Staying at a Hotel With a Baby
Ok, it took a while to get this last post in the series up, which seems appropriate since flying with a baby can feel like an eternal, drawn-out process. Here are some tips to help you enjoy that vacation or family reunion or whatever occasion you deemed worthy of this masochistic aviation adventure. FYI, most of the baby gear and gadgets we rely on when traveling and at home can be found here.
1. Welcome to My TRAVEL Crib
When booking hotels or apartment rentals, we specifically look for ones with a crib to help us travel light. (see below for the filter options on Airbnb, but note that searching for “high chair” is just a bonus as it may severely limit search results). If you book a place online, it’s a good idea to contact them and confirm the request. And if you’re arriving later at night, ask to make sure it’s already in the room so that sleepy babe can go seamlessly from car seat to crib without waking up (Lol, right).
If you’re bringing your own travel crib, we’ve tried the Guava Lotus, Baby Bjorn Travel Crib, and the Graco Pack n’ Play. While it isn’t as carry-on friendly as the Guava, which folds up into a convenient backpack carrier, the Baby Bjorn is quicker and easier to set up and has worked well for our needs (road trips or short stays at a friend’s). We keep the affordable Graco Pack n’ Play at grandma’s, but found it to be notably heavier and clunkier.
2. Oh Sheeeeeeeeeeet
Hotel sheets can get washed with bleach and harsh, fragranced detergents. So bring your own crib sheet if your baby has sensitive skin. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a familiar smell for them when sleeping in an unfamiliar environment. Just remember to take it when you leave.
3. 7:30 Doesn’t Have to be Bedtime for Everyone
One of the biggest struggles when staying at hotels is what to do after your baby goes down for an early bedtime, confining you to your dimly lit hotel room. While it might seem like the only choice is to order $50 of Panda Express on Uber Eats and watch Netflix shows on your phones in total darkness, there are other options!
For instance, frequent travelers could try one of these breathable pop up tents. Add a trusty portable white noise machine, and go about your business while baby sleeps in blackout conditions. This contraption is pricey and seems absurd at first, but has been a game changer for us and takes up about 1/5th of our bigger checked suitcase. We started using it at home when we have to share a room in our small city condo (have confirmed with other Boston parents at the neighborhood park, we are not alone). We just vent the lower flaps for extra circulation and keep the room cool as it can get 2-3 degrees warmer inside, and the small clear pocket works well with our baby monitor.
4. Room Location Strategery
Here’s a tip from many readers that we put to use on a recent trip: ask hotels for a room close to their lounge or restaurant/bar. Or for a room with a large closet that can fit the crib (keep the door slightly open) or with a corner that can be darkened. And, who knows, maybe you’ll get an upgrade to a multi-room suite. Just don’t forget the baby monitor. We’ve found that our non-WiFi one that we use at home is quick and easy to setup when traveling. If you don’t have a monitor, your phone can do double duty as a sound machine or a makeshift monitor by calling and muting (mute the phone that’s next to the baby or use Facetime if you have good WiFi).
5. Time Zones and Schedule Changes
Try to start shifting bedtime by 30 mins to an hour the day or two before you leave for your trip. When you arrive, try to get the baby (and yourself) on the new time zone as quickly as possible by fighting the urge to sleep at odd hours. Expose them to plenty of natural light during daytime hours and do things when they’re supposed to be up, and try to make it as dark as possible when it’s sleepy time.
6. Some Strollers = Portable Changing Table
This tip only works if your travel stroller can recline in some way, but rather than chance a restroom changing table coated in mysterious substances (it’s coffee, right? someone just spilled their coffee all over it?), we just find a secluded corner far away from public nostrils and do the changing on the partially unstrapped Yoyo stroller. If you’re going to brave the changing table, the Mens room one tends to be cleaner if it has one.
7. Travel High Chair
Call your hotel ahead of time and see if they can provide a high chair. If there’s a restaurant in the hotel, we ask if they can borrow one to put in your room. We’ve had luck with this several times, and our two recent Airbnb rentals also provided high chairs!
If this isn’t a possibility, we started using the more lightweight, foldable Hiccapop travel booster once Nori could sit up well on her own. It’s great for various surfaces like grassy picnics, soft beach sand, and can also strap to a chair. The moulded Fisher Price booster seat was Nori’s first dining chair around 5 months, and is now kept at grandma’s house. It’s a trade off between the two in terms of compactness and support, so it really depends on your baby’s needs and ability to sit up unassisted (and your luggage space).
8. SPLISH, SPLASH, TAKING A HOTEL BATH
If your baby isn’t doing bath time in a full-sized tub yet or can stand up on her own in a shower, you have a couple options. The easiest is to leave the accessories at home and just hold your baby in the shower with you (yes, they’re going to be slippery, and yes, you are going to get peed on). For sink baths, our friends recommend the Puj Flyte which folds flat and dries quickly, but Nori outgrew that within the first couple months. When we drive somewhere we’d bring this inflatable tub from Amazon, which is actually our everyday tub at home since it’s light and easy to move/store.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. May these tips help you get the most out of your “vacation.” Which, as you know, isn’t really a vacation. It’s just taking care of your kids in a different city. Godspeed, and good luck on the return flight.
Hope you guys enjoyed these posts! In general, we’ve found that hospitality and tourism employees are very helpful and accommodating toward parents of babies, so if there’s something you need or forgot, it never hurts to ask!
Fellow parents, do you have any tips for hotel stays that you’ve found make life easier?
In case you missed it…