angle, then, there you go, swaddle blankets to the rescue. I find that they are all-purpose and make it really fun. I love to give both of the girls a different one with a different pattern to help them. 

One last mom tip… so because you have control of the stereo in the car, please, please, please pull up the Relax Melodies app and play some white noise! It will be so beneficial. Or you can be like me and play the eternity sound on Relax Melodies, which is like a zen-ful spa. I really enjoy that.

Tip #6: How to actually set up your room

So when you are in your destination, you brought these comfort items, you’ve got their stuffed animals, you’ve got their blankets, all that good stuff, and you have their bed set up. You’re either using a pack ‘n’ play. a crib, a toddler bed, or a bed. 

I also want you to ensure you’ve got that same white noise, whether you’re using an app on an extra iPad, or you’ve brought the real white noise machine. 

I also want you to have the windows completely blacked out. You can see my tips for how to do this here but you know that I’m a BIG fan of the SlumberPod and that’s one of my absolute favorite travel hacks that I wish existed when my girls were babies! You can read all about the SlumberPod here and use this link to save $$$ on your order! (And, if you’re traveling by air, the Slumberpod will fit in your carryon!)

When your child has a great environment to sleep in, they’re going to sleep well, so we want to recreate the same thing that we have at home.



So this is even more of a survival than the car, because you’re gonna break and you’re gonna bend and you’re gonna do all these different things that you normally do at home. 

Tip #1: Bend the rules

You’re going to be in the airport and on the airplane, and they might have to sleep on you so listen. I want you to enjoy it! Have those memories come flooding back to you of what it’s like to actually sleep with your kid and have them on you in a safe way now because I want you to enjoy that. Bring the baby carrier, have the stroller, let them sleep on you, whatever the deal is. 

Now just FYI – you cannot bring the baby carrier and have your baby sleep in the baby carrier while you’re in your seat on the plane. It’s happened to me where I had a nice sleeping baby in my baby carrier and had to wake her up to take her out. That was frustrating. So just be prepared! 

Tip #2: Be flexible on the travel day!

I actually had a client who traveled from Louisiana over to California to go to Yosemite. Their child was a champ! He slept when they were hiking in Yosemite, did amazing in the backpacking carrier, but that boy did not sleep a single bit on the airplane ride. That’s a long ride! He didn’t sleep at all, so they got to California, they jumped right into the new time zone (which is what I advise them to do) and they did an early bedtime and got him to sleep as soon as they could. 

But you know what, it was just a survival day. So the next day they got right back into their expectations and he was a champ!

Tip #3: Get back on track the next day.

On a travel day, know that you are going to do whatever is possible and your kid may or may not sleep! But we’re gonna get right back on track the next day. And I really would ask you to do that because it will take 24 hours for your child to get back on track after an off day. That’s why it’s important, even when you’re on vacation, to keep those sacred nap times and that sacred bedtime. 

Yes, every now and then you can bend the rules, but on vacation don’t make it every night. Otherwise, you’re going to be miserable, and your kid will regress, they’ll have bad nights, and you have to make a bigger adjustment back to good sleep habits.



Overall, you really CAN have a child who sleeps well and goes on vacation (and sleeps well there, too!) Whether you are traveling by air or by car, you can keep sleep a thing!! 

Here are my top tips for you if you’re traveling by car:

  • Adjust your nap expectations.
  • Right away, set up where your child will sleep.
  • Put them down for an early bedtime.
  • Do your normal bedtime routine.
  • Bring comfort items. 
  • Set up your room environment like home (Bonus tip: check out the SlumberPod for this!)

And here are my top tips for traveling by air:

  • Bend the rules
  • Be flexible on the travel day!
  • Get back on track the next day.

Lastly, remember that when you travel, survival is the name of the game. Please think about the travel day as giving everyone a big old heaping pile of grace, because your kid is not going to sleep when they’re supposed to. 

All of the rules go out the window, and that’s okay! Because when sleep is a thing, you can always get back on track the following day.

Enjoy your travels, and sweet dreams!



Here's all my TOP tips on how to survive the travel day with your child!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Keep sleep a thing on vacation with the Little Z's Travel Guide!