Road Trip Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers
While your family’s island getaway or European tour may have come to a halt this summer due to COVID-19, more families are planning road trips and renting RVs for a safer summer vacation. If you have young children you know that even planning a trip to the grocery store can be an ordeal, so how can you be best prepared for a road trip with babies and toddlers? At Newton, we know one of the biggest struggles parents face is creating and maintaining healthy sleep routines. It may be tempting to just throw your baby’s sleep schedule out the window when on vacation, but often this can just make the whole family more miserable. The good news is you can still enjoy a road trip without sacrificing your baby’s sleep (or yours!). Here’s how:
1) Stick to Sleep Schedules Before the Trip
The days before embarking on a road trip can be hectic. Packing snacks and choosing outfits for the whole family is no easy task! However, it’s still important to focus on getting a great night’s sleep before you leave. When your little one is well-rested before the trip, you can prevent crankiness and meltdowns in the car. It’s just as important for Mom and Dad to prioritize their own sleep before the car ride. Overtired parents can be more impatient and more likely to make unsafe decisions while driving. This is all to say don’t let your long list of pre-vacation errands let you ease up on nap times or bedtime routines. It’s a challenge, but can help you start your vacation on the right foot!
2) Plan Driving Around Sleep Schedules
This one is often easier said than done, but planning your driving times around your baby’s sleep schedule can help you focus on driving. For shorter road trips that can be completed in less than a day, try driving at night! Not only can you avoid traffic, but you can get in a few solid hours of driving without having to entertain, soothe, or feed your little ones. If you’re making a longer journey or are lucky enough to have an RV, you can take a similar approach by planning driving hours around your little one’s daily naps! Try to get the majority of driving out of the way while they sleep and plan family visits, sightseeing, and mealtimes when your kids are typically most awake and active.
Even if you're unable to fully plan your trip around their sleep schedule, maintain their normal nap times as much as possible. Again, you might think skipping naps altogether in exchange for fun activities will be worth it, but we can guarantee you’ll only end up with cranky babies and overtired toddlers.
NOTE: While it’s okay to let your baby fall asleep in their car seat for short, supervised naps, a car seat cannot be used instead of a crib. Be careful of your baby’s positioning in their car seat and check them often if they’re sleeping. Though it’s extremely rare, sleeping in a semi-upright position can cause positional asphyxiation, which is when a slumped-forward head restricts a baby’s breathing. A 2015 retrospective study of 47 infant deaths found that 31 of them occurred in car seats.
3) Recreate a Familiar & Safe Sleep Space
Luckily, many babies are lulled to sleep by the motion of a car, but others have a hard time falling asleep anywhere outside of their crib or bed. The best way to fight this is to recreate a familiar and safe sleep space.
Whether you’re making stops at hotels or plan to sleep in your RV to social distance as much as possible, you can bring the comfort of Newton with you with our Crib Mattress Pad! Not only does it add breathability to any ordinary hotel crib mattress or pack n’ play, but it can add some familiarity for your baby as well.
Most RVs do not come equipped with a crib, but it’s essential that you maintain safe sleep standards. That means creating a dedicated sleep space for your baby where they can sleep alone, on their backs, and in a crib. If they’re under six months old, a portable bassinet might do the trick or if they’re a bit older a pack n’ play that fits on board is a perfectly safe alternative to a crib.
Some of our favorite sleep tools when traveling with babies:
- Newton Crib Mattress Pad
- Newton Swaddle Blankets
- Pack n’ play or portable bassinet
- Portable sound machine
- Blackout curtains or black garbage bags to cover windows
- A playlist of your favorite lullabies
- Lots of books for bedtime
- Familiar blankets or stuffed animals (but not in the crib for babies under one)
4) Relax & Manage Expectations
Everyone needs a fun and safe getaway especially after months of being cooped up at home. Don’t let your fear of ruining your baby’s sleep schedule let you postpone travel until they’re older! When you’re traveling with little ones you can’t prepare for everything no matter how much you plan ahead. Try to maintain structured sleep schedules, but remember that if you miss a nap or bedtime is pushed a little late one night of your trip - it will be okay. Even if your little ones do miss a few naps on your road trip, you can successfully return to a structured sleep schedule when you return home.