One of our first weekends away with my daughter was to Washington, DC. We got a great deal on a hotel but the room was tiny and our 18-month-old would not fall asleep with us sitting on a bed four feet away from her. We spent our two nights there sitting on pillows on the bathroom floor, reading. It was at least a nice bathroom, but it still convinced me there had to be a better way to vacation with a kid. Since then we’ve been to a lot more places and stayed in a range of accommodations. Here are a few tricks we’ve developed for carving out grown-up space on vacation.
Find A Place With a Living Room
"When you can, skip traditional hotel rooms. VRBO.com, Homeaway.com and other websites list vacation home rentals. There are few destinations where they won’t provide more space for less money than area hotels. You give up extras like a concierge and have to take your own garbage out. But the trade-offs are a real living room and the ability to make breakfast or eat take-out dinner at a real table.
You can also price all-suite hotels, In major cities they often cater to business travelers and offer deals to fill rooms on weekends. The St. Gregory in Washington, DC gave us a free upgrade to a suite when we showed up on a Friday morning with a 9-month-old. It was easy to see why: the surrounding area is a ghost town on Saturday morning. But we could walk to livelier Dupont Circle and to Metro Lines that took us to the Zoo and Capitol Hill.
Always make sure your suite has a separate living and sleeping areas. At the Hilton in Hilton Head we wound up in an open suite. We liked the extra space and dining area, but still had to find a way to to hide while our 21-month-old napped."
Get a balcony
"Resort vacations are convenient but expensive. It can be hard to give up all the resources resorts have to stay in a vacation home; it can also be beyond the budget to upgrade to a suite. But balcony rooms are often standard in resort destinations or only a small upgrade. In the Bahamas we used the balcony as an extra room where we could eat lunch and read while our daughter napped and to enjoy a glass of wine and talk after she went to bed. When she was up and about we kept the door to it locked."
Try Smaller Hotels
"We’re long passed using baby monitors at home but I still travel with them. Once in a while we stay in a small hotel where we can hang out in a common patio, lounge or bar with the monitor and be close enough to get back to the room in seconds if we hear a peep. It helps to be on a low floor."
Keep the Kids Up Late
"Even now, at age 4, we find that on vacation our daughter is often up passed her bedtime anyway. If she goes to sleep between 9:00 and 9:30, we’re ready to brush our teeth and fall asleep not long afterward. Sometime full days and later bedtimes even translate into more morning sleep for all of us. I know this just won’t work for some families, but sometimes it’s the option that works out on its own."
Make a Tiny Room Work
"There will be times when there’s no way around a tiny room. One way to cope is to place the crib in the foyer or the bathroom if there’s room, to create a little separation. You can also take turns having one parent put the kids to bed while the other steps out to run an errand, read in the lobby lounge or take a walk. (At least one of you gets to relax each night.) You can also ask the hotel if they have japanese screens (they rarely do, but it doesn’t hurt to express an interest) to put a wall up between your bed and the crib next to it. If worse comes to worse, you can always hide in the bathroom. Bring a pillow and your iPad and try chilling a bottle of wine in the sink."
Other advice about staying in a hotel room with baby:
"We forgot the white noise sound machine on our first vacation and needed to go buy one after one night of restless sleep. After a few times traveling with my two babies, it seems like bringing the sound machine, some familiar toys, and being able to make the room they sleep in as dark as possible does the trick for keeping them happy while traveling.
We have kept the bedtime routine as minimal as possible to make it replicable almost anywhere."