Worried your baby won’t sleep on vacation? These tips will help get the whole family some much needed rest

So, you’re planning a vacation but like many parents you are wondering how you’re going to relax and sleep while away from home. Let me be honest with you, your vacation won’t be as relaxing as it used to be pre-baby, but it sure can still be super fun and enjoyable by everyone.

The one factor that can make or break your vacation is the quality of your baby’s sleep. If baby doesn’t sleep on vacation then no one sleeps, and if no one sleeps then it’s harder to enjoy your time on the road, especially if you have lots of activities planned.

When we were planning our first vacation with our new baby one of my biggest fears was wondering how he would adapt to the new environment and whether or not he would continue to sleep the nights.

My wife and I are borderline obsessive with his sleep at home and we do everything we can to ensure he is always at his best and ready to sleep at night. After sleep training him, we have enjoyed having a baby that sleeps through the night since he was 5 months old, so we didn’t want to go back to the dreaded days of multiple wake ups.

When out on vacation (or even just a weekend away) we lose the comforts of home and end up with a ton of unknowns leading to parent’s wondering wether or not their baby will be able to sleep on vacation.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when going on vacation that can set you and your baby up for success and maybe even lead to undisturbed sleep on vacation.

Babies are sensitive to change

Even I sometimes have trouble sleeping in a new environment. I love my mattress, my fan, the darkness of my room and just the way the air feels in there. If I go to a hotel and the mattress is too soft, the room is too bright or the temperature is too high, there is a 100% chance I won’t sleep well.  

Now imagine your little baby. He has grown used to his crib or bassinet and his own environment; the temperature, humidity, sounds, and even the feeling of his sheets. And unlike you and me, babies still struggle at putting themselves back to sleep once they wake up.

Babies are very sensitive to change and this becomes very apparent when we are talking about sleep.

Our job as parents is to minimize the change for them. If you’re going on vacation and are worried if your baby will sleep at night, make sure to replicate the environment he’s used to as much as possible.

There are things that are just out of our control, but there are many things we can do to help the situation:

  • If you have a pack n play your baby is already used to napping and playing in, bring it. Don’t rely on the hotel’s crib.
  • If you are going to use the crib provided by the hotel, bring your own sheets
  • Keep nap times and bed times the same as at home as much as possible
  • Follow the same bedtime routine you would at home
  • Ensure baby is eating well and around the same times

In short, keep change to a minimum.

Prepare well for the trip

Preparation is everything with babies. Being ready for most situations will help minimize the chance of freak-outs and long nights. Take a serious look at everything you use on a weekly basis to keep your baby happy, fed, clean and rested and bring at least some items to support each of these.

Here are some examples to help give you ideas of what you can bring to be better prepared:

Happy:

  • Toys
  • Books
  • Tablet/iPad

Fed:

  • Spoon and bowls
  • Food and snacks
  • Bottles and cups
  • Milk or formula
  • Bottle warmer

Clean:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Towel
  • Clothes
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Creams

Rested:

  • Pack n play
  • Swaddle or sleep sack
  • Sound machine
  • Binky
  • Crib sheets

Additionally, there are also some not-so-obvious situations you should prepare for. What if baby gets sick, doesn’t eat the food at the restaurants/hotel, is unable to sleep in the crib provided by the hotel, etc..

The possibilities are endless but preparing in advance can help mitigate these risks which in turn help ensure a full night’s sleep.

Here are some additional tips on how to prepare extra-well for any trip:

  1. Baby Medical kit (thermometer, Tempra or baby Advil, rash cream, after-sun, sunscreen, electrolytes…)
  2. Bring your own travel crib/pack n play that your baby is already used to
  3. Have some premade food packages handy in case they don’t adapt well to the food

Find time and a place for naps

Contrary to common belief, napping actually helps your baby get better night sleep. Being overtired won’t help them get a full night sleep, in fact it may work against it.

Make sure to keep the same nap schedule as much as possible while on vacation. Making sure they get to nap will significantly increase you chances of them having a great night sleep, every night.

Take note of your baby’s wake windows while at home if you don’t already know it, and enforce a similar schedule while on the road.

We used our stroller as the main napping station for our son and it worked wonders. We were able to set the seat horizontally, hang a portable sound machine as well as a fan and drape a muslin over the sides to reduce distraction and he napped very well. If it was nap time, we would set up his station and put him down no matter where we were.

Strollers by the pool

Sometimes it pays to go back to your room to give them a proper, full nap. But vacation must go on and being flexible is part of enjoying your trip so don’t be afraid to do naps on the go.

Follow the same bed time routine as at home

If you have a bedtime routine at home, it is imperative that you continue to follow it as closely as possible when out on vacation. The Bedtime routine prepares your baby for bed and it tell him it’s time to start winding down. Bring all of your bedtime routine accessories with you to ensure your baby know what time it is.

Here is the example of our bedtime routine and what we bring along on trips

  • Bath time
    • His usual baby soap and shampoo
    • Tooth brush and tooth paste
    • Bath toys
    • Bath towel
  • After bath drying and dressing
    • Set up a change area in the hotel room
    • Apply rash cream and body cream
    • Dress him up in his footie pajamas
  • Reading             
    • A couple of his favorite books for reading after bath
  • Feeding
    • Breastfeeding
    • Bottle and bottle warmer for formula top up before bed
  • Bed time
    • Sleep sack
    • Crib sheet from home
    • Sound machine for white noise
    • SlumberPod for the darkness he’s used to (see next section for more details)

Following your bedtime routine to a T will ensure your baby knows it’s bedtime and is relaxed enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Bring the darkness

Most baby sleep experts agree that infants should sleep in a very dark room. How dark you ask? They suggest so dark that if you extend your arm in front of your face you should have trouble seeing your hand.

The reason for it needing to be so dark is that if baby is in light sleep and ends up waking for a bit, you want to minimize the distractions so he can put himself back to sleep quickly. It works, believe me!

At home, we have a blackout blind AND blackout curtains in his room since the sun goes down on that side of the house and is usually still up when we put him to bed in the summer. So his room is really dark and he loves it.

So now you’re heading out on vacation and don’t know what to expect. Will the room be dark enough? What do you as parents do if your baby goes to bed at 7:00pm and you’re sharing a room? Afterall it’s still vacation and you may not want to go to bed that early or just be so limited in the hotel room.

Meet the SlumberPod!

SlumberPod in hotel room
Our SlumberPod set up in the hotel room

The SlumberPod is a life saver for parents of your children on vacation. It allows you to continue your life in the same room as your baby while he sleeps. It provides him with his own room within your room. This way you can go about your activities while keeping the lights on, watching TV (not too loud) or even have some mommy daddy time 😉

The SlumberPod is breathable, it’s light, easy to set up, it fits is any carry on and it’s REALLY dark! The material is very high quality and feels amazing to the touch.

If you want to know how we managed on our first vacation with the SlumberPod, take a look at my post on our first all inclusive experience with a baby.

We now bring the SlumberPod everywhere we go. Even for simple naps away from home at grandma’s or at a friend’s house. It’s a life saver!

If you want to take control of your vacation with a baby you need this!

Will your baby sleep on vacation?

You can never know for sure how babies will react being away from home, after all they are still just babies.

These tips and tricks will help you prepare well before leaving home, remove most unknowns from the equation and keep your baby in a familiar environment with similar routines. That’s more than half of the battle.

Remember to be flexible and ust take each day as they come. Enjoy your vacation 😊

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