We can’t guarantee your baby will sleep on your holiday, but we do understand the fears and challenges regarding baby sleep and travel. To help address those concerns about baby sleep while traveling, we are sharing all our tips for getting a baby to sleep on vacation.
While this post was originally a Q&A with the sleep experts at WeeSleep, we wanted to share our own tips for how to help baby sleep on vacation. We have still included the valuable advice and all the answers to the baby travel sleep questions below our tips.
Get Your Baby to Sleep on Vacation
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Baby Can Travel Tips to Help your Baby Sleep on Vacation
While you will certainly see some similarity between our tips for getting baby to sleep on vacation and the advice from WeeSleep below, these tips are what has worked best getting our own baby and toddler to sleep on vacation.
We hope that the combination of baby and toddler sleep tips from real parents who have tried many things while traveling in conjunction with the advice from baby sleep experts will give you what you need to have success on getting your baby sleeping more on your holiday!
1. Follow your baby’s sleep schedule even on vacation.
Traveling with an infant before they are on a sleep schedule is certainly a lot easier. Once your baby is on a sleep schedule, you need to decide if you’ll stick to it on vacation.
If you are worried your baby won’t sleep on vacation, we always found that sticking as close as possible to our baby’s sleep schedule while traveling made sleep come easier.
While it wasn’t always possible, we would try to plan naps around the same time even on flights and in the car.
When we found our baby or toddler showing signs of being very tired, we would slow down and take a day to catch up on sleep. This might even mean returning to our hotel or Airbnb for two naps with some outdoor play time outside.
While it felt like we were wasting a day, it always made for better days to follow.
2. Consider an even earlier bedtime.
Travel can be exhausting and even more so when traveling with a baby or toddler. Given how tired we were, we knew our little ones were even more tired than us. Giving them an even earlier bedtime often worked well to keep them happy the next day.
Every time we found our baby not sleeping on vacation, doing a few nights of an earlier bedtime seemed to help. Sleep begets sleep.
We get it. Vacations are for going out for late dinners and enjoying the new environment. We had to remind ourselves that this was just for a short time in our lives. We always enjoyed the days more too when everyone was well rested.
3. Find a way to manage naps while traveling that works for your family.
Getting a baby to sleep anywhere is so helpful for traveling with a baby, but this doesn’t always work for all babies and toddlers. We wish we knew a magic trick for how to get baby to nap on the go, but it was always hit or miss with our daughter.
What we found worked to get the best toddler sleep on vacation was having at least one good nap each day.
We would try to do the second nap on the go, which we had some success with. If the second nap didn’t happen, we’d adjust bedtime earlier to make up for it.
4. Stick to your bedtime routine.
The exact bedtime routine isn’t always possible, but we always tried to do the key parts of it. Often we’d put on pajamas, feed our baby and read stories or sing songs. We did this regardless if we were on a plane or in a hotel.
If bath time is important to your bedtime routine, plan ahead by giving a sink bath or packing an inflatable tub.
5. Create a familiar sleep environment.
We brought our baby’s sleep sack every time we traveled. We also used a white noise machine at nights. We made sure all of our must have baby travel items to help our baby sleep were with us when we traveled with our baby.
Those two items, along with our familiar bedtime routine, helped create a familiar sleep environment.
It was always dark in our baby’s room at home, so we tried to replicate this as much as possible. The SlumberPod is the perfect way to do this and especially if you are sharing a hotel room with a baby or toddler.
For all our recommended items to get your baby to sleep on vacation, check out our convenient Get Baby to Sleep Amazon Shopping List.
6. Get on local schedule.
Getting on local schedule right away is especially important to help combat toddler or baby jet lag. We always get on local schedule as soon as we arrive. We then incorporate our baby’s sleep schedule on local schedule.
7. Give your baby or toddler time to play everyday.
This one was a hard lesson for us. We didn’t appreciate how much this would affect our baby’s sleep on vacation, but when she wasn’t getting sufficient time to play during the day it would affect both her naps and nighttime sleep.
Once we started taking time every day to let her play, she napped better and went to sleep better at night. If you find that your baby won’t nap on vacation, try giving your baby some time to tire herself out!
8. Don’t use baby travel sleep options for the first time on vacation.
This goes for toddler travel sleep options too. We don’t recommend using a travel crib or toddler travel bed for the first time on vacation.
Sure, sometimes it’s inevitable if you are using a hotel crib for your baby, but make sure you have other items to make it a familiar sleep environment for your baby or toddler.
If you’ve purchased a baby travel crib or a toddler travel bed, try it out at home first. We always try it for a nap first. After getting a few successful naps on it, we’ll try a nighttime sleep.
If your baby won’t sleep in a travel crib or a pack n’ play, trying it in their room at home where it’s familiar will help.
9. Practice getting your baby to sleep anywhere.
If your baby or toddler is used to having every nap in their crib at home with the room completely dark, they might not be able to nap on the go as easily as you would think. Take the opportunity to do a nap on the go at home before you travel with your baby.
