Can Kids (and Parents!) Sleep Well While Camping?

Well-rested little camper, Grace

Well-rested little camper, Grace

I grew up camping for every family vacation. I’ve talked my husband into venturing out a few times each summer, including last week over the 4th of July. One of the biggest reasons I hear from others with little ones to not camp is the sleep issue. How do you get a baby or toddler (or even older kids for that matter!) to nap and get enough night time sleep with only a thin tent to block out noise and light?

We just returned from a five day campout with our church. Thanks to a few tricks Grace napped longer than at home (2 1/2 hours some days) and slept well at night too.  That made for a more restful trip for me and Steve and Grace had more energy to give to the rest of each day.

Our tricks are really very simple, similar to what we do in hotel rooms.

  1. We keep the same bedtimes and naptimes as at home. It’s tempting to let her stay up later to play with all her friends but it comes back to bite us in the long run. She was in the tent headed to bed at 7pm. The downside of this is we had to stick close by once she was in bed. Since we were camping with friends that wasn’t a big deal. We enjoyed games, snacks, campfires and reading by flashlight after she was in bed.
  2. We keep the same bedtime and naptime routine as at home. We read a few stories, sang songs, said our prayers and put her to bed. The first day she yelled for a while when we put her down for her nap. We tried to be as consistent as we are at home (hard in a public campsite). We went to her a few times told her gently but firmly to lay down and go to sleep. After about 45 minutes of fussing on and off she did, and every day after that we had no problems.
  3. Bring the pack n play. For as long as we possibly can we’ll be using the pack n play for Grace, maybe even after she’s transitioned to a big girl bed.  That way she’s contained and not tempted to play around in the exciting new tent or in the very fun suitcases.  When she does fuss she eventually gets bored with it and falls asleep whereas if she were out of it I could imagine her unzipping her way out of the tent dozens of times.
  4. Bring a white noise machine. It may seem silly while camping but IT WORKS. We were camping with lots of other families so besides the usual sounds of campsites (birds, cars, people walking by) we had the sounds of lots of noisy kids having a great time after she was in bed.  We use the Marsona white noise machine which we love because its internationally adaptable plus has an optional (sold separately) battery pack, which was perfect for camping. I loved seeing the looks on people’s faces as they’d walk by our tent while Grace napped. What is that noise? I’m sure they were thinking. Is someone vacuuming in there?
  5. Use black sheets strategically. This solved the light issue for us and I wish we’d thought of this sooner in our parenting life.  We used binder clips to clip the sheet to seams in the tent and put them around the pack n play, sort of like a tent within a tent.  We draped a second sheet directly onto the pack n play after she was asleep at night. These two combined helped her sleep until 6:30am or even close to 7 a few days, much later than she would have had the sun blazed in when it rose at 5am.

We use these same tricks when we’re staying other places too, like hotels or with friends or relatives. Our sleep is pretty important to us and these tips keep us all happy travelers.

Do you have a trick you use when camping or traveling to help your child sleep better?  Share it with us. Any ideas how to get your child to sleep in until 8 or 9am, even when she doesn’t do that at home?


2 responses to “Can Kids (and Parents!) Sleep Well While Camping?

  1. Patricia Aspinwall

    When we went camping, we used our peapod travel tent (,5) inside our tent for our daughter to sleep in. Same idea of the pack n’ play, but you don’t have to have the extra black sheets. And our daughter was so use to sleeping in it when she traveled, it worked great.

    • Thanks Patricia! We haven’t used the peapod ourselves but have heard good things about it, especially since it folds up so much smaller than a pack n play. Great suggestion.


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