Traveling with Kids: How to Maintain Sleep and Routine on Summer Trips

Summer is just around the corner and while it seems to be the perfect time for family vacations, traveling with infants and toddlers can often disrupt their routines and sleep, both day and night. 

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While maintaining a sense of normalcy away from home can be challenging, with a little planning and some key “ingredients”, you can set your family up for sleep success on-the-go and *hopefully* make it a true vacation and not just a “trip” you need to recover from once you are home. 

Here at full feedings we specialize in infant and toddler sleep, so we wanted to share our best “ingredients” for parents to keep their little one’s sleep and routine on track while traveling this summer, while keeping their sanity too.

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tips for traveling with kids

Plan your travel around your little one’s routine.
When planning your actual travel, consider what your infant / toddler’s daily routine looks like. Try to leave in the car or book flights around their nap times / bedtime so they can sleep for some / all of the trip. This will make the trip itself much more enjoyable for everyone.

TIP: Red-eyes can actually be a great time to travel with infants & toddlers because the atmosphere is dark and quiet and this is helpful in supporting sleep. If you do travel at night, the key is to not offer milk / feeds to your baby if it’s not their normal time to eat. Doing so can disrupt their circadian rhythm and this can make sleep more challenging.

tips for traveling with kidstips for traveling with kids

Stick to your routine as best as possible.

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While traveling and when you arrive at your destination, try to stick to your little one’s routine as best as you can. No, it’s not going to be perfect and yes, you are going to need to be flexible, but try to recreate your home routine on-the-go. Keeping your routine similar to “home” can help your little one adjust more quickly which can make the trip better for everyone.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to do contact naps during travel. This can be a great time for other family members to spend more time with your little ones, which will give you some freedom to enjoy yourself.

If you are “out” during bedtime, try to work to get & keep your little one asleep from bedtime on and try not to add feeds into the mix, if it’s not a “normal” feed time. Of course if your little one didn’t eat normally during the day and they wake at night on vacation, you should ALWAYS feed them if you think they are hungry.

tips for traveling with kidstips for traveling with kids

Remember, if you get off track with your routine, try to get back on track the next day. Going rogue with your little one’s routine is okay, as long as it doesn’t become the norm.


Plan ahead.

Think ahead about what you will need to help support your little one’s sleep and make sure it’s packed. This includes all the essentials: milk, pajamas, sleep sacks, pacifiers, familiar books, stuffie friends (if old enough), etc.


tips for traveling with kidstips for traveling with kidsSome helpful items / tips:


Sleep Environment – If your baby / toddler is old enough, check out Slumber Pods for travel sleep solutions, including a portable pod that covers your pack ‘n play to black out the sleep environment and an inflatable toddler mattress. If you think ahead, you can have these items shipped to your destination for one👏🏻less👏🏻thing👏🏻to👏🏻pack👏🏻.


Portable White Noise – Before leaving home download a white noise app to an old iPad or iPhone, to use during travel for all sleeps. Don’t be afraid to throw some white noise on during nap time in the car / plane, as it can really help to drown out unfamiliar noise that could compromise sleep.


Try a bouncer for daytime sleep. If you are just traveling for the day or want an option for daytime sleep on a longer trip, a baby bouncer can be an essential item to pack due to its versatility – baby can sleep in it or they can sit in it for some hands free parenting time. My favorite is the Baby Bjorn Soft Seat. NOTE: This can only be used until approximately 6-months old or whenever baby is sitting.


If you are formula feeding… You may not be able to bring your bottle warmer and warm milk on-the-go. Many formulas have ready-to-feed formula options which can be helpful for travel. It’s not always the most cost effective option but it can save a lot of stress with milk preparation while you’re busy living life.

tips for traveling with kidstips for traveling with kids

If you are changing time zones…

you can gradually adjust your child’s (and your) routine to the new time zone a few days before your trip to prepare. This may mean waking them up a little earlier / using a slightly earlier bedtime (if you are traveling West) or using an extra-nap to start to move bedtime later & start of day time later (if you are traveling East).

Once you arrive at your destination, spend time outside (especially in the morning hours) to allow the natural light to help synchronize your internal clock to adjust to the new time zone more easily. NOTE: Avoid direct sunlight exposure to you / your baby’s eyes.

tips for traveling with kidstips for traveling with kids

Bring or find local help.

It may not be feasible to hire an extra set of hands to help with your little people, but it’s definitely worth looking into. If you are visiting friends, ask if they know of a teenager you can “hire” as a mother’s helper or someone who can stay home during nap time while you go out for a little bit to enjoy yourself. Or maybe it’s just having an extra set of hands at the pool so you can relax a little more. You never want to compromise your comfort level on this one, but asking around to find someone who is looking for work can be helpful to enjoy your trip more fully.


Prioritize sleep, be flexible, and try to find a perfect balance.

You are traveling for a reason and we want your trip to be as enjoyable as possible, but don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for the whole family to be able to enjoy themselves. Nobody wants to deal with a cranky infant or toddler, while trying to enjoy the day, so make sure sleep is still a priority while traveling. There may be days when naps are all on-the-go or bedtime is a bit later due to evening plans, but the key ingredient is trying to strike the perfect balance between keeping your routines and enjoying your vacation.


With summer vacations on the horizon, traveling with infants and toddlers might seem daunting, but with careful planning and key “ingredients”, you can maintain your little one’s sleep routine and enjoy a relaxing getaway. 

At full feedings®, we’re dedicated to supporting your family’s sleep needs, and offer affordable Online Sleep Programs (with options for email and phone support) to help you establish & maintain consistent nighttime sleep, even while traveling.

Sleep is possible and we’d love to show you how and in the meantime, safe travels and happy sleeping, fam!


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