One of the most perplexing questions when traveling with babies, toddlers, and young kids is where to put them to bed at night. There are a variety of options, none of which are as ideal as your child’s own crib in a quiet room alone. On the road, however, you have to learn to be flexible. The right answer to the question of where your baby or toddler should sleep is different in different travel situations. My family has utilized almost all of the options below at different locations and at different stages in our daughter’s (and now our son’s) life.
Factors to Consider When Planning Where Your Baby or Toddler Will Sleep
Before we dive into specific sleep solutions and products, a few general guidelines are helpful. Before any trip, these are the four questions I usually ask myself when evaluating the sleep options available to me.
- What is Your Child’s Age?
Planning a travel sleep solution for a newborn is very different than one you might use for an older toddler. Different safety factors are obviously in play, but also very different practical challenges. A young baby might fall asleep easily even when there are some distractions, but an alert toddler might not be able to sleep with other things happening in a small hotel room. Be prepared for your sleep strategy to change with each passing trip as your child gets older.
- What is your Child’s Personality?
The right travel sleep setup will also depend a lot on the personality of your child. As the parent of two kiddos with very different personalities, I learned this lesson quickly. My independent and active daughter needed a quiet and separate place to sleep successfully when we traveled. My snuggly and sweet son was happy anywhere cozy and near mom. Before purchasing a product or bringing it with you on a trip without ever testing it out, consider carefully whether it’s a fit for how your child rolls!
- What Kind of Accommodations Will You Be Staying In?
The right sleeping setup will also depend heavily on where you are staying. Figuring out where a small child should sleep in a hotel room is tricky. There’s often not a ton of space and there is rarely any separation to block light and sound, unless you opt for suites-style hotels or adjoining rooms. Staying in a vacation rental, condo, or even at grandma and grandpa’s house usually means more space and more separation, making different sleep solutions more viable.
7 Places Your Baby or Toddler Could Sleep When Traveling
So now that you know what factors to keep in mind, let’s get on to some specific sleep solutions! Here are 7 products and places our kids have slept successfully, whether in hotel rooms, vacation rentals, or visiting family.
- Bed Sharing
Bed sharing is obviously an easy travel solution that requires no gear or preparation. I was never much of a co-sleeper with my independent daughter, but have done it on occasion with my son. The major downside is that you may get no sleep if you have a squirmy little one, especially if you aren’t used to sharing a family bed.
Confirm that you will have a bed big enough for co-sleeping at your destination before you take off without an alternative. And if you have an infant, also consider carefully whether co-sleeping is something you feel you can do safely (and consult with your pediatrician if you have questions!).
- Pack n Play or Travel Crib
A Pack n Play is a product so many families have, and it can work well for sleep in many travel situations. A Pack n Play works for a variety of ages, from infants up to toddler up to about 30 pounds. They can be easily set up in a quiet corner of a hotel room (or even a walk-in closet!). And the basic models are pretty inexpensive too.
Pack n Plays are also a great solution for sleeping at grandma and grandpa’s house. Order a cheap version to keep permanently at their house for all the grandkids to use.
- Hotel Crib
If you are staying in a hotel, most major hotel chains will provide a crib to you at no extra cost when you travel with a baby or a toddler. This solution is great for certain types of travel when you can trust that the hotel will have something safe, comfortable, and clean for your child.
So what are the risks and pitfalls to be aware of with hotel cribs? First, many hotels will state that they have a “crib” on their website, but when you arrive, you will be given a Pack n Play. In our experience, this worked out fine because our children were equally comfortable in a Pack n Play as they were in a crib. I know many children, however who never got used to a Pack n Play for whom the difference is essential! Call ahead to confirm exactly what kind of crib you will receive if this is an issue for your child.
Second, also be aware that most hotel cribs are more compact than a full size crib you will have in your home. Bigger toddlers may not always fit.
Leslie Harvey. “Where Should My Baby or Toddler Sleep in Our Travels?”.