Why Baby Won’t Sleep On Vacation

Why Baby Won’t Sleep On Vacation

You’ve had a busy, exciting day on vacation. It’s finally time to cozy up in that luxurious hotel bed and… Surprise! Baby won’t fall asleep. Whether your infant refuses to sleep in her playard or your jet-lagged toddler won’t settle down, here are some reasons why your baby won’t sleep on vacation (and ways to get those eyes to close!)

She’s slept all day in the stroller or car seat. On typical vacations, the baby takes her naps on the go: in the carrier, car seat or stroller. If long stints of walking, driving or flying are on your list, you can bet that baby will get way more sleep than normal. We all know that naptime is when the parents get to relax, so we’re often hesitant to wake a sleeping child. Rather than letting baby sleep for longer than usual, try to adhere to normal nap duration. She may need a little more sleep if your vacation days are packed with activities, but don’t go overboard. Too much stroller shut-eye can make your little one wild at bedtime.

He’s had too much excitement and is overtired or over-stimulated. Babies and toddlers who absorb everything around them are prone to this problem. They’ll act totally thrilled to be out and about only to crash when they finally make it back to the hotel. If you’ve planned a busy day, don’t try to go out to dinner too. Your baby needs some time in a familiar place to relax before truly winding down. Stop at a grocery store and bring food to your hotel or order in. You also have the benefit of not having to restrain and entertain your cranky child in a high chair. Even if you’re only staying a few days, it helps to treat the hotel as home where your baby can crawl, toddle or relax away from crowds or noise.

She doesn’t understand the Pack ‘n Play is for sleeping, or worse, thinks it’s a prison. If you’ve only used the playpen to corral an unruly baby, she will feel like she’s being ditched for bad behavior. Also, you may love the feel of a clean, new pair of hotel sheets, but baby likes what she’s used to. Start early and get her accustomed to sleeping in her travel bed. The playard does seem uncomfortable compared to a mattress, so make it more cozy by tucking a favorite (fleece is nice) blanket around the pad. Of course, if your baby has been rolling a lot or is very young, keep safety in mind first. For an easy solution, buy an extra mattress for the playard like the Dream On Me 3″ Playard Mattress or the MamaDoo Kids Playard Mattress Topper, which has the added benefit of being foldable.


You didn’t follow something similar to his bedtime routine. Does his normal bedtime routine consist of stumbling back to the room at 10 p.m. and lying with mom and dad in bed while watching TV? Or do you usually let him fall asleep in the car seat or stroller and then attempt a silent transfer to bed? I didn’t think so. (Or at least, I hope not.) Some babies are amenable to changes, but many would rather have their early bath and read books before dozing off. It can be frustrating that your days of staying out late are over, but as parents you try to consider what’s best for your baby. Maybe you could trade off watching the sleeping children with your spouse or travel partners. I read recently in On the Go With Baby: A Stress Free Guide to Getting Across Town or Around the World that she put her daughter to sleep in the hotel and then worked on her laptop using the toilet for a desk. We all have our ways to manage early bedtimes.

She’s just a bad sleeper! Some kids are from the beginning. On our first trips with Baby J when she was an infant, she struggled to fall asleep, woke up a lot and demanded frequent sips of formula. Basically, she was the same baby on vacation that she was at home. It was just that since we were away, we expected her to relax and have a good time too! We made it through a few trips with her, each time cursing each other in the darkness for what should/should not have been done. Be reasonable with your expectations, and make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.

If you’ve considered all the things above and you still can’t get your baby to sleep on vacation, remember: this too shall pass. Each developmental stage is different and waiting a few months will bring the solution to that sleep problem (along with a new one to solve). Determined travelers or those needing to fulfill visits to the in-laws should prepare well and hope for the best. You may just have to allow some crying and drink a few more cups of coffee in the morning.

Photo by kretyen

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4 comments on “Why Baby Won’t Sleep On Vacation

    • How old is your baby? If he is old enough to not worry about suffocation at night, then you can do pretty much what ever you want to make it more comfortable. One idea could be to lay a quilted baby blanket or two on top of the mattress. Covering them with a sheet will help them stay together and reduce the risk of suffocation if that is something you still need to be concerned about. Another idea could be to get an egg crate type mattress cover and cut it down to fit the pack n play. It may be best to use it upside down, though, with the flat surface up instead of down. I have also heard rumors that portable crib mattresses fit in pack n plays, but I haven’t tried it and haven’t heard definitively if they do or not. If your baby is still little had has little control over his head and body movements, another option could just be to leave it as is. Most babies actually do quite well with them, especially if they can be in the suspended position instead of in the bottom. Good luck with what ever you decide.

  1. My daughter and son slept on the bssainet pack and play during the day as well as when we went away. They did just fine. Depending on how old your baby is you want something firm because of SIDS. If you put tons of blankets in there with a sheet on top then it will be too soft and can cause a risk for SIDS. If you want to try and make it a little softer but not too much go and purchase a porta crib mattress. They are the same size as a pack and play. I have a porta crib because when my daughter got to be a year old she would not sleep in a pack and play so we bought a porta crib for when we went a way. The mattress from that fits the pack and play but we didn’t realize that until after my son was born and I tried it. I wish I knew it back then I would have saved a lot of money. you can buy porta crib sheet for it or you can use your pack and play sheets they both fit. Good Luck!!

  2. Pingback: Tips for a Road Trip with a Toddler

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