It’s the one factor that can instantly make or break a trip. It doesn’t matter who’s not sleeping (Dad, Mom, or the kids), that lack of sleep will inevitably creep into all aspects of your trip.
In fact, it’s probably the #1 excuse that parents use for not getting out on adventures with their kids.
“Oh, we’d love to go, but that’s during nap time”
“We can’t camp with you because our kids just won’t be able to sleep in a tent”
“No, we can’t do overnight trips because the baby will only sleep in their own bed”
Need I go on? Can you imagine how detrimental these sleep related excuses are to getting out and enjoying life?
Before you keep reading, you need to read our post “Naptime is NOT SACRED” if you haven’t done so recently! Trust me on this one.
Well, while we are not experts, we have certainly learned a lot about getting kids to sleep while out on adventures. Um, there would be no way we could do as many exciting trips if all three of our kids were not GREAT at sleeping in different places.
Here are a few tips to help you and your baby/toddler/child adjust to sleeping on the go:
1. Get them TIRED
Yes, this is the #1 trick. Sleeping in a new place is exciting/scary/overwhelming so the more tired you can get your kids the better. The last thing you want them to be doing is bouncing all around the tent or hotel room for hours on end while YOU have to share a space with them. Run, play, swim and anything else you can think of to make sure that they are fast asleep the moment their head hits the pillow.
2. Contain them
In a new and exciting place, it’s critical to set up boundaries. For babies who can move, this means a travel bed (read to the bottom for our FAVORITE). Older kids need a sleeping bag or other designated spot where they are expected to stay. Honestly, I can’t stress enough how critical this is. With each of our kids, we’ve had that night where we roll up to a campsite/hotel/grandmas house where we’re just too tired to unload the car all the way. The travel bed is the last thing we want to get out (especially if it’s a pain like the pack-n-play…again read to the bottom for a better alternative). So, we naively think that we’ll just let the baby sleep next to us. “It will be so sweet and fun to snuggle all night” we tell ourselves. Without fail, each of our 3 kids has somehow known our weakness and taken advantage of our laziness. One thought it would be a good idea to jump on all the other kids at 3 am. Another thought it would be fun to slam into the sides of the tent at an equally obscene hour. The last acted like a roomba vacuum as they scooted their way around (in their sleep) all around the tent, making enough noise to keep everyone up for hours. No, baby #4 will not be enjoying that luxury. From about 6 months to 2.5 or 3, just put them in a travel bed!
Create boundaries and expectations from the beginning with your kids so they know where they need to stay and what the consequences will be for not doing that.
3. Keep them warm
This tip is especially relevant for campers. I truly believe that one of the reasons our kids sleep so good while we’re camping is that they’re warm. We dress them in layers (more or less depending on the weather) to help them stay toasty. On top of that, each of our kids has a really nice sleeping bag. If you’re going to really splurge on one piece of gear for your kids, a sleeping bag should be it (or better yet, convince grandma that it would be a great gift). In fact, our kid sleeping bags are MUCH nicer than the ones my husband and I have for ourselves! Each of our kids has a different name brand sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of 15 degrees F or colder. Typical kid bags have a temp rating of about 40 degrees which just doesn’t cut it for camping in the mountains. Keeping them warm is one of your best bets to keeping them asleep.
4. Bring something familiar
Most kids have something special at home that helps them feel calm when things are new. Maybe it’s a blanket, a stuffed animal, or an ugly old Barbie doll. Do your best to remember that on your trip to make bedtime smooth and easier for everyone!
The piece of gear that changed it all…
This beautiful contraption is the PeaPod Plus by Kidco. This is truly one of the greatest things for families on the go. It’s a pop-up travel bed that is about the size of a large serving platter. Yes, say goodbye to packing the massive pack-n-play wherever you go (you know that behemoth that weights a million pounds and takes up more car space than my tent…yes, I would curse that beast on each and every trip). Simply toss this in the car whenever you’ll be out. In fact, I’d recommend just keeping it in the trunk! The mesh sides help to regulate airflow (and keep bugs out), while the upper fabric offers UV protection so it can easily hold its own just about anywhere.
Naptime by the lake? Done.
Bedtime at Grandma’s? Check.
The thrill of sleeping in a tent? No problem.
Shockingly, its footprint is bigger than a pack-n-play so it works perfect for kids as big as age 5. And, since it just pops up, you don’t have the pain of setting something up if you get in late!
I was first introduced to the PeaPod when my friend Emily came to visit us with her 4 kids this summer. Her 1 and 3-year-old each slept in one of these and I was amazed. She had bought one with her oldest and loved it so much that they just ended up letting her sleep in it the whole time until she was ready for a bed. That PeaPod is on it’s 4th kid and is still holding up strong after almost constant use. Okay, it looks worn, but still functions great. Yes, these travel beds are made to LAST. The only thing that I had a hard time with was that it can be difficult to fold. Make sure you keep the folding instructions, or do like I did and assign your husband to fold it up when you’re done.
PeaPod - $70. Smaller and designed for kids 1-3. Weight 2.4 lbs. Fewer zippers and windows.
PeaPod Plus – $100. A little larger and made for kids 1-5. Weights 3.6 lbs. The increased UV protection makes it a better choice for using outside.
Kidco provided a PeaPod plus for this review. As always, our opinions are honest and are not influenced by others.