How to get your baby to nap in the stroller or baby carrier? You can go for a walk at nap time and have your baby sleep in the carrier or a stroller.
10. Get outside.
Everyone sleeps better with plenty of fresh air and this is especially true on vacation. Make sure you are spending time outside and giving your baby or toddler time to explore.
Parks are the perfect spot to take a picnic lunch and relax while you give your baby or toddler time to burn off some energy and explore.
Getting outside is also crucial to help with baby jet lag.
11. Get your baby to sleep on the flight.
If at all possible, start your vacation with keeping your baby or toddler well rested. It’s much easier to get a baby or toddler to sleep if they aren’t overtired. When flying with a baby, use a familiar bedtime routine on the flight to help your baby or toddler sleep.
Packing a good baby carrier for travel is a great way to get your baby sleeping on flight if you are flying with a lap infant.
We also have several tips for getting toddlers to sleep on the airplane and we always pack an inflatable toddler airplane bed when doing long haul flights with a toddler.
12. A vacation is not the time to do things completely different.
While we understand that you are on vacation, it’s not the time to completely throw all your baby’s sleep routines and naps out the window. Your baby is going to be very stimulated by the new environment and might need more sleep than at home.
We always reminded ourselves that it wasn’t going to be like this forever.
If you can, plan ahead for giving your baby as much sleep as possible while on vacation. By this, we mean get a hotel room or rental apartment that gives you a separate room or a balcony. This will allow you to still enjoy your time while your baby sleeps.
If you return to your hotel for your baby’s nap in the day, take turns going out to explore on your own while the other parent stays behind.
13. Don’t stress – you can get your baby sleeping well again when you get home.
Don’t let your baby’s sleep ruin your vacation by being stressed about it. Just do the best you can to keep your baby well rested. You can always get your baby back on her sleep schedule when you get back home.
WeeSleep gives great advice on this below.
We always found that our baby’s sleep routine returned after a week or two once we were back home and in our old routines.
14. Slow down as needed.
The biggest lesson we learned traveling with toddlers and babies is to slow down. We found that taking a day to catch up on naps or returning to the hotel for one nap a day made such a big difference.
It was always those trips where we slowed down and made sure everyone was getting the rest they needed that ended up making the best memories.
15. Set expectations.
It’s important to set your expectations accordingly. You won’t be able to see and do everything, but you will still have incredible family memories from your trip!
You’ll enjoy it so much more if everyone is well rested and relaxed.
Q&A with WeeSleep on Getting Baby to Sleep on Vacation
1. My baby will only sleep in his own crib. He won’t even sleep in bed with us. Can you give us advice on how to get baby to sleep in a pack and play or travel crib while we are on vacation?
Consistency is key when it comes to great sleep for babies and toddlers. The best way to ensure your baby will sleep on your holiday is to create a familiar sleep environment.
If he uses a sleepsack, if he cuddles a snuggly buddy toy at night, if there are blackout blinds in his room at home, and if you have a white noise machine in his nursery, be sure to take each of these things with you when you are away from home to create a familiar, comfortable sleep environment for him.
Baby Packing tip from BCT: rather than bring a white noise machine, we use an iPhone app instead.
2. What is the best way to get our baby to adjust to a new time zone?
My suggestion when traveling to an area in a different time zone is to simply jump into the new time zone and treat it like an ordinary day at home. It may take a few days of dealing with baby or toddler jet lag, but sleep will get on track within a few days in your new place of travel.
3. How do we deal with baby jet lag? Is our baby going to be waking up at all hours of the night?
You may experience some extra night wakes or daytime crankiness for the first few days after your baby is introduced to a new time zone, but as long as you simply jump into the time zone and roll with it, your baby should adjust very quickly (this is thanks to his circadian rhythm – it’s the beauty of being a baby!).
4. We have a very strict bedtime routine at home; do we need to replicate our baby sleep routine on holiday? What if parts of the bedtime routine will not be available (e.g. bath)?
Babies and toddlers thrive on consistency and predictability; so, continuing a consistent bedtime routine on vacation each night will help to ready your baby or toddler for sleep and make bedtime much easier on everyone!
If you can’t swing a bath, simulate one with a warm, damp cloth and a quick wipe down. Baths are great sleep cues for little ones, so it’s an important step – try not to skip it!
5. Can you give us advice on how to get baby back on a sleep schedule after vacation?
I suggest simply jumping back in to your time zone at home when you return from traveling with your baby. Your baby should adjust quickly to their sleep schedule. When you get back, I suggest keeping it low key around the house for a couple days to wind down and get back into at-home routines.
6. How can we deal with our baby’s nap schedule when our baby is still napping twice a day? How important is it that we return to the hotel for both naps? Or can we have our baby napping on-the-go while sightseeing?
While I don’t recommend getting your baby to nap on the go for every nap when you are traveling, a few baby naps on the go are to be expected. Have your baby nap in her travel car seat, in your lightweight travel stroller or baby carrier when you are on the road.
