Staying in a hotel may not be the same, relaxing experience you had while staying at hotels before kids. But it can still be a fun experience for everyone! Our tried and true hotel tips for families will make your stay easy, fun, and low-stress!
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How to Choose the best hotel and room
Picking a hotel room for your family can be a little bit tricky. Many hotel rooms seem to be designed for business travelers or couples traveling without kids. But there still are a lot of great rooms designed with families in mind. You just have to know what to look for! When we are choosing a hotel room for our family, these are the things we look for:
Tip 1. Look for Outdoor Space
Hotel rooms are so small, and neighbors are just one (often thin) wall away, so it’s really nice if you can get the kids out of the room to run around. Finding a hotel with a nearby playground, trails, a bit of green space, or just some patio space can make your stay a lot easier.
This is not always going to be an option, but it’s something we look for if we can find it. And we always appreciate it.
Tip 2: Pool!
Another really nice-to-have option is a hotel pool. Often the hotel pool ends up being the highlight of the trip for the kids, and it’s an excellent way for the kids to burn off any extra energy. Even when we have busy vacation days, the kids love popping into the pool for a quick swim every evening (or every evening I let them!).
Tip 3: Choose Close to (kid) food
Taking your kids out to find 3 meals a day (plus snacks) gets old really fast. So pick a hotel that has some good options right nearby, or onsite. But make sure you check out the menu ahead of time. Often the onsite restaurants have food that is a little too fancy for my kids, or just a little too expensive to eat every meal.
Tips 4: Pick a big room!
Staying at a hotel with a couple of kids AND another adult can get pretty crowded. So every square foot of that room makes a difference. Look for hotel rooms or suites that are larger- the bigger the better in my opinion.
For some hotels, picking a bigger room or suite quickly doubles, triples, or even quadruples the price. And those suites often aren’t even really designed for families, but more for honeymooners or couples who like an upscale stay.
But there are some hotel chains that offer bigger rooms or suites (many with full kitchens) at a more affordable price. Our go-to for family suites is Hyatt House. We also love Residence Inn, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, and Springhill Suites as well because they all have larger family suites with other family perks, all for an affordable price.
Tip 5: Skip the sleeper sofas if you can
Some hotels offer only a sleeper sofa for the kids. This MIGHT be ok, but the quality of sleep sofas definitely vary. Even for younger kids, some sleeper sofas are so uncomfortable that they’ll have a hard time sleeping.
We try to avoid sleeper sofas whenever we can. BUT often this is a balance- larger family suites may offer a full kitchen and lots of extra space BUT only one true bed. So we just have to make a judgment call on which is more important for that particular scenario- space or comfortable sleeping. We also read reviews on how comfortable that sleeper sofa is at that hotel.
Tip 6: Look for a Bathtub (if you need one)
One common problem families face is that they forget to check if their hotel has a bathtub. For some families, it doesn’t matter either way. But if you are counting on a bathtub to be able to bathe your baby or toddler, make sure you verify that there IS one. It can often be pretty confusing to figure out which room types have bathtubs, and which only have showers. Read the fine print, and if you still aren’t sure, call the hotel and check.
Tip 7: Minifridge!
A minifridge is another big convenience item for families. We love having a minifridge to keep snacks, quick breakfasts, or milk around the room. That way we aren’t constantly having to run out to grab something, and we can avoid hunger meltdowns first thing in the morning if we aren’t able to get out the door fast enough. Plus, keeping some snacks around can save a ton of money!
While looking for minifridges, makes sure they aren’t pre-stocked. Those minifridges come filled with items for sale, so you won’t have space for any of your items. Plus the items for sale are often very pricey and they sometimes have sensors, so even if you don’t consume the drinks and food, if your kids pick them up and move them around, you might be automatically charged! If you do happen to stay at a hotel with a pre-stocked minifridge, you can ask the hotel to remove it for you.
Tip 8: Make sure there is space for eating
For lots of kids, mine included, eating at restaurants is not fun. While on vacation, we often have to eat at restaurants a LOT more often than my kids want. So even if we are eating take-out FROM a restaurant, we all kind of prefer to eat in our own space. But not all hotel rooms have a great set up for eating. Keep an eye out for hotels that have a small table with chairs. Or, if you are traveling with babies or younger toddlers, consider bringing something like this great clip-on chair. It works great even in rooms that just have a desk area.
Making your Stay Great
Tip 9: Don’t Plan to hang out in the room
Maybe when you used to travel with just the grown ups, you could just hang and relax in the hotel room. But with kids, it’s NOT gonna be relaxing to hang out in the room. Sure, sometimes the kids might need a little downtime away from other people in the room. But those rooms are small, and the are going to be ready to head out before you know it.
Make sure you have a plan for where you CAN hang, where the kids will be able to move around a bit more than they can in the tiny room. Parks, trails, or playgrounds are great options. Sometimes, there are even spaces in the lobby where the kids can move around a bit.
