How To Handle Sleep On Vacation


Apr 18, 2024


I love when I talk to our Little Z’s families and they tell me their goals for their child, which, of course involves sleep! But they also want to connect with their spouse. Because that’s exactly where I am. That’s my mission. I want spouses to have time to connect after a stress-free bedtime.

And…. to be able to take that show on the road! Today we’re spending time talking about TRAVEL! In case you haven’t yet, you can head here to learn about surviving the travel day and then here to hear my own family’s experience traveling on vacation!

But today, I really want to get into how to handle sleep when you are on vacation. We’ll cover:

  • How to handle sleep in a beach house, hotel, or condo
  • Staying with someone else – what that means and looks like
  • Bedtime routines, including any adjustments you should make
  • Tips on sleep (and some not about sleep!) to make your stay a whole lot less stressful

Before we jump in… *SURPRISE! My oldest daughter joined me for a fun intro to the podcast episode! So if you enjoy listening instead of reading, enjoy her description of bedtime routine and quiet time…apparently she loves toothpaste the best…Ha!*

Here’s how you are going to handle sleep on vacation – You’ve finally arrived and it’s time to kick off your fun! The first thing you need to do is set up the room correctly.



If you will be sharing a room with your child – let’s say you are staying in a condo, or you’re in a hotel – the first thing I would have you do is look into a suite. If you can somehow get a room that’s a little bit bigger, or has a separate space, that would be awesome. 

If you’re staying somewhere long term, it’s great to have an option to separate. This is important because your kid will go to bed at their normal bedtime, and you’re not, so you could sneak in later in the night when your kid’s already asleep and it will be much less distracting. 

Also, in those early morning hours, like 5-6am, when the sunlight is starting to come through (because let’s be real, hotel blackout blinds are really not the best!), you will be able to at least shield yourself from your child and hopefully buy your child a little bit longer sleep. 

Either way, create some sort of separation, whether you can get a suite, or there’s a half-wall or curtain. Or, if you have to, you can put a couple of pieces of furniture in front of you in the pack and play or try to hang some towels for some separation. 

Another option if you’re in a beach house or a condo is to see if there is a bathroom or an extra closet that your child can fit in with their pack and play.

Of course, my favorite way to create separation in the same room (or to keep the room environment ideal for your child) is with the SlumberPod! It is really a wonderful way to help create a separate sleeping space for your baby who is accustomed to sleeping in their own space, because sometimes they will wake up all night long if they are literally right next to you and can see you.



Alright, let’s look at if your baby actually has their own room. Maybe you’re at a family member’s house or just in a place where they have the availability to have their own room. (First of all, love that!) 

Let’s set up their room just like you would at home. I want dark windows, and you can see my suggestions here. We’re going to get the white noise going… Everything that you would actually have in their room at home, you’re going to recreate that in their room here on vacation.



When your baby knows how to sleep well, they should be able to carry these skills right into their new environment. But just a little heads up – it doesn’t matter if you have a baby who already sleeps 12 hours, or you have a toddler who sleeps great through the night, on Night 1, you just need to give everybody some grace!

It’s going to take some getting used to the environment and trying to check out what’s actually happening until they settle into sleep. So be forewarned that if you have a baby who sleeps well, it may be a rocky start on Night 1, and I’m okay with that because it’s just the adjustment to the new environment. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really sleep super solid the first night I’m somewhere new. So give your baby that same amount of grace and love that you would probably extend to yourself and get back on track as you stay throughout the week. It’s going to be just fine!



Your bedtime routine should be portable. Whatever you do, it’s a 30 minute cueing system from bath to feed, books, pajamas, and bed. That whole routine that you have built at home, just recreate that same experience when you’re on vacation. 

Now, should you really do the whole thing? What if you’re late one night? What if you’ve gone out to dinner and it’s getting late and it’s past their bedtime? What should we do? 

If it’s past their bedtime, let’s skip the non-essentials. If you have built a solid expectation with your baby or your child, then we do bedtime routine and we get into bed. This gives you the freedom to kind of cut out some of these parts and pieces that are extras. 

For example, when we were at the beach, our kids were worn out. So when it came time for bedtime routine, we didn’t actually read books. We said goodnight, sang a song, and put them into bed. And that was that. We didn’t even do bath every night, because when you’re at the beach, you might do bath in the middle of the day and things might be a little bit off.

