International Travel With a Toddler: Sleep

This was probably the hardest part of our recent trip to Iceland.

Little MPB is typically a really good sleeper, which is why we really didn’t think about the potential of sleep problems before we left.  But I can easily say now that we should never have been so naïve to the potential sleep problems that were likely to come along with a time change, a drastic change in routine and 24 hours of day light. I honestly don’t know what time zone he was living in, but I know it was not our home timezone or Iceland’s timezone.  We knew going into this trip that we’d just have to sleep when Little MPB slept, but it was harder then we expected.

As discussed, the plane ride to Iceland did not result in a lot of sleep.  So, we started the trip with sleep deprivation.  And, for a kid who loves sleep, falling behind on his necessary sleep makes for one very grouchy little guy.

And to complicate things further, Little MPB fully rejected his kidco peapod for sleeping – he has slept in this thing countless times when we’ve travelled to grandparent’s houses or hotels, so his revolt was very unexpected.  We made the decision not to co-sleep with Little MPB when he was a baby due to SIDS risks, but given the aforementioned kidco peapod rejection we started on this trip.  While granted he’s not longer at risk for SIDS, he simply didn’t know how to sleep with us.  It was a steep learning curve for Little MPB who seemed to think co-sleeping meant time to climb all over a very tired mommy and daddy for hours on end.  But, I have to acknowledge that there were some pretty cute middle of the night moments, as Little MPB loved climbing on us and always seemed to find something completely adorable to do while playing with us.  And, my heart melted every single night when Little MPB decided he was ready to sleep he’d curl up next to Mr. MPB and pull Mr. MPB’s arm around him and then promptly go to sleep snuggled in with Daddy for the remainder of the night.

And then, due to the driving we did during the day, Little MPB would have randomly timed, and random duration of naps.  Again, we should have realized this would cause a problem for him as he normally follows are pretty regular schedule since every single day we had no real schedule to our driving.  This meant at some sights one of us would stay in the car with Little MPB as he slept, and the other one would go check out the sights.  This really wasn’t a big deal, but it really made it hard to create any sort of schedule for Little MPB.

As well, we were camping for 8 nights of this trip.  We rented from KuKu Campers*, as they were the best price we could find.  Below are photos of our campervan (note that I borrowed these photos from KuKu Campers website as I forgot to take any of our rental which I assure you was never this clean once we began living it).

We had naively assumed that Little MPB would go to sleep in his little peapod and we’d be able to sit outside of the campervan with a beer and a book in the evenings.  This never happened.  Given the design of our small campervan (kitchen utensils, including knifes, were fully accessible at all times), Little MPB’s peapod rejection and the poor weather (more on that later), the Adult MPB’s had to be with Little MPB every single time he went to sleep and immediately when he woke up which was always at unpredictable times.  Basically, without the enclosed peapod, it simply wasn’t safe for Little MPB to be left in the campervan, even for a few seconds, without direct supervision.

My travel lesson regarding sleep for an international camping trip with a toddler is really simple:

Assume the worst, prepare for the worst, and hope that it’s even just slightly better then the worst you’ve imagined.

* This is not a sponsored post.  My comments are based solely on our recent experience renting a campervan with KuKu Campers.

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7 Comments on “International Travel With a Toddler: Sleep

  1. Ack!! Sleep-deprived and grumpy kids are the worst. Poor little guy, but especially poor Mr. and Mrs. MPB.

    Have you guys ever been into babywearing at all? I did when mine were babies, but once they started walking they were over it and I was over it. However, I bought a toddler Tula after a very stressful Rome trip where it turned out my little perpetual moving machine could actually get tired out eventually and we ended up carrying her for miles. It took a little bit to get her used to riding in it, but on our last two trips (France and Ireland) it was an absolute godsend. She would tend to fall asleep in there in the afternoon and my husband, son and I could carry on with our plans and she could get some rest. She slept through an entire wine tour, all of Kilmainham goal and all kinds of other stuff, which also meant she was quiet and easy to deal with, haha. Sorry to keep chiming in, but I wanted to mention it since getting the Tula was the absolute biggest gamechanger for us (even if it does seem weird to have restarted babywearing when she was past 2 years old!).

    Of course, this doesn’t so much help at night or while driving. =-(


  2. ” It was a steep learning curve for Little MPB who seemed to think co-sleeping meant time to climb all over a very tired mommy and daddy for hours on end. ” THIS.IS.NORA. Haha! I was laughing so much at this! They are so much alike with their sleep.


  3. Hey, would you mind if I emailed you to get some info on this trip you took? We’re looking for a quick vacation and can’t really decide on anything and this seems really perfect. Renting a van and exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

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