I have talked to so many parents over the years, including our Pediatrician, who have expressed the difficulties of traveling with an infant. That very first night of vacation can be an absolute shock when your baby can’t sleep. Understanding why it happens and how to prepare yourself (and baby) can make all the difference. I promise it gets better, but in the meantime, here are 7 tips to help your baby sleep on vacation!
Related: Surviving Holiday Travel With Kids
I’ll never forget, in 2013, when we ventured out on our first family vacation. In my head, everything was going to be like the movies. I just thought we’d make happy memories and we’d just follow my baby’s normal schedule. I was totally wrong.
I woke up, after the first night, and was in complete tears. Not only did we struggle to put our baby to sleep, but he didn’t sleep more than an hour. I had called concierge to ask for a rocking chair (they laughed) and even paced the hotel hallway. In the end, my Husband’s chest was the only reason he gave us an hour of sleep.
Since then, with a lot of trial and error, I’ve become a self-proclaimed expert on the subject. As a family travel blogger, my job is to travel with kids. Having a baby can’t stop me from working. Let my experience be your guide so your family can have an unforgettable vacation – with sleep!
7 Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep On Vacation (At Night)
It’s all about being prepared BEFORE you travel. That’s really key to setting yourself up for success. If you’re reading this while you’re on vacation (with tired bloodshot eyes), don’t panic because there are still some things that you can do. I can’t promise no wake-ups at all, but you can mimic your child’s at-home sleep pattern on vacation too.
Take Notes Before Packing
Remember the days when you just packed for yourself and was only concerned about your vacation outfits? It’s not that easy after having kids. Not only will you pack their clothes, but you need to pack some sleeping essentials too.
Take notes about your child’s nursery, or sleeping area, that they have at home. You want to mimic that sleep area on vacation, so they feel like they’re in a familiar area.
- What temperature are they used to?
- Do they use a sound machine?
- What type of surface do they sleep on?
- Is the room dark or do they use a night light?
Research Where You’re Staying And Plan Ahead
Traditional hotel rooms no longer work for our family of five. I realized this very early on. My Husband likes to sleep with the television on and the kids can’t fall asleep with it on. We have very divided sleep habits that means we can’t sleep all together in one room.
Preferably, that’s something to consider before you even book. If you’ve already booked your accommodations, don’t stress it. Just do a little research prior to leaving!
Most properties will give you a basic floor plan, but YouTube is a fantastic for video tours. I always watch a video tour of the resort or hotel room before leaving.
This will let you know if there’s room to bring a pack-and-play and if there’s at least a miniature refrigerator for milk. I learned our family needs to be able to have bottles and store breastmilk and/or regular milk.
Also, take note to see what type of light the area has and how close your baby will be sleeping to you. Will you need to bring a baby monitor? This is great information to have prior to packing.
Mimic Your Baby Sleep On Vacation To What You Have At Home
The whole idea behind researching is packing for success. You want to mimic the conditions your baby is already comfortable with, from their home environment.
If they’re used to a crib mattress, but will sleep in a pack-and-play, that little adjustment could make a big difference. We bring our baby’s sound machine, pack-and-play WITH sheets, a basic no video monitor and bottles. Plus, we also pack whatever they’re usually sleeping in (Sleep Sack or Magic Sleepsuit).
Stick To Their Bedtime Routine
I know it’s difficult, but try to stick to your child’s usual bedtime routine. Give them a bath or read a book if that’s what you do at home. You set the mood, for bed, at home and you need to do the same for vacation. The trick to having your baby sleep on vacation is allowing them to feel comfortable enough to do so.
Expect The First Night Sleep To Be The Worst
Why is the first night of vacation sleep the hardest? It’s an adjustment on top of a travel day, that they aren’t used to.
If your baby slept all day long, while traveling, why would they sleep well at night? Be aware that the first night is usually the hardest. It’ll get better! You can adjust their bedtime accordingly and let them get some energy out. This is especially important if you’re changing time zones too.
Don’t Pass On Nap Time
I know it’s tempting to have them skip naps, so they’ll sleep better at night, but usually ends poorly and backfires. Instead of skipping a nap, let them nap on their usual schedule. However, don’t let them nap into the late afternoon hours.
I always space several hours between nap time and bed time. My kids aren’t allowed to sleep past 5pm. They wake up, eat dinner and have time to play before our bedtime routine.
Exerting Energy Means Better Baby Sleep On Vacation
Lastly, you want to ensure that they’re going to be exhausted. This tip is actually pretty easy to do on vacation – no matter what age they are! Going to the beach to play all day or exploring new sights and sounds can be enough to exhaust your child. Even they they are bouncing on your lap, in the hotel room, it can be considered exercise.
In the long run, you won’t think back on your family vacation and remember the sleepless nights. You’ll remember how they react to their first beach experience, your first hike as a new family or some other great memory. The nights might feel long, but they’re a blip in time. Try to relax and enjoy your time on vacation, with your baby. Life is too short not to enjoy it.