Hotel Travel Tips for Babies and Toddlers

One of the things I was least prepared for as a parent was traveling with my little one. I realized very quickly just how much I had taken for granted being able to pack my suitcase, hit the road, and enjoy a hotel stay in my pre-baby days. The challenge of sharing a hotel room with a baby or toddler was one that never crossed my mind until I experienced it — and I wished I had known what to prepare for ahead of time. Here are some tips to survive staying in a hotel room with a little one:

Where to sleep

Most chain hotels have a pack and play available for use in your room. Most hotels also have other families staying at them — ones who may have first laid claim on said pack and play. If you’re planning to pack light, be sure to call ahead to reserve a pack and play and assure it is set up for you when you check into your room.

If you’re staying in a place that doesn’t offer this, you can rent a pack and play, crib, or cot for your child. BabyQuip and Rents4Baby are both services that rent out baby gear so that you can pack lighter. Be sure to check which rental companies service your destination, and schedule your rentals as part of your travel booking.

Is your toddler too big to comfortably sleep in a pack and play? Consider renting or purchasing a travel toddler bed — you can find folding styles and inflatable versions at many major retailers and online.

Don’t forget the comforts of home

Does your child sleep with a white noise machine? A favorite stuffed animal or blanket? Or even with a special water cup next to the bed? Be sure to bring it! Staying in a hotel room can seem fun and exciting, but these feelings can change quickly once it becomes time to sleep. These creature comforts can help to ease the transition. If your white noise machine is too bulky to pack, try setting your smartphone inside the room’s ice bucket or inside a large cup with a white noise app playing to amplify the sound.

Embrace the darkness

Just like at home, it’s easier to sleep in a completely dark room. If you’ve changed time zones as part of your travels, this may be an extra important consideration around bedtime. There are a few ways to assure the light from outside isn’t peeking in and keeping your little one awake, depending on your room setup.

Clothespins or binder clips are useful in a ton of situations and can also help clip curtains shut to darken your room. In a pinch, you can also reach for the pants hanger in your room’s closet and give that a try.

If you have a room with a large bathroom or closet, that can also double as a separate, dark sleeping space to set up the pack and play. Don’t forget that most hotel furniture is moveable, so you can rearrange the space to work for your sleep setup — even if that means creating a “tent” or curtain to create a separate space for your child.

If all else fails, or if you know sleeping in the same room just isn’t going to work for your family, it’s worth it to call your hotel to ask what they have for options. Many chain hotels offer small one-bedroom suites with a bedroom and separate living room space that can double as a kid bedroom. Often, it’s a relatively small buy-up from a standard room and can be worth it if it means getting some real sleep.

There are so many aspects of trip planning for parents to keep track of that we often overlook what happens once we finally get to the hotel room. It’s important to know that even though you can’t expect perfect sleep on a family vacation, with a little extra preparation you can make your hotel stay that much easier on yourself and your child.

Hannah grew up in rural central Massachusetts and now lives in the beautiful Berkshires. Hannah has BS and MS degrees in engineering and has spent most of her career working as a manager in the manufacturing industry — where there are few women, and even fewer moms. She is currently a senior quality manager in the aerospace industry, working on commercial airplane components. Hannah and her husband met during college, when they were both volunteering at a food bank. After graduating, building their careers, traveling, and even living on opposite coasts for a few years, they were married in 2015 and welcomed a son in 2019. Together, they love to camp, travel, and hone their DIY skills as they work to build their family's forever home. Hannah loves to volunteer, especially with organizations that help women and mothers advance their careers.

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