Recently we stayed in a hotel for a week as a family of five. For things to go smoothly, this type of stay takes some clever planning, preparation, creativity, and a lot of patience! We had a busy agenda of meetings and commitments during the day, but it was sleep time and play time that were on my mind as top priorities! In order for our week to go smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible for everyone, I made sure everyone got as much sleep as they needed (and sometimes more because of the busy activities) and made sure everyone felt right at home. Here’s how I did it!
First, whenever we travel, I make sure to pack something from home for each of the kids. For my girls (2 and 4 years old) I bring a blanket and their favorite stuffed animal for both of them. These are the items they sleep with each night and having them near, even when in a different bed, is comforting. For my baby boy, I bring his blanket too just because he will recognize it’s feel and smell and be comforted.
Next in order of importance and practicality, is bringing the kids’s water cups. Seriously. My kids drink water like it’s candy. I really can’t tell you why. But each of my kids gets distressed, even my baby boy, when they don’t have their water. So, we bring their Avent Twist N Sip cups, which I really can’t recommend highly enough. These cups do not leak and my girls each sleep with theirs every night. It makes the stressful mealtimes in a hotel easier and for my kids, is comforting to have something they really love.
Also, I bring a little backpack for each of the girls to wear on the trip to have some activities to keep them busy. For each of them, this last trip I brought a new coloring book and new crayons. They get excited about these new items and so it holds their attention for a bit longer. We also brought a little doll that fit easily in their backpacks as well as their ‘drawers,’ as we call them. These are magnetic drawing boards that keep my kids entertained for…I was going to say hours, but nothing really holds their attention for hours, right? So, we’ll say it keeps them busy for a good while. But let me tell you another fun idea for the hotel room that my kids came up with all on their own. They love to use the phones and pretend to talk to each other and others. We unplug the phones (cause aint nobody callin’ us on those anyways!) and the kids have a blast. They use the little note pads left on the night tables and they answer the phone and take notes. This literally does keep them busy for hours.
Another helpful tip for our kiddos is to have snacks. The first thing we did on this last trip was to send Justin out for snacks. He found the closest store and grabbed pretzels, crackers, fruit, sliced meat, and cheese. These are all things our kids love to snack on that will keep them happy in between the times the dining room is open in the hotel if they just can’t wait. We like make sure they are getting some protien to keep their energy up, which stops them from getting too grumpy. Also, they don’t always eat as much at meals because they are distracted. So, having something in the room where they can eat without distraction is helpful when needed.
And now for keeping the baby boy happy. This was not easy on this last trip. He is 10 months old and is so aware of everything now. So, he quickly realized he was not at home and while that made exploring the room fun, he did not enjoying going to sleep in the room. I prepared as much as I could and I think when he gets more used to sleeping in a new space, this will continue to help. I brought an extra crib sheet to put over the Pack N Play the hotel provided for him to sleep in. Then, I used the blanket they provided to block out extra light on one side of the Pack N Play. I also think this might stop him from being able to see too much around him, which might actually scare him more. Also, I didn’t want him to be able to see the bed Justin and I were sleeping in because that would cause him to fully wake once he realized I was near. I did leave one side of the mesh Pack N Play uncovered as a dark box to sleep in might also be scary. My goal was to create a comfy, dark, cozy space for Micah. He still didn’t love it, but I think it helped. When he just couldn’t be comfortable in his bed, we snuggled in the Ergo and he fell right asleep. I would suggest a baby carrier is a necessity on any trip!
Also, Micah is still having bottles so I had to think through how I could clean bottles for the week. I only wanted to bring two so I had less to pack and worry about once there. So, two bottles it was! Thankfully, I had a Dr. Brown’s Bottle Brush (which is less than $4 on Amazon!) and the little cleaning brushes for the nipple, which also work amazingly well for the Avent straws on the girls’s cups. I used one sink in the room for my bottle washing station and it worked out perfectly.
Another tip for having a baby in the hotel, that I had not previously thought about until this trip, is to choose where you sit in the dining area wisely. For most of the week, we decided to sit at the table closest to where all the food was laid out. This made all the trips to and from the food much quicker, but after four or so days, three meals a day, I could see that baby Micah was completed overstimulated. I think a big reason this happened was because as we sat close to the food, everyone stopped to touch him, try to get his attention, and learn his name. We are currently living in a culture that really fauns over babies, so he got a ton of attention. After a few days I figured out this was probably the primary source of him being overwhelmed and we began to eat the rest of our meals at the back of the dining room, around a corner, where no one could find Micah.
Finally, sleeping children in a hotel room can be exhausting and discouraging. They are in a new place and often everyone is trying to sleep in the same space. Doing things like what I did with Micah’s bed to block out a visual of others can be helpful. But its hard to get away from the noise each person creates. Even one child asking for a drink of water or someone needing to use the bathroom can wake up everyone. We’ve done our best to compensate for this as we’ve stayed in various hotel rooms. When we only had two kids, two queen beds with one parent and one child in each bed worked well. And Justin and I would each lay down with a child until they were able to fall asleep, then one of us would huddle in the corner with the computer or iPad and the other would usually go out and enjoy the amenities or the people we were traveling with. Now that we are a larger family of five, we aren’t usually allowed to all stay in the same room. We’ve not gotten two rooms yet, because with such little kids, it’s much easier to have both parents working together and running between rooms for supplies, clothing, etc. would be challenging. We’ve decided the best way to get the greatest rest for our family is to get a suite that has a separate room off the bedroom. This extra room usually has a sofa bed and we ask for a cot to bed brought in. Then, we were successful in getting the girls to both nap and sleep through the night in the extra sitting room while Justin and I shared a room with Micah. In any case, you just have to figure out how everyone will sleep best. We had thought I would be in the bedroom with our oldest and our baby. But, we tried the girls sleeping in the sitting room and it worked great, so we went with that! It helps they share a room at home, for sure. In the end, keeping your kids well rested and on their sleeping schedule makes for a better time for everyone. So, continue with your bedtime routine as much as possible (we brought a book to read before bed and took a bath) and bring things along that your kids are used to sleeping with.
Oh, and that alarm clock in your room? Turn it to AM and make some white noise! That was a life saver on this trip!
While it is a lot of work to bring so many extra things along on the trip, I have found that this extra preparation makes my kids feel more at ease. Also, keeping them on their schedule as best I can makes the trip so much more fun. Then, when they are awake and we are out and about, the kids are happy and enjoying what we are doing rather than everyone being grumpy and complaining because they are tired. I have done trips both ways and I know our family does much better when I do all that I mentioned.
Do you have any travel tips for staying in a hotel with kiddos? I’d love to hear them and add them to our list!
Check out and pin this quick list graphic to help you prepare for your upcoming trip!