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Once you’ve successfully completed your first plane ride or road-trip with your toddler, you’ll probably find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings with a cranky toddler in desperate need of a nap or a good night’s sleep. Here are 10 hotel hacks to keep your toddler happy and get them to fall asleep in a strange place.
1. Call Ahead and Ask for a Crib (and a Refrigerator)
Most hotels provide cribs to their guests at no extra cost. You can usually find this information in advance on the hotel’s website and some will even let you request it when you book online. However, just because you’ve requested it in advance, does not mean it will be in your room when you arrive. I recommend requesting it online and calling in advance and maybe calling again on the day you are scheduled to arrive. Honestly, it still probably won’t be there when you arrive, but you could get lucky. Some hotels will also provide you with a refrigerator at no extra cost. If there is a fee, decide whether it’s worth it for your family.
2. Ask if Your Hotel Provides a Crib or a Pack ‘n Play
A lot of hotels provide a Pack ‘n Play instead of a traditional crib. When you call to confirm your request for a crib, make sure to ask which one it will be. If the hotel provides a Pack ‘n Play, bring an extra playard sheet. I’ve had hotels provide the Pack ‘n Play for free but charge for the sheet.
If you’re taking your toddler on a road trip, I recommend bringing your own Pack ‘n Play from home. Then you know what you’re getting, you know it’ll be there when you need it, and you know it’ll be clean (or, if it’s dirty, at least it came from your own child).
3. Bring Dirty Diaper Bags (and Trash Bags)
No one wants to sleep in a hotel room that smells like dirty diapers. I keep these disposal bags in my diaper bag and always take a few extra for hotels. Throw dirty diapers in one and wait for the maid to dump the trash. They hold more than one diaper if you tie it loosely between diaper changes. Also, bring a large trash bag from home because toddlers usually generate more trash than those tiny hotel room trash bins can hold.
4. Bring a Noise Machine
I can’t sleep at home without some kind of white noise let alone in a busy hotel. I don’t expect my toddler to be able to either. We mostly use the free White Noise app that can be downloaded for iPhone here or Android here, but this ties up your cell phone. Either bring along an old phone just for white noise or bring a small white noise machine with you from home to block out the sounds from noisy hotel neighbors.
5. Bring Binder Clips or Hair Clips for Curtains
I also can’t sleep at home without nearly total darkness. My son’s nursery is extremely dark as well. Hotel curtains are never truly blackout curtains. There’s inevitably some small gap that lets a ray of sunlight through right onto your face or your toddler’s face in the morning. Throw a binder clip or a hair clip in your bag and clip those curtains together to prevent the sun from waking your toddler before you’re ready.
6. Bring a Portable High Chair
A lot of hotels will provide you with a high chair in your room if you request one, but you never know how clean it will be. I’ve found it easier to just bring our own. We love this one from Chicco. We actually keep it in our car because sometimes restaurants run out of highchairs. This will give you a safe, stable place to feed your toddler in your room (while keeping them contained).
7. Bring a Bottle Brush and Dish Soap (and maybe Laundry Detergent)
If your toddler still uses bottles, make sure to bring the tools you need to clean them. This bottle brush is very handy because it includes a nipple cleaner. But don’t forget dish soap either! We always make sure to bring a small bottle with our toiletries. If you’re going on an extended trip or your toddler is particularly messy, consider tossing a laundry detergent pod in with your toiletries as well. Make sure to keep it in a waterproof case so it doesn’t leak all over your luggage.
8. Bring Painter’s Tape or Plug Covers
Reese and I are pretty lucky because Declan has never really been interested in electrical plugs. But it’s still a good idea to bring something to cover up any exposed plugs just in case. (I know, exposed plugs in a hotel room? What a joke. You’re lucky if there’s an outlet behind the heavy bed frame you can plug your phone into.) You can take a roll of painter’s tape to cover the plugs or buy some of these inexpensive plug covers to take with you.
9. Bring Small Comforts from Home
Most importantly, don’t forget to bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal that will make your toddler feel at home. Just a few items will do the trick and help get your toddler to sleep faster in unfamiliar surroundings.
10. Get to Know UberEats and Grub Hub
Toddlers go to sleep early. A lot earlier than adults. Throw in different time zones, and you will probably find yourself eating dinner while your toddler snoozes in their hotel crib. Check and see if UberEats or Grub Hub are available where you’re staying. It’s always nice to have a hot meal delivered to your hotel and you might even get to try some local delicacies while you’re at it.
Bonus: Get Yourself a Balcony
As I discussed in my Maui Trip Report, I highly recommend you spring for a room with a balcony. If you can’t get a balcony, try to get some kind of separate room or living area. You will probably be awake long after your toddler goes to sleep. If you prefer to eat dinner and/or have a glass of wine with the lights on, you need your own space. A balcony with a great view will also help you relax after a long day.
Much like with plane travel, hotel travel with a toddler requires patience, planning, preparation, and great gear. With these 10 hotel hacks, hopefully everyone will stay happy and get some sleep.
For more travel tips, check out my 10 Tips for a Well Organized Suitcase and my 5 Hacks To Get Your Toddler On A Plane And Keep Them Entertained and learn how to Lighten Your Suitcase With Shop Online Pickup in Store. Or if you’re thinking about traveling without your kids, check out Travel Without Kids: Ditch Your Kids and Your Guilt.