The first time we took our son to a hotel, it wasn’t exactly peaceful. He nursed around the clock and he never seemed to actually sleep. Neither did we. I remember carting him into the bathroom in the middle of the night, although I don’t think the ventilation fan did much to cover the noise of my shrieking son. Thankfully, that moment was short-lived, and I didn’t let it stop me from planning another trip.
Whether it’s for business or pleasure, the Sailor and I have hauled our child lots of places. We’ve stayed at Air BnBs, people’s homes, and taken our child camping, but by far, besides sleeping at home, this kid has logged the most nights in hotels.
Staying anywhere can be daunting with a child, however.
Last summer, I wrote about how much kids value small things even in a motel. But what if your summer plans include staying at an actual halfway decent hotel? And what if it’s not (GASP) kid-friendly? Never fear, I’ve got some tips up my sleeve to share with you.
Not all hotels appear kid-friendly, and even the ones that are, aren’t always full of people who expect children to be there. Most recently, we stayed at a very kid-friendly hotel, although one man seemed quite surprised that there were so many children at breakfast. I felt his pain since I hadn’t yet had any coffee and the noise was deafening. I silently thanked the stars that my child was one of the quieter ones that morning. He probably had a mouthful of food.
Speaking of food, my first few tips revolve around eating, because a hungry mama (and child) turns into a hangry mama (and child). Trust me on this one.
Book a hotel that offers breakfast.
Even if you’re not a fan of pancakes that fall out of a machine or a cold continental breakfast, your kid will probably love it. Starting your day with a little something without having to wander around looking for food makes a huge difference. Also, there’s no shame in ‘second breakfast’ later on the in the day if you want something with more local flavor.
Hit up a local grocery store.
We love to eat out, but our budget can’t always handle it for every single meal, after we pay for the actual travel and hotel. We always pack a ton of snacks and sandwiches for the road, and then we grab some pre-made salads, yogurts and fruit to stash in the hotel fridge for other meals.
The hotel fridge and microwave will not have all of the bells and whistles on them, but they will keep your cheese sticks cold and your chicken nuggets hot.
Don’t despair though if your hotel doesn’t have these lovely amenities. If you’ve packed a cooler for a road trip, you can easily use the hotel ice machine to keep your stuff cold. If you want to go super old school (like my mom did circa early 1980 in our motel) you can fill up the bathtub with ice and keep a ton of stuff in there, at least overnight. Some hotels have a microwave in the lobby snack area that you can simply use, if there’s not one in the room.
Room service for the win.
When all else fails — i.e., you don’t want to go out again, the restaurants are too far, you’ve run out of snacks, or you know your child won’t deal well with the hotel restaurant setting, there’s no shame in ordering a burger and fries and having it delivered right to your room on a fancy tray. Trust me, your kid will love this one. You will too.
Next up — schlepping stuff.
Don’t bring a ton of stuff.
We don’t always follow this rule. Especially when we’re driving, we look like we’re hauling half of our house into the hotel. I don’t recommend it. Most hotels have washers and dryers. (Bonus: a load of laundry costs far less than paying for an extra bag when flying domestically.) Also, the point of traveling is to experience new things, including not having access to all of the toys and all of the clothes.
Do bring some cutlery and a plate or a bowl.
You may be able to tolerate those plastic forks that grocery stores or food chains dole out (I can’t), but your child can easily break them in his mouth. (Ask me how I know…) Otherwise, simply ask at the hotel restaurant or room service for a spare bowl/plate/fork. They will happily oblige. I just prefer to have our own in the event of impending lunch meltdown, I don’t have to wait for someone to bring me a fork. I like these sporks and also these fun interchangeable cutlery sets.
The sleep factor
Request a room at the end of a hallway, or a room away from other guests if it’s not fully-booked, even if you have to stay on another floor.
I’m not advocating for keeping clear of other people, but sometimes it’s easiest to know someone might not be right beside you simply for the noise factor, whether you’re the one making the noise or not.
If you want a pack ’n play or extra cot, request it early on since quantities are limited.
I’ve never bothered with either, but most hotels offered me the option when my child was smaller.
Bring something familiar for your child for bedtime.
Blue cow has gone around the world with us.
Lastly safety (but really this should be first!)
Know exactly where the emergency exits are in the hotel.
The Sailor and I met onboard a ship, so we are acutely aware of fire dangers. Even if your child knows how to get out of your house in a fire, they might not know the exit in a strange place. Take the stairs at least once so you know the route.
On that note, if the fire alarm goes off, EXIT THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.
Trust me; nine flights of stairs when you’re heavily pregnant isn’t any fun, but even at 3am, the Sailor and I were two of the first people out of a hotel once. Had that actually been a real fire, and had we lollygagged like others did, I might not be here to write this story. Treat any alarm like a real one.
Lock the door and especially use the latch lock above.
The Peanut and I have stayed a lot of places where it’s just the two of us, and he escapes any room quickly, even with a regular lock. He still can’t reach the latch lock, but I know the day is coming when he will figure it out. If you’re in doubt about your tot getting up to mischief while you’re in a hotel bathroom, haul them in with you. When the Peanut was at the crawling stage, I ended up strapping him into his car seat and bringing him into the cramped bathroom to sit while I showered. (Also, I still shower every day.)
We don’t have a pool at home, so swimming on vacation is always a bonus. However, lifeguards are generally not around at hotel pools. Keep your eye on your kids, follow the pool rules, know the signs of drowning and know where the emergency telephone is poolside in case something should happen.