Leaving all the gear and comforts of home for a family trip is both exciting and annoying. I’m thinking about sleeping. As a Mama MacGyver, setting up a kids travel bed for my little ones is approximately one part fort and two parts laundry basket with some familiar loveys from home.
Tiny babies: It may be controversial but I think anyone who weighs less than 15 lbs does not require a real bed. In Finland, they sleep in boxes. In my family, newborns sleep in their bucket-style infant car seats overnight (or not sleep, as the case may be).
Once, I borrowed a swing to use overnight when visiting my in-laws with a three-month old; we used the contraption below in a giant walk-in closet.
[Baby Sawyer loves sleeping in a swing]
Protip: I also like to give extra love in the form of a simple infant massage right before bed in a strange place to put my babies at ease before hoping that they sleep. I live in Berkeley, this is true.
Big babies and toddlers: I love the pack-n-play style travel cribs for little ones between about five months and three years. I also have to give a shout-out to the BabyBjörn version that a parent can climb into to soothe a kiddo in need of more cuddles (of course, sneaking out is not so easy!).
If you’re driving, go ahead and shove it in the trunk. If flying, borrow or rent one at your destination.
Protip: It is easy to bring familiar security objects and sheets from home to make a strange bed on the road smell and feel more like home. We also travel with a white noise machine app to cover any mysterious travel noises.
[Baby Milo has all the comforts of home in his portable crib]
Big toddlers and preschoolers: Let the fun begin! These kids are not so easily fooled by a little rub-down and a security blanket. In fact, bedtime seems to provoke the beastliness and energy I would hope for on a hike. (But why, when we go out for a hike, do they suddenly need to be carried?)
If we’re traveling to friends’ homes, we can often use a sleeping bag on a rug thanks to my children’s training in the arts of group floor napping at daycare. But if we’re in a hotel (with questionably clean carpet), I like to build a protective “nest” out of every available sheet and towel. Luckily, my boys are up for the adventure of sleeping in a Special Nest, too. Win-win.
Protip: A sleepy audio-book can let the room be dark and the story continue until we’re all asleep. We also travel with our favorite flashlights and nightlights to ease those midnight runs to the potty.
[Preschoolers Milo and Holden demonstrate the sleeping bag nest combo]
Have you invented any creative sleep places for your kids while traveling? Anything that absolutely didn’t work?