Taking young children to a hotel is quite the experience. No matter how many times you attempt to explain it, their minds remain in a near-perpetual state of awe. Is this our new house? Is this soap mine? Wait, we’re sleeping here?! Lodging at a hotel with young kids certainly can be fun, exciting, or hilarious, but more often it can also be crowded, chaotic, and messy. Here are a few tips to make staying at hotels with young kids a little easier.
Get the biggest room possible
I know, it seems obvious, but it must be said: If you can get a suite, get it. It helps immensely to have an area of separation, where kids (or suitcases, or other travel detritus) can be tossed when you need a few moments in the sleeping area to clean up or zone out. Also: Two TVs.
Bring your own baby-proofing gear
If your kids are at an age where every outlet begs to be touched and the contents of every cabinet must be inspected, bringing a few baby-proofing items can make the experience less anxiety-inducing. Plastic outlet covers, cabinet locks, and sharp corner protectors, while not 100% necessary to enjoy yourself, can ease some of that toddler safety vigilance that travels with us wherever we go.
Pack your own snacks (and headphones)
While it’s tempting to pack light and adopt a “they’ll have snacks there” mentality, it’s smart to bring your own stash. Vending machines and hotel snack boutiques may not carry options your kids like. It saves money, and sometimes you just need to throw something reliable at them fast, before sibling crankiness and squabbling rears its head in close quarters.
Also, remember you will have none of your usual places to escape and may be sharing your bed with a three-year-old, who you want to fall asleep before you. If you want to enjoy your precious daily hour of mental vegetating before passing out, bring headphones so you can watch videos or shows on your device of choice while they (hopefully) snooze beside you.
Establish “areas” for each kid and pick up as you go
While enforcing this can be tough, if you’re staying for longer than a night, try to establish areas for things. An area for backpacks, an area for shoes, an area for suitcases, an area for dirty clothes. Make kids (if they’re old enough) pick up their things and put them in the proper place before they can get that sweet, sweet iPad time.
Bring a white noise machine (and a night light)
As a light sleeper who wakes up every time my husband moves a body part during the night, sleeping in the same room as multiple other rustling people is not my jam. While sometimes you can rely on your room’s A/C fan, not all of them provide a continuous stream of white noise throughout the night. (You also never know if you’re staying on a floor with retirees in town for a bingo tournament, or a bunch of loud college kids who can party until the wee hours.) So bring a white noise machine to drown out disturbances from both in and outside your room. In a pinch, you can play some out loud on your phone’s external speaker (there are lots of white noise videos on YouTube).
And since blackout curtains live up to their name, unless you want to leave on the bathroom light all night, bring a night light to help guide little ones to the toilet when it’s dark. While you’re at it, save your back some trouble and bring a collapsible stool, if you have one. Because toddlers are not reaching that sink basin by themselves.
Lay out the breakfast buffet rules in advance
If a continental breakfast buffet is included your stay, hallelujah! This perk comes with a price, however. Know that unless buffet rules are clearly stated, your kids will come back with a 2-inch high dome of bacon that spans the entire diameter of the plate (only to then eat three pieces) and enough pancakes for an entire high school swim team. Then they’ll want to try every juice in the machine, and make multiple trips to sample the muffins, donuts, banana breads, or sugary cereals on offer.
If you’re content to let your kids go hog wild at the buffet for a day or two, you are a fun parent. If you are more like me, and don’t want your kids to use seven syrup packages or toss eight uneaten sausage links in the trash while the rest of the guests to go sausage-less, establish some ground rules before they see the bounty and go nuts. (For example: one sweet, one protein. Must have piece of fruit to pass go. Yes, you can have Cap’n Crunch, but not that and waffles and a bagel.)
Establish an elevator button-pushing turn-taking system
You think I jest, but I do not. When multiple young kids are in tow, the system of who gets to push the elevator buttons (and when) is of paramount importance. The honor is not taken lightly; shoes have been lost, knees have been skinned, scratches have been delivered, all in the hot, bickering pursuit of getting to the elevator first. But every wizened parent knows you can’t just let whoever gets there first push them! No, no that’s not fair. And justice must be served.
Are you going to let one child push the button to call the elevator, and another child push the floor number? Or will you give each child an entire button-pushing cycle—including both call button and floor button—then rotate? What happens if another guest presses either, does the child get to “redo” their turn the next time? Or perhaps, they can recoup their losses with the privilege of using the digital room key to open the door? Think about it. These thing matter.
Bring a few plastic cups (and bags)
Some hotels will have paper or plastic cups available in your room, but many still only provide glass—a material young kids are not known for handling well. To help with teeth brushing and all those desperate pre-bedtime sips of water, bring a few plastic cups (or bottles) you can toss when you check out. And pack extra plastic bags; they can come in handy for temporarily housing dirty laundry, stinky Pull-ups, or wet bathing suits.
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