Reader Questions: Co-sleeping on Vacation

This is a reader question from Kerry, new reader who wants to know how to co-sleep safely while traveling

Hi, I have recently started reading your blog - so much great information! I saw on the Travel Crib Light giveaway that you generally co-sleep on your trips. Do you do anything to make the beds in hotels safer for your kids? Do you have any portable rails or anything like that? We are traveling with our 1-year-old soon on a cruise, and I have been thinking about whether we want to find something portable to make the bed safer. Thanks for any tips that you can offer!

E sleeping in his stroller
E sleeping in his stroller

First a disclaimer: I am not a co-sleeping or safety expert, and while we've never had a problem, it is important to recognize that babies do die each year from suffocation or other dangers while co-sleeping. That said, we often co-sleep when we are traveling because it is so much easier for the kids to adjust to a new place when they are snuggled up with a parent.

Before we go to sleep each night, we take time to make sure that our sleep environment is as safe as possible (whether it is a hotel crib, a pack and play, or an adult bed). I jam pillows or rolled towels into any gaps between the bed and headboard, and the child sleeps between my husband and I. I am also careful to clear the area around the bed so that if the child were to fall (say when I got up to go to the restroom) they would not land on anything hard. Co-sleeping also means that we cannot use the thick cozy comforters on most hotel beds. Instead, we turn up the heat, wear pj's, and sleep under a sheet. Finally, many co-sleeping deaths occur because a parent who is sleep deprived, on medication, or has been drinking rolls onto a child in their sleep.

Another alternative is to use a hotel crib, and we often do this when we will spend more than one or two nights in a single location. That said, hotel cribs have a reputation for being old and unsafe. Even at the most diligent hotels, there have been so many recalls of cribs and play yards in the past year, it would be hard to keep up. It is important to inspect any crib you will place your baby or child in carefully, using this handy CPSC Checklist for Inspecting Hotel Cribs.

Readers: Do you have other tips for sleep safety when you travel?

Related Links:
Step By Step Guide to Babyproofing a Hotel Room

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  1. Elizabeth on March 25, 2009 at 2:21 a.m.

    No tips, but we also co-sleep when traveling, and have had no problems with it. Now that my son is nearing two, we are increasingly likely to set him up a mattress/comforter/nest on the floor, but co-sleeping is still our fall back option.

  2. Emily E. on March 25, 2009 at 6:54 a.m.

    One thing to consider is that on cruise ships, you get two twin beds pushed together instead of a real large bed. I've been on several cruises and the beds always find a way to shift during the night. I would think that would make co-sleeping that much more difficult.

    Personally, I usually use the porta-crib and just inspect it to make sure it's safe. Also, since you'll be in the same room, you'll wake up quickly if something goes wrong. has a great Family Cruising board where people will be able to answer any questions you may have about your specific cruiseline and the type of cribs they use.

  3. Maria on March 25, 2009 at 7:16 a.m.

    We co-sleep full time, so it was no different a couple of weeks ago when we traveled to Milan. My son is now two, so we do use the cozy comforter. He sleeps well on a king-sized bed, and when he is sleeping and we're awake, I go in every couple of hours (or less) to check that he is still properly positioned and not on the edge of the bed.

    When he was younger (around a year or so), I'd place pillows along the edge, and each time he'd get close to one, he'd roll himself back to the middle. For some reason he understood that to be the end of the bed.

    Younger than that, we'd clear the bed and check on him often.

  4. Melynda on March 25, 2009 at 9:06 a.m.

    I took my then-13-month-old son to Argentina last year for 3 weeks. I ended up buying Ted & Phil's Traveler. It was expensive, but only weighed 6-10 pounds (depending in whether you count the Therma-rest-type air mattress.)

    I had him sleep in it at home for a week before we left and took the same sheets--without washing them--so it would smell like home. It worked out great and now it is the permanent bed for our 2nd son.

  5. Debbie on March 25, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.

    Great tips everyone! One additional thought that didn't quite make the article... I would be very cautious about co-sleeping on a hide-a-bed (we just don't do it). Sofabeds often have large gaps between the mattress and the "headboard" and they tend to have exposed metal pieces when open too.

  6. Scotti on March 25, 2009 at 2:05 p.m.

    Our son simply doesn't like co-sleeping (or more accurately, won't sleep when he's in the bed with us). So I don't have much advice on that. However, when we've traveled with him, we've always taken our PackNPlay. It's heavy - but easily checked on an airplane. We've taken that thing to Mexico, Canada, and multiple US trips. I've never wanted to trust whatever crib I might find at a hotel (and be stuck with no other option).

    Now that he's out of a crib - we've moved on to a Kid's AeroBed. Lighter than the PNP and can fit in a suitcase. This has worked well - especially in places where I didn't feel safe with him in a bed by himself (hard tile floor for instance).

  7. Sharlene on March 26, 2009 at 3:02 p.m.

    I once had my daughter roll into the crack between the bed and the wall. Luckily I woke right up and came to her rescue and she managed to sleep through the whole episode but ever since then I have been pretty paranoid about having her sleep with me. I have two little ones so its impossible for all four of us to share a bed which means the kids will have one side of the bed that isn't blocked by a parent. Whenever I can I use a portacrib now. I am certainly not against cosleeping by any means. I just thought I would throw that out there.

  8. Bridget Smith on March 26, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.

    We have never had much luck with co-sleeping anywhere (our kids kick!). For car trips, we primarily used pack n plays when the kids were little (at one point we would bring two since the kids were one year apart). Now our big travel secret is inflatable Coleman air mattresses that you can pick up at Walmart. They are very compact, easy to inflate with a small battery pump, and close to the ground. The kids always feel like they have their own special place.


  9. Marina K. Villatoro on March 28, 2009 at 3:11 p.m.

    hi, you know, growing up in the states, there's this weird idea of NOT SLEEPING WITH KIDS. when my son was a baby, we used to log along with us a stupid playpen, so he woulnd't sleep in the same bed as us. it was ridicolous. now, he's 5 and i sleep with him all the time, traveling or not. and i love it.
    <a href="">The Travel Expert(a) and an Expat with a Twist</a>

  10. Megan Fesinmeyer on April 1, 2009 at 4:11 p.m.

    So co-sleeping is great and all, but what do you do if you have an infant that goes to sleep at 7 pm, and the parents want to stay up until 10? What about naptime? I would think that it would be difficult to co-sleep with a child at all the times the child sleeps, and then you're faced with the problem of keeping the child safe in bed without mom and dad to act as "bumpers". Or do co-sleeping parents just sleep 11-12 hours a night?

  11. D Murphy on October 24, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.

    Great post, being part of a family of 5, we've co-slept on many occasions as hotel rooms are never big enough:(

  12. Lisa Wielgosz on March 2, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.

    Good piece. I'm a full time devoted co-sleeper. We co-slept with our now 2.5 year old until she was 16 months and currently have our little one year old still nestled safely in with us(he's yet to spend a night on his own). I find that co-sleeping actually makes travel easier for us because we don't have to worry about settling our baby into a new cot, they're content as long as we're right beside them. And everyone sleeps - bliss!