Baby sleeps on a piece of luggage next to a globe - helping kids find nap time on the roadhelping kids find nap time on the road

Helping kids find nap time on the road

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When families hit the road with little ones, it is inevitable that parents will have to deal with “The Nap”. Kids need it, and if they don’t get it then everyone will feel the pain! There are great health benefits for those who travel, but those can be washed away without proper sleep. With every family’s travel style being different, we thought we would map out our tips for helping kids find nap time on the road to help new parents prepare for their early adventures as a growing tribe.

Getting Prepared – Helping kids find nap time on the road

Before you hit the road, skies, water or hiking paths with your little one there are a few things that are good to have organized before you go. The better prepared you are and the more you know your tot, the happier everyone will be.

Get a routine established

Know when your child likes to crash so that you can arrange your schedule to accommodate them. It’s okay to move things around a little bit, but small kids and babies like routine so keeping them happy helps keep you happy.

Make sure you have their comfies ready!

Always make sure you childs comfie's are with you to help them feel safe - Helping kids find nap time on the road

Does your little one use a blanket, listen to music or snuggle a stuffie to help them get to sleep? Keeping it handy when traveling will help keep them cozy and happy. Our oldest loved having his penguin puppet “Meep Meep” with him and it gave him comfort and helped him nap. Our youngest loved having a soft blanket or cloth touching his mouth so we always had something handy for when he wanted to nod off. This also helps give your child something that smells and feels familiar.

Map out what your schedule

You can work around nap time as best as you can. You want to be able to have some incredible experiences too!

Prepare for time zones!

Sort out ahead of time if you will need to adjust to a new time zone. Start getting your little one ready a few days ahead of time by slowly adjusting their bed-time and wake-up routine. Sometimes it’s not necessary to change your schedule at all, simply sleep in and stay up late or vice-versa. When we traveled to Iceland, a 5 hour time difference for us, the sun was up almost 24 hours a day, so we just kept on with our regular schedule and routinely went to bed close to midnight.

Be flexible

When you’re traveling there can be a lot of excitement and change. For older toddlers, they can often adapt to change better, so letting them stay up later or get up earlier for tours isn’t always that painful.

Where can your Children Nap?

The best nap spot is completely dependent on your travel style. There are families who love the resort atmosphere, others on road trips, some having a day at the beach while others like my family can be anywhere from speeding along the autobahn to climbing a mountain. Whatever your favorite form of travel is, it’s always important to keep the kids in mind and prepare accordingly. Here are a few of our top nap locations when traveling.

The Apartment/Hotel Room

Yes, this option sucks for parents who will watch the hours slowly tick by as you wait for the little one to wake up. While this option will give your kids the best rest it will also eat into valuable time while you’re away. I would recommend this for those who have a base of operations on long-term travel (1 Week +).

Child sleeping in a hotel bed - helping kids find nap time on the road

Pack and Play

The pack and play is a portable crib. These things are great for little ones and parents. You can easily fit them in the trunk of a car and set up a bed for nap-time anywhere. Depending on your child’s nature it can be great setting it up in a shady spot outside or on the beach so parents can enjoy some sunshine and relaxation at nap time. The Pack and Play is a great tool for those who go out for the day but aren’t moving around too much. Check out the list of our favorite pack and plays and other family travel gear here.

Car Seat

The best time for a nap is the time that you would otherwise be doing nothing. Scheduling long travel times around nap time gives your kids a chance to crash out without impacting your exploration time. A great deal of our travels have time spent commuting between various destinations, and if you are an active traveler, then the downtime can be relaxing for everyone. If you have older siblings as well, keeping some quiet games or portable movies for them to focus on can help keep them from bothering their siblings and waking them up.

Two children sleep in car seats - helping kids find nap time on the road

Strollers

The stroller is the classic nap time tool for families on the go. If you travel with a comfortable stroller it helps take the weight off the parents and offers a relatively comfortable ride for the little ones as well. Strollers are excellent in cities and places where you have some relatively smooth ground to cover. If you’re in the market for a good travel stroller, make sure to get something light and easy to setup but is strong enough to handle being in the airline’s cargo hold.

Baby with sunglasses on sits in a stroller at the beach - helping kids find nap time on the road


Kid Carrier

Kid Carriers are a great way for active travelers to keep their kids close and comfortable on long days out. If you have an infant, then small carriers such as the Baby Bjorn are fantastic, however, if your kids are a bit bigger, moving to a larger carrier will make everyone’s day better.  We really loved our Deuter Kid-Carrier III. It was light, comfortable and durable, with tons of storage space and an easy to use kick-stand so you can place it on the ground without it toppling over. You can check the review of our favorite child carrier here.

Man walks on a glacier while carrying an infant in a kid carrier - helping kids find nap time on the road


Anywhere you can get them to fall asleep

Sometimes the greatest tip for traveling with a baby is just finding some shade and a place to lie down and if the stars align you will have a little-one snoozing away before you can even count to 10. Our kids have fallen asleep in a number of unique places such as:

  • On a snowmobile racing across a glacier in Iceland
  • In the hold of a schooner while whale watching on the Atlantic
  • On a horse riding down the Petra mountains in Jordan
  • On the deck of a sail-boat cruising through the Grenadines
  • Man sits on a snowmobile on an Icelandic Glacier with a sleeping child in his lap - helping kids find nap time on the road
    Man watches toddler nap in the hold of a schooner - helping kids find nap time on the road
    A young boy sleeps on horseback in the arms of his mother on the way down from the Petra Monastery in Jordan

In the end, our best advice is to just go with the flow. Vacation time is few and far between for most families so worrying about every detail will only eat into precious time. Your kids are likely better prepared for these adventures than you give them credit for so let them show you the best way for helping kids find nap time on the road. You can also check out our tips on how to plan for family travel here. Or how to plan for International family travel here.

