How to Avoid an Overtired Child while Traveling

How to Avoid an Overtired Child while Traveling

Nothing ruins a good time faster than an overtired child while traveling on vacation. After years of working with babies and children with sleep struggles, and having one of my own, I know that the fear of epic meltdowns from poor sleep is real. But let me assure you, with a little bit of thoughtful pre-travel planning, everyone can get the rest they need to enjoy each other and make tons of fantastic memories.

Because I want you to actually enjoy family trips, I’m sharing my best sleep tips to help ensure sure your child gets the sleep they need during your travels:

Tip 1: Don’t over schedule.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to pack in as much fun and adventure as possible. But the fact is, you’ll have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one’s sleep schedule. It’s best to make a list of activities and schedule the ones you’ll enjoy most around naps and bedtime.

It’s better to slow down the pace and have an early bedtime if your child has had an exciting day, just like you would at home. This doesn’t mean the fun has to end for you. Depending on where you’re staying, you can get a room sitter or family/friends to stay while you take in more fun. Or if that’s not an option, I recommend getting a room with a separate sleeping area, so that you and your partner may enjoy some alone time together before heading to bed.

Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime.

An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime won’t do too much harm for most children. However, if your child refuses their nap or they go to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your child WILL become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown is inevitable.

Tip 3: Be patient as your child acclimatizes to the new environment.

Even if your child is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you’re in a strange environment, things might be very different.  It’s normal for babies to need more reassurance and toddlers/preschoolers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re some place new.

Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at the hotel or Grandma’s house.

If your child is over a year old and sleeps in a separate room at home, try to get a hotel room with a separate bedroom or living room area, so that you aren’t disturbing them while they sleep.  If this isn’t possible, try to put up a sheet or blanket to section off an area for your child to sleep without being distracted by your presence

In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night.  The best way to handle this is to react the same way you would at home.  Go to them every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules.  If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be use to the new environment and should be sleeping well again.

Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket.

If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping them feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a different environment.  Forget it, and you may be scrambling for a suitable replacement.

Tip 5. If you don’t share a bed at home, don’t start now.

Whether it is because of convenience or desperation, you may be tempted to share a bed with their baby or child while traveling.  Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your child decides this is their new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a bigger problem when you get home and try to put them back into the crib or their own bed.

The good news is; most hotels have a crib or pack ‘n play you can use or rent.  You may also take your own pack ‘n play along and use that as a crib with a comfy quilted fitted sheet. For older children, a pull-out couch or sleeping bag is great if there aren’t enough beds to go around.

Kimberly Wagner-Dabbour… is the founder of Beddy Bye Sleep Solutions. She’s a proud graduate of Tecumseh High School and Siena Heights University.  After working for over 15 years in law enforcement and corrections all over southeastern Michigan, she moved to Georgia to start a family and new career in pediatric sleep.  She now resides right in the heart of Lenawee County with her nearly 4-year old daughter who fills her heart with so much joy and keeps her on her toes.    As a Pediatric Sleep Specialist and speaker on all things baby and child sleep related, she knows that the hardest part about making changes to your child’s sleep is all the questions and conflicting information surrounding it. This is why she supports all the families with age-based specific sleep science and experience, to ensure a better sleep outcome for everyone. Love sleep? Follow Kimberly on Facebook at Beddy Bye Sleep Solutions for weekly live sleep tips, sleep facts, latest sleep research, events, giveaways and more.  Need sleep help for your family? Reach out to her at with any baby/child sleep related questions, completely free. You can also visit her website at,

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