Tip 10: Rearrange if needed
Once you arrive in the room, take a quick look around for anything you think your child might break or misuse.
The biggest issue we’ve had is the phone. We don’t have a landline at home, and the kids are super interested in those hotel phones. As toddlers, they just didn’t have the impulse control to be trusted around those things. We put them up high, or unplugged them and put them in the closet to prevent millions of unwanted front desk phone calls.
We’ve also seen art that our kids could reach and potentially break or hooks that looks like something they’d like to climb. We do our best to hide those things or make them look less interesting. If all else fails, we are at least aware of the potential issues.
If you are lucky enough to book a high-end hotel like the Four Seasons, they will babyproof FOR you before you arrive. But unfortunately, this isn’t something most of us can afford for every vacation!
Tip 11: Have a morning plan
When the kids first wake up, probably WAY too early in the morning, they are going to be filled with energy and ready to go. Make sure you have your day scheduled BEFORE you are stressed trying to get the kids to quiet down in the room. Have a plan for the morning so you’ll know where to go and what to do, even if it’s just walking down to the coffee shop for breakfast.
Tip 12: Keep Organized
Space in the room gets tight really fast when you have a couple of kids (or more!) in there with you. Keep the space constraints in mind while you are packing your suitcase.
Once you arrive in the room, distract the kids with a toy or screens for a few minutes so you can take a look around, and get things organized BEFORE the clutter takes over. Find a place to put everyone’s clothing that is easily accessible, a place for dirty clothes to go, and get your toiletries arranged. That way, no one will be tearing through a suitcase, making a huge mess whenever they need something.
Tip 13. Tire them out!
Kids are great at burning all the energy they need to before they go to sleep. So if they aren’t tired when you get to the room to get ready for bed, you can bet that they will start jumping and screaming until they finally GET tired. In a tiny hotel room with neighbors SOOOO close, it’s not going to be fun for anyone if that happens.
So make sure you get them out running, jumping, and playing before you get back to the room to settle in for the night.
Tip 14: Bring Toys
Maybe your kids don’t NEED toys. And you definitely don’t need a LOT of toys. But if they don’t have a nice quiet toy to play with, they’ll find a way to make their own fun. And in our experience, that usually involves jumping between the two beds, and off the bed as far as they can, and generally acting a LITTLE more wild than we’d like them to in a hotel.
Picking the toys you bring in the hotel room gives you a little bit more control over HOW the kids play in the room. And if you pick right, it might mean they play in a calm, quiet way rather than a LOUD way.
Tip 15: Bring a Blanket for the floor
If you are traveling with a baby or a toddler who is on the floor a lot, think about bringing a blanket you won’t mind putting on the floor to make a play space for them. Leaving a crawling child on the bed can be dangerous, and the carpets in a hotel room might not be as clean as you want them to be. A blanket will help keep them protected and clean.
Tip 16: Bring normal sleep aids
While you won’t be able to make the hotel feel exactly like home, you can bring a few things that will help. Make sure you bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket. If they depend on their nightlight at home, consider packing that along as well. For kids who still roll around a lot in the night, we love these inflatable bumpers that will prevent falls off the hotel bed.
Check out our post on the best toddler travel beds here!
Tip 17: Consider white noise
Hotels can be noisy. You might be able to hear the elevator all night, traffic outside, or other guests making noise in the hall. These unfamiliar sounds can make it really hard for, well, ANYONE to sleep. A portable white noise machine like this one can help block out some of the hotel noises that might wake the kids, and you, up a million times a night.
Tip 18: Follow your Routine
Kids love a routine. Make sure you are set up to go through your normal nighttime routine in the hotel room. Or at least something that resembles your normal nighttime routine. Be prepared with your normal nighttime snack, a book, or whatever your child is used to doing right before bed.
Tip 19: Hide on the balcony or in the bathroom if needed
If your kiddo cannot fall asleep with you in the room, a hotel room can be a TOUGH place to sleep. Set yourself up a comfortable place in the bathroom or on the balcony, if you have one, to ‘hide’ from your kids and let them fall asleep as they normally do. Remember, it MIGHT take a few extra minutes for them to fall asleep in an unfamiliar hotel room, so you’ll want to be ready to hang out for a bit.
Tip 20: Bring Something for YOU to do
You might not be ready for bed at your kid’s bedtime. And a small, dark hotel room isn’t going to be a SUPER entertaining place. Make sure you bring yourself something to do for that time after the kids fall asleep, and before you are ready to go to sleep. We like to load up our tablet with a special show or movie or bring a book (don’t forget a small light!). TVs in the room are sometimes so big that they emit a ton of light, and might wake up sleeping children. A tablet will produce way less light and is less likely to wake the kids up.
Tell us what works best for you and your family during hotel stays in the comments!