Do you have your own advice, tips or tricks for helping kids find nap time on the road? We would love to get your comments below to help other parents with their travels!

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Kevin Wagar

Kevin Wagar is a creative designer and technology expert living in the Greater Toronto Area. His beautiful wife Christina impressed on him her love of travel and they have made exploring the world an integral part of their life.
With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that travelling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.
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46 Comments

  1. Our travel plans for the last 6 years hafe entirely revolved around nap time. Of course we have gotten better at letting them naturally slip in to the days plans but keeping that routine to the day no matter where you are in the world is one of the absolute essentials of family travel. Some top tips here to follow

  2. My kids were classic car nappers. When we would get established at wherever we were staying I would take cues from kids as to when they needed a few zzz’s.

  3. Great tips! I’m a grandparent and this is a big concern when I have the kids for the day. I’m just now adjusting to her growing out of the carrier..

  4. Ours rarely nap outside a car, carrier or a stroller (if we are out and about). I love how yours have just nodded off in the most fabulous of places. Priceless.

    1. Thanks Hilary! And that’s just scratching the surface. We have some pretty funny stories that we’ll avoid sharing since they’ll eventually choose what nursing home we’re put into 😛

  5. This is a great resource which I will share with all the new parents in our circles! We have always been very flexible with naps and sleep and I remember one time in Cambodia when Woody slept on a pillow at the bottom of a cupboard! My kids sleep better while travelling than at home!

  6. Our babes, 3yrs &18mo are good sleepers but we
    always tend to revolve our days where possible around their naps. After recently returning back from Malaysia (we are from Oz) we used their nap times to work out in the gym & I did a bit of shopping on my own. I do however, look forward to the days when naps are just a treat, not an absolute necessity…can’t believe I just said that ?

  7. I’d be completely lying if I said I missed nap times!! But I couldn’t agree more with your tips for folks who still fall under the “wee person in tow” umbrella. It’s pretty amazing how and where a child can fall asleep when tired enough!

  8. We travelled with willow at 10 months old for 6 weeks around Europe. she was always happy sleep in her stroller as we wandered around the city. So i say get a good stroller and a blanket and you are all set

  9. This might sound odd or like a pain, but the reason we always travel with our own car seats is because we know that we’ll need to get little people down for a nap the second we’ve obtained a car, so renting, adjusting, installing and adjusting again delays nap time. That’s our tip for helping kids sleep on the road. Oh, and NEVER EVER allow a bellman to assist with bags containing snuggly things. EVER.

  10. We are exiting nap time stage, but I remember being creative getting in naps while traveling. I will say, we were pretty lucky as our kids would sleep almost anywhere. If we could find a restaurant with a booth – the two of us would have a long lunch while the kiddos laid down right next to us!

  11. With child number 1 we tried to stick to regular nap times in a cot. Now with child number 3, we are much less rigid and hope that he just falls asleep when he’s tired! As long as we have the relevant animals / blankets / comforters (great tip!) the kids are happy!

  12. Go with the flow is the best advice for any traveler, with or without kids. I still love naps, many trips tire me out too:) Follow up to this blog should be- nap time for grown ups while travelling:)

  13. Oh man, and it completely depends on the kid. We had one that would not sit in a stroller and couldn’t nap outside of the house. And another one that would pass out everywhere.

  14. I love the list of exotic places your kids have fallen asleep, that’s amazing! I think baby carriers are especially helpful for naps out and about, and definitely agree that you need to back the special blankets and toys.

  15. Oh, those times zones KILL the sleep patterns of my toddler! When we took her to Germany last year, we tried to keep her on her usual schedule, but I still found her up at 3 AM every morning, wanting some yogurt! Great tips!

  16. Oh I’m so glad we’ve got past needing naptime. I can remember tag-teaming with hubster at our Fiji resort – one in the room with the napper, one at the pool with the toddler. Not super fun, but workable.
    Stroller naps are very handy though. It worked well particularly when we were at Gold Coast theme parks. My eldest could have a go on some of the rides that were too big for my youngest while he napped. Then he didn’t get upset to be missing out!

  17. Oh I can remember back to the day when all you had to do was toss them in a car seat and drive around the block and they were out! That was so nice. Then the times when they get exhausted and just simply cannot relax enough to sleep. Your blog sparks the nostalgia in me remembering when my girls were young. I just love it! Great advice, routine is so important and being a very young parent, I had no idea. Learned the hard way. And you mention having all their little comfies….my first child nad a blanket with a silky edging that she would just stroke and go to sleep with it around her face…until we lost it on a shopping trip. That was a bloody nightmare. Silky Bankee….was gone and we were screwed. LOL

  18. Hi, I just discovered your blog and by scrolling around I came across this article which is excellent since we are just preparing with for our very first family trip with our 3 months old son. It will be a road trip around Europe. Your tips about the napping and the carrying have been a great help. Thanks a lot!
    Greetings from Finland,
    Carina

  19. Wow guys! I have always think is so admirable what you guys who are parents do in order to give your children amazing experiences! Definitely those tips are a gem!

  20. OH, this brings back memories!! We really did all of the above but once I had 2 kids I never did the hotel room route. Instead we just napped on the road. The kids did better at that than napping at home! LOL! You can never be too prepared when you travel with the kids. Great tips!

  21. We often plan our journey around a long drive at nap time, if we’re travelling. I’ll pick something at least 1 and a half hours away after a morning trip and when we get there she’s had her nap.

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