Help! My Baby Won’t Sleep on Vacation!

Reasons Your Baby Won’t Sleep on Vacation

Having a baby doesn’t mean you can’t ever vacation again. Babies can actually be great travelers, and it’s fun to introduce your little one to the rich experiences of the world while on vacation.

Unfortunately, not all babies love the change that comes with travel, and this may show up in their sleep patterns. When your baby won’t sleep on vacation, you end up with a cranky child who can’t enjoy the experience. This means you won’t be able to enjoy it either.

Luckily, there are plenty of tips for how to deal when your baby won’t sleep on vacation. First, you have have to understand the problem.

As adults, we sleep when we’re tired. That can make it hard to understand why a baby won’t just sleep when tired, no matter where in the world he finds himself. There are a variety of issues that cause a baby to avoid or miss sleep while on vacation. They include:

  • Time zone changes
  • Unfamiliar environment
  • Lack of a sleep schedule

The norm for a baby’s sleep habits is disrupted when removed from the comfort of his own home. Fixing the root of the problem while on vacation is possible. It just takes some effort and understanding.

How to Salvage Your Baby’s Sleep While on Vacation

Adhere to the Nap Schedule

Adults can change routines and still manage to rest when they are tired. Some babies can do this as well, but many are so attached to their nap schedules and routines that they don’t do well when the routine is changed. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your little one on a normal nap schedule as much as possible when vacationing.

If your baby takes a morning nap and an afternoon nap at home, try to ensure he receives the same while on vacation. Plan time in for your child to get quality day sleep so he won’t be overly exhausted at night. Babies who are too tired don’t sleep well.

It’s normal to go off schedule when on vacation, but if your baby won’t sleep on vacation, prioritizing a nap schedule could help salvage your whole trip.

Don’t Aim for Overtired

The goal on vacation is not to make your child so tired that he collapses. It’s a myth that overly tired children sleep better, especially if a child is exhausted and out of his normal environment. If your baby won’t sleep on vacation, it may be because all the over stimulation has left him incapable of shutting down for rest.

Make sure your child is not skipping naps, sleeping less hours at night, or being woken up from sleep to experience vacation adventures. Your baby won’t make up the time he lost sleeping later in the day or night. He will be so tired that crankiness takes over and prohibits him from getting good rest the entire trip.

If you baby won’t sleep on vacation, try watching for his tired cues and placing him down to rest before he is completely worn out. This will allow him to drift into a relaxing sleep that offers rejuvenation.

Create a Familiar Sleep Environment

We all like familiarity. It’s easier to rest and be comfortable in places we know or somewhat recognize than places we don’t. No one expects you take the baby’s entire nursery with you on vacation, but you should set up a familiar sleep environment within your rental home or hotel room.

Ideas to create a comfortable environment include:

  • Special doll or blanket from home
  • Favorite bedtime stories
  • Noise machine from home

Set up a corner of the room with familiar items and a comfortable resting place so your little one will recognize pieces of home while on vacation.

Make sure to also adhere to your same room situation on vacation if possible. For example, if your baby sleeps in your room at home, make sure he does on vacation. A child who is used to seeing and hearing his parents isn’t going to do well if he is placed in a different room when he is already getting used to a new house and town.

Be Aware of Time Zone Issues

There’s no way around issues when you travel to a different time zone. You will notice a variety of sleep issues for everyone in the family depending on how far outside of your time zone you travel. Babies, unfortunately, don’t understand why they don’t want to sleep at the normal time and can’t place logic on their confusion.

The best thing you can do when travelling to a different time zone with a baby is to jump into the new normal as soon as possible. Try to place your baby down for naps and bedtime during the new normal time, and give them some time to adjust. They will eventually catch on, just like you will. Prepare to readjust when you head back home.

Accept On-the-Go Naps

Not every vacation nap should be on-the-go. It’s great to cram in as much as you can while on vacation, but it’s also a good idea to allow your baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet for some of his naps.

However, accepting on-the-go naps every once in a while when traveling can help your baby sleep. If your child will sleep in a stroller, a carrier, or the car seat in the car, let him. On-the-go naps will not completely destroy your child’s ability to nap on his own in a crib. They also give you the ability to explore your new surroundings, even if you are travelling with a little one.

When a baby won’t sleep on vacation in his normal crib or bassinet, the familiarity of mom or dad’s body up against him in a carrier may be enough to calm him. This can lead to sleep for him and a cardio workout for you while you haul your little one around exploring.

Don’t Go Overboard on Exotic Food

Vacations are a time to branch out and experience new things. You just need to proceed with caution because too much exotic food can affect a baby’s ability to sleep on your trip.

If your baby is still breastfeeding, he will take in flavors from your food. Food that is too spicy or rich can cause digestive issues for babies. If your baby won’t sleep on vacation, an upset stomach or gas may be the problem.

A child who is already eating solids may want to be an adventurous explorer on vacation, but proceed with caution. New foods can cause allergic reactions or stomach upsets that create sleep mishaps for days. Your baby won’t sleep on vacation if he develops a diaper rash from bowel movements full of too-spicy meals. There are a million ways the wrong foods can derail sleep.

Stick to foods you know your child does well with, and introduce new foods one at a time. This will help you figure out what food caused a reaction if your child has one, and it will let you know what to eliminate so your child’s sleep schedule can return to normal.

Follow the Routine

When your baby won’t sleep on vacation, you need to look at what is happening before you try to get him to rest. If your at-home bedtime includes a bath, story time, and snuggles before he is on his own in the crib, then you need to try to replicate this as much as possible while on vacation.

It’s rare for a child who is used to a strict bedtime routine to suddenly be able to fall flat into his crib with no preparation. Even if he does fall asleep, he will likely wake up often because he wasn’t fully prepared for a full night of sleep.

Vacations are good for you and your baby, but if your baby won’t sleep on vacation, the entire trip can turn into a disaster. Stick to as much of your sleep routine as possible, but don’t be afraid to wing it if your child is willing to catch some shut eye in a stroller or carrier.

Vacation will not ruin a child’s sleep habits for life. Trips just tend to be more fun if your little one can rest while away from home. If your baby won’t sleep on vacation, adjust your routine and try again.