Traveling can provide a perfect opportunity for top-notch slumber—after all, there’s no sink full of dishes to taunt you. But being away from home can also come with unfamiliar and unpleasant sounds, smells, and more, making it hard to relax. We surveyed travel experts who’ve logged hundreds of thousands of miles the world over for their best tips on sleeping well away from home.
Create A Home Away From Home. Book a room with the same size bed that you sleep in at home, recommends Jennifer Moody, a consultant who spends about half the year on the road. And while you’re at it, pack a pillowcase from home, says Deborah Mayer, owner of Shop Around Tours, a travel company that offers fashion-themed tours in Europe. “I am a side-sleeper and pillow-hugger, and I find that I sleep better with my head buried in something familiar. The comforting laundry scent and soft texture of my own pillowcase (higher-quality fabric than what many hotels use) helps me sleep better.”
Keep it Quiet. A pair of earplugs is a must-have for many travelers, but there are plenty of ways to steer clear of noise before you get to that point. Start when you book your room by requesting a room as far from the elevator as possible, and on the highest floor possible, says Greg Geronemus, CEO of smarTours, a travel tour company that provides guided tours to destinations all over the world. You can also try for one facing a concrete wall (a good night’s sleep beats a view, after all), and away from the housekeeping closet and ice machine, says Katharine Kearnan, communications and content specialist at Stash Hotel Rewards. By booking directly with the hotel rather than with an online middleman that takes a big cut, you’ll be more likely to score the room of your (literal) dreams. Then, if you’re still sensitive to noises, turn on the bathroom fan for a dose of white noise, suggests Susan Fogwell, an international flight attendant and travel blogger for The Huffington Post.
Stay Cool. First things first: Make sure the air conditioner in your room works right when you arrive—not when you’re about to go to sleep, says Geronemus. Just like at home, you’ll sleep best when the room is cool, between 60 and 67 degrees. Then, for optimum body temperature regulation, consider ditching the PJs altogether, says Linden Schafer, who runs the wellness travel company Pravassa. “Yep, you heard me—sleep naked!” Schaffer says. “Sleeping in the buff can clear up skin irritations and regulate your body temperature, both of which contribute to disruptive sleep.”
Stick To Your Home Routine. To feel right at home, act like you are, recommends Suzanne Garber, a travel executive who logs 100,000 miles a year and has been to all seven continents, 80 countries, and all 50 U.S. states. “If you normally shower in the morning at home, do the same in Shanghai. If you read to your children at bedtime, call them at their normal bedtime (or as close to it as possible).”
Do a Bedtime Brain-Purge. I am a travel writer, and when I travel I spend the day running around, cramming in a lot, taking notes, eating too much, and planning the next day’s to do’s, says Gail Leicht, author of The Skinny On… series of travelguidebooks “My trick for falling asleep is to keep a notepad and pen near me, or my laptop, or a tiny little voice recorder. I find that if I ‘let it out,’ it quiets my mind because I don’t have to worry I’ll forget.”
Get In The Dark. Hotels are often ahead of the curve when it comes to room-darkening blinds, but even when it’s dark, a sliver of escaped light can still disrupt your sleep. That’s why light-sensitive globetrotter Chris Backe, a travel blogger at One Weird Globe (oneweirdglobe.com) always packs a “hotel bag” with a blindfold and clothespins to pinch rogue blinds closed. Binder clips will also do the trick, and a rolled up towel can help to block hallway light seeping under the door.
Power Down Your Tech. There’s nothing more disruptive than being woken up by non-urgent calls or texts in the middle of the night when you’re traveling across time zones. That’s why travel blogger Johnny Jet, who has logged 150,000 miles a year for over a decade has a rule: no cell phones at night. “I give my hotel name and room number to my loved ones and colleagues so if there’s an emergency, they can reach me instantly—and the rest of the time, I can get a good night’s sleep,” he says.