Whenever you can manage it, ensure that at least the first nap of the day is in your hotel (or rental house, condo, etc.) in your baby’s travel crib or pack n’ play.
The first nap sets the tone for the rest of the day, so try not to mess with it! Then, if the second nap needs to be on-the-go, your baby should already well-rested and more able to handle this second, less ideal nap scenario.
7. What can we do to help our baby adjust to a new environment for sleeping?
A familiar sleep environment is key. So ensure you choose the baby travel sleep options that make your baby feel comfortable (e.g. separate sleep space, such as travel crib or pack and play; white noise machine; snuggly buddy; sleep sack; etc.) and are with you when traveling.
Also, respect your baby’s sleep needs and schedules as much as possible – so, stick to his usual naptimes and bedtimes whenever you can to ensure your little one stays well-rested. A well-rested baby = a happier, healthier baby AND family, and a much more enjoyable vacation!
8. Any tips for getting my baby to sleep on the flight? My baby is accustomed to sleeping in a crib, not on me…
Book airplane travel for early morning flights when babies are their freshest and the happiest. Do not expect your little one to nap on the plane, but do bring her favorite stuffy, blanket and book on the plane and let her sleep in your arms if she can.
Also, if you have a significant layover, you can try to get your toddler or baby napping in a baby carrier or in a stroller during this time in the airport between flights.
Try to get an early check-in at your hotel so your baby can have an afternoon nap once you arrive. If this is not possible, then go for a stroller or car ride when you reach your destination and let your little one catch some Zs while you enjoy the views! Count on an early bedtime the first night.
Most of all, do not stress if your baby does not nap at all on the day you travel to your destination – it is just one day.
9. What if our baby wakes up scared in the new environment? Should we go get him sooner? Let him sleep with us?
If you have created a familiar, comfortable sleep environment for your little one, he should have no issues with getting great sleep while away from home. If your little one was to wake during the night, however, I don’t recommend pulling him into your bed, as this can create a habit that is VERY hard to break upon returning home, and often results in poor sleep for the whole family.
Instead, give your little one some time to try to go back to sleep on his own, and then go to him and briefly reassure him so that he understands he is in a safe environment and you are there for him. Take a night light to turn on when you check on him, to show him that he is in a safe environment.
See our travel essentials for babies to help you great a familiar sleep environment for your baby.
10. I just got my baby napping well and sleeping through the night, will taking a vacation ruin our baby’s sleep routine?
This is where respecting your baby’s naptimes and creating a familiar sleep environment will be most useful!
Keep your baby on a nap schedule as much as possible when on vacation – avoid skipping naps whenever possible, and limit stroller and baby carrier naps so that she does not become unfamiliar with napping in her travel crib or pack n’ play.
Create a familiar sleep environment in your rental condo or hotel room so that your baby feels at home going to sleep in this space.
Make sure to have a separate sleeping area for your child. If you are not in a suite, then I recommend traveling with a double sheet or asking the hotel for one. (Travel with wood tacks, but not in your carry on!) You can tack the sheet up to create a little mini room to help with your baby or toddler nap schedule and nighttime sleep.
Better yet, invest in a SlumberPod which will fit over a travel crib or pack n’ play. The SlumberPod will create a private sleep area in the dark for your baby or toddler.
Where to Buy a SlumberPod
You can purchase the SlumberPod on Amazon (if available) or directly on the SlumberPod website.
Use code BABYCANTRAVEL10 to get $10USD off the SlumberPod when you buy direct from SlumberPod!
Can I get the SlumberPod in Canada?
Yes, you can order the SlumberPod directly on their website using our discount BABYCANTRAVEL10.
11. If I completely mess with our baby sleeping schedule (i.e. skip naps, later bedtime, co-sleeping) during vacation, can I still fix it when we get home?
Of course! If you are concerned that your vacation ruined your baby’s sleep, when you return home be VERY consistent about naptimes and bedtimes.
Also, be very consistent with the routines that go along with your baby’s nap and nighttime sleep. But, yes, vacation sleep habits can be undone!
Of course, as always, though, respecting your baby’s sleep as much as possible while on vacation will usually mean a more enjoyable time away for the whole family, and a smoother transition upon your return home.
12. Are there any foods that should be avoided before bedtime? Alternately, are there foods that encourage sleep in babies and toddlers?
Avoid sugar in the late afternoon and early evening, to sidestep the bedtime battles that often result! Instead, offer a balanced, healthy dinner, and then – if necessary – a small snack of fruit or whole grain crackers and cheese before you begin your toddlers bedtime routine, to ensure his tummy is filled with goodness and ready for a full night of uninterrupted sleep!
WeeSleep’s team of Certified Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultants, helps parents who are having challenges with their babies’ and toddlers’ sleep by providing a very personalized and high level of professional support to aid them in becoming independent sleepers. WeeSleep is for exhausted families who want their babies sleeping properly.