Whatever your mode of transport, be it car, train, plane or something else, if there’s one thing that’s probably top of your mind right now it’s figuring out what your baby can sleep in while traveling.
When answering what a baby sleeps in when away from home, some common (and of course safe) options include a hotel crib or pack n play, travel crib, bassinet, box or even a dresser draw.
But what about co-sleeping, sofas and car seats – are these safe?
And is there anything you can do to make things more comfortable for your little one (and by extension mom and dad) when your baby is sleeping away from home?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
What Do Babies Sleep In When Traveling?
1. Hotel Crib or Pack N Play
An obvious first step if you’re going to stay in a hotel is to ask if they could provide you with a crib.
Most of the time where a hotel does have this option, it tends to actually be a pack n play, which is pretty close to the same thing although not as sturdy or as comfortable (it will still do the job just fine, but there are things you can do to make a pack n play more comfortable).
The great thing about your hotel providing a crib is that this tends to be at no extra charge, and it will save you having to bring your own travel crib (see below).
As a word of warning, keep in mind that it’s up to you to check that whatever provided is safe and reliable for use, and remember also that cribs vary in size.
So if you’re traveling with a toddler, you might want to enquire about the exact size of the crib provided.
2. Travel Crib
If space is less of an issue, for example if you are traveling by car or have a large suitcase, then a travel crib will probably be your best option.
As you’d expect, these are designed to be lightweight, foldable and to take up as little space as possible when folded up and not in use.
Prices can vary from $50 to $300 or more, but the good thing is you should get a lot of use out of your travel crib because the same one can typically be used from birth all the way to around 3 years of age.
Pamo Babe Portable Crib Baby Playpen with Mattress and Carry Bag ($62.99, Amazon)
When your child is very small (i.e. during the newborn phase), your best bet might be a travel or portable bassinet.
Bassinets are typically small, lightweight and will usually fold up into a small enough size that can fit in a medium to large suitcase.
One of the main advantages of a bassinet is that it provides a convenient way of having your baby nearby when sleeping.
As we covered in a recent article, bassinets are lightweight, compact enough to fit in even the smallest of rooms, and easy to move around the house.
Related: Do Bassinets Need Sheets
And they are the most comfortable and cozy option for a young baby because they are designed with newborns in mind, so proportionally they are a more appropriate size for a young baby compared to a crib.
I Have No Crib – Where Should My Baby Sleep?
No crib? No problem.
Here are two options you can turn to when you simply don’t have a crib or bassinet to turn to.
You might be surprized to learn that cardboard boxes have long been used by parents in Finland, which has the world’s lowest infant mortality rate.
To be clear, what we’re talking about here is a cardboard box with a thin mattress that can be used for a sleep space.
You simply set the box on a dry floor, remove the lid and do not close it when your baby is in the box.
5. Dresser Draw
If there are no other options available, all hope is not lost.
That’s because as a last resort and as a temporary measure, you can remove a drawer from a dresser, empty it, and place it on the floor for your baby to sleep in.
Make sure it has a thin, firm padding, and if you’re using a mattress, ensure it fits snugly.
Unsafe Places For Babies To Sleep
We’ve looked at five options as to where a baby can sleep when traveling.
But there are probably other areas you may have considered that are not safe for one reason or another, be it because they can increase the risk of SIDS, suffocation or the chances of your baby falling and injuring themselves.
Here are some unsafe places for a baby to sleep in at any time, whether traveling or not:
- Your Bed: Not only could they fall off, but your child could become crushed by you if you roll over and lie on top of them while you’re sleeping. So for safety reasons it’s best not to co-share a bed with your young baby.
- Inflatable Mattress or Waterbeds: These aren’t firm, so if your baby ends up face down they might struggle to breathe and suffocate.
- Sofa: Your baby could easily become trapped with their face pressed up against the side or back of the couch, making it hard or impossible to breathe.
- Car Seat (not for extended periods / overnight): A baby has difficulty keeping their head in a good position when in car and bouncy seats. If their head falls forward it can block their airway and again cause them to suffocate.
- Bouncy Seat or Rocker: For the same reason as above.
Tips To Encourage Good Baby & Toddler Sleep When Traveling
If you are traveling with a newborn baby, infant or toddler, then the last thing you need is the added stress of a child who isn’t sleeping well.
Here are five things you can do to help ensure your little one sleeps as well as possible while away from home.
- Recreate the environment at home: If you use white noise, sleep sacks, pacifiers and blackout curtains at home, it’s important to bring these items on your trip as well. And remember to dress your baby for sleep based on the room temperature rather than the outside temperature, and to use the correct TOG sleepwear.
- Chose your travel time wisely: If you are traveling only a short distance then try and time your journey with their nap. For long distances and overseas journeys, you might want to consider a night flight as your baby will hopefully sleep on the plane just as they would at home.
- Choose your accommodation type even more wisely: Something that can be a real life-saver when you’re away with your child is having a separate space in your accommodation in which you can set up their crib or bassinet. That means a separate space, or better yet, their own room.
- Maintain your child’s usual bedtime routine: Simple but effective.
- Aim for one good nap per day: Trips and vacations can be tiring for adults, let alone for your baby or toddler. You might be tempted to plan as much into your schedule as possible to make the most of your vacation, but that will quickly backfire if you end up with an overtired or cranky baby! So make sure you build in plenty of time for your child to sleep during the day, or else you may find yourself dealing with an overtired baby who finds it even harder to fall asleep.