Sleeping and maintaining good sleep routines is a major concern for traveling parents, and rightfully so! Good sleep begets good sleep, and we spend so much time and energy in helping our babies to nap and sleep through the night – who on earth wants to mess with that? I’ve talked before about travel messing with baby’s sleep, and the worry that “travel hangovers” can cause, but ultimately, with some preparation, (teething, major time changes and illness aside) we can keep sleep issues while traveling with little ones to a minimum.
Regardless of where you’re staying – be it a fancy hotel or Grandma’s house, your baby or toddler needs a safe place to sleep.
If you co-sleep at home, consider that hotels and family’s guest rooms may not have the safe set-up or infant-friendly bedding and linens that you have at home. I have heard of some families pulling the mattress onto the floor or else actually making up a bed on the floor. This option would not be ok with me, but for safety while co-sleeping in a hotel room, it might have to do.
Travel Cots and Beds…
Next step up is bringing your baby or toddler’s travel bed with you. If you have the luggage allotment or find the piece of mind is worth the baggage charge (or equivalent to what renting a crib or playpen would be), there are a number of travel cribs and cots, as well as toddler sleep solutions available on the market today. The most popular, of course, are those marketed as “Travel Cots” The Phil & Teds Traveler is a popular choice, and is truly a lightweight and portable travel bed that is good for infancy through to toddlerhood. I’ve demoed this item a few times and it gets easier to assemble and dissemble the more frequently you do it. It is a bit pricey at just under $200, but it’s actually the least expensive of the good ones out there. I’ve seen first-hand how great the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light is – it does not fold down as compactly as the Phil & Teds, but it is SO EASY to assemble and take down. When it’s folded it’s the size of a small suitcase, but flat, but if you’re checking it as baggage anyway, that’s not such a big deal. The Baby Bjorn is more expensive at just over $200. The newest travel crib I’ve seen, and would love to check out first-hand, is the GoCrib Portable Baby Travel Crib and Play Yard. Again, this is pricier at over $200, but it folds down into a backpack, weighs just 11 lbs, has optional accessories like a mosquito net and sunshade, and the online reviews on Amazon simply rave about it. I would love to check this one out, personally.
Now once your babies become toddlers, and they can’t or won’t sleep in any of these things, you still have options. I’ve tried out a few duds that I won’t bother writing about, but I will say that I wish I had known about The Shrunks products. The Inflatable Toddler Bed is under 8 lbs, uses standard crib sheets, and fits into a travel bag that can be purchased separately that holds the bed, as well as the pump and sheets and blankets. The Shrunks also makes an inflatable bed rail for travel – a great idea if you have a busy sleeper and aren’t sure if the place you’re staying offers bed rails or if you could push the bed against the wall. In a pinch you can always channel your inner McGyver and jam extra pillows or rolled up towels or blankets under the sheet at the side of the bed – this has worked for us.
Of course, you don’t have to bring your travel beds or cribs with you. Cribs or playpens may be offered at the hotel or rental you’re staying at. They may be totally clean and safe – or they may not be. Our first experience was not a good one, so we always brought our playpen with us – with all subsequent hotel cribs being fine, of course
Renting or Borrowing…
Another option, and an especially good one if staying at a kidless family member or friend’s house is to rent a crib or playpen for sleeping. We have a fairly extensive baby equipment rentals page, but are always looking to add more listings! Don’t forget utilizing social media. Renting gear can be expensive, so you can try Facebook to see if you have friends or acquaintances in the area you’ll be visiting who can lend some gear.
In a previous gear guide (and the television appearance I made to support it) I recommended the Peapod Travel Bed. After reading a heartbreaking account of a baby’s suffocation on Amazon, I pulled it from my gear guide. On October 15, 2012, Health Canada issued a warning to not use these travel bed for babies under 12 months. Frankly, I wouldn’t use it at all.
***EDITED TO ADD*** As of November 16, 2012 KidCo has officially recalled the over 220,000 PeaPods sold since 2005. They are offering kits to address the suffocation danger of infants slipping between the mattress and the side of the tent. The kits include supports that strengthen the sides of the tent and a thinner air mattress. Together they are meant to prevent the pocket that creates the suffocation hazard from forming.
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