But cueing your kids is key. Our bedtime routine while we’re traveling is actually not 30 minutes, it’s maybe 10 or 15, because we’re expedient in it, and that’s okay as long as we get your child ready for sleep!

(P.S. If you’re here and thinking you don’t do a bedtime routine and maybe you should get a bedtime routine going before you go on vacation… Yes and no. If you’re about to go on vacation next week, don’t change anything!! It’s really gonna just be super confusing to your baby, and I don’t want that to happen. Just keep on doing what you’re doing! When you get home you can work on bedtime routines, and we can help you here!!)



Now, what about naps? You know that I am hardcore about nap schedules and giving your child all the sleep that they need. But come on, we’re on vacation! Let’s have some fun! Let’s skip naps every now and then – it’s going to happen. 

But here’s my hard and fast rule of when you’re on vacation. On Day 1, stick to your nap schedule, y’all. 

On the first full day you have, I really want you to give your child the gift of going to take their naps at their normal time. Why? Because that travel day took a lot out of them and they probably were off the day before. It actually takes 24 hours for your child to get back on track. 

So if you’ve traveled on a Sunday, guess what? Monday we’re gonna get right back into our normal nap rhythm, whether that’s a 4 nap day or 1 nap day, wherever your child is, and however old they are, keep the same nap expectations on Day 1.

Then, you can absolutely take some freedom and liberties the rest of the week!

I was actually talking to someone today at a coffee shop and she said, “Are you kidding? I always give my kids naps!! They don’t even nap anymore but I’ve got to give them naps when we’re at the beach because they’re overtired monsters!” And it’s true!! Even when my daughters stopped napping, I would sometimes do a longer quiet time for them at the beach because they just needed that rest. So if you have a kid who doesn’t nap anymore, they may take a little snooze after a really hard and long day, and I’m okay with that. But we don’t want to get back in the rhythm of giving them naps forever, because guess what? They are only going to get 11 to 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period and their bodies are going to go through a lot when you’re traveling. I want them to understand the normal expectation is still there.

Even if they maybe have a little nap every now and then because they’re just totally spent, I would much rather get them down early for bed, but keep their routine loosely the same.



So through all of this, I want to give you three tips and some ways that you can help really have a stress free vacation.

Tip #1 – You do you. 

I know when you go on vacation with family or friends, you’re going to hear all the opinions, right? I want you to close it off, because if you have a kid who sleeps well, then you just need to celebrate that! 

And if you don’t have a kid who sleeps well, and you’re feeling bombarded by all of these opinions, all of these different things… like you should do this or you should try that – Oh, my goodness, I have been there. 

Don’t feel pressured to change things on vacation. In fact, that’s a terrible time to change things!! Keep in your lane and keep on your path, and if you’re ready to make change, let’s talk!! (You can take this quiz here to see which of our sleep programs would actually be right for you!) 

Tip #2 – Get help. 

You don’t have to carry everything on vacation. If you are flying, you’ve gotta know that Baby’s Away is your saving grace. Baby’s Away is an amazing baby or child rental company for renting pack n plays, cribs, whatever you need. 

When you go on vacation, I know you can totally just check the pack ‘n play or check the stroller and it’s fine. But you could just pay a little bit more and actually have someone set it up and deliver it!! We’ve done this and it was incredible.

Tip #3 – When you get home, give everyone time.

It’s gonna take some time to adjust back home! Especially if you’re in a different time zone, give everybody about a week to just adjust back to normal. Don’t make big changes in their routines or sleep training quite yet when you get home. Wait a week, and then do it!



So, overall, you CAN keep sleep a thing, even on vacation!! Here are some of my top suggestions on how to handle sleep on vacation: 

1) Set up the room. Can you get a suite? Extra bathroom? Closet? Mimic their home environment so that everyone gets better sleep!

2) Keep naps on Day 1 on point!

3) Understand when an early bedtime is necessary, but also be willing to be flexible and ENJOY your vacation!

4) Get back on track at home! But remember – give everyone some adjustment time.

Where are you headed out on vacation this summer? Share with me how you’re taking your sleep skills on the road with you!



How to handle sleep on vacation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Keep sleep a thing on vacation with the Little Z's Travel Guide!