We’ve travelled a good amount with Amalia now and I finally feel like we have a handle on how to spend the night with her in a hotel room. It’s not easy for many reasons, but in the end it’s always been worth it to experience different places as a family. Here are my tips for sleeping with a baby (or toddler) in a hotel room. I hope they’re helpful!
Don’t expect your baby/toddler to sleep as well or as many hours as they do at home. It’s just not going to happen! If you keep that in mind, you’ll have a better time. If it’s your first time traveling with your baby, you should also know that vacation is not going to be what it used to be. You’ll be spending almost all of your time taking care of your baby, so make sure to talk in advance with your partner about how and when you’ll each get alone time so you get a little rest.
For example, Anel usually plays golf one morning and Amalia and I will hang out and get breakfast and do something fun. Then the next day, I might take a few hours at the beach or pool while he hangs with her.
Booking your room
Pick the right room: Suites can be expensive but when the price is right, go for a two room suite whenever you can. This gives you more flexibility to eat dinner, watch TV, and hang out in the other room while your baby sleeps. It also gives you more space for the insane amount of gear involved in traveling with a tiny human. When a suite isn’t possible, one room with two beds is another great option because you can use one for a changing station and as storage.
Hire a babysitter in advance: Anel and I like to go out for dinner or drinks on vacation… I mean who doesn’t?! But we also feel weird about having a stranger watch our kid so we compromise by putting her down ourselves and hiring a sitter to literally sit there quietly on a bed and just be in the room while she sleeps. We always tell them that if Amalia wakes up to just text or call us and we’ll deal with it ourselves. She’s never woken up so far so it’s been pretty easy.
We book a sitter in advance when we book the room to ensure we’re not scrambling to find someone last minute. I book sitters directly through hotels so that there is a vetting process. Every nice hotel I’ve stayed in either has a babysitting service or a recommendation for a sitter, and the going rate is usually $20/hour. I always interview them on the phone first to make sure I like their vibe. Definitely don’t skip this step because sometimes you have to ask for a second recommendation.
We usually go out once or twice then the other nights we’ll take Amalia out for dinner at 5pm and just eat super early with her. After we put her down, we’ll read or watch a movie with headphones on our laptops in the room. These nights can actually be really nice because we go to bed early and feel refreshed for our inevitable early morning wake up call.
Immediately upon arrival set up everything you need for your baby. If you have only one kid, this is easier because one parent can watch her while the other sets up. Our deal is Anel takes her to walk around in the lobby or gets a snack while I get everything set up. That makes it a whole lot easier. If you have two kids, I have no idea how you do it!
Create a “changing station”: Put out diapers, wipes, diaper cream and a change of clothing with a changing pad or towel in one area so you’re never looking for these things during a diaper change. If there is a desk in the room, that is the ideal situation. Make sure to bring two sets of diaper changing gear- one for the diaper bag and one for the room so that you aren’t packing and putting it away constantly.
Create a sleeping area: We try to make a dark cozy corner for Amalia when possible. If there is a walk in closet, we’ll put her in there with the door open so that it feels nice and cozy and quiet for her, but we can still hear her and she gets air. That’s the dream, but usually there is not a closet that size so we’ll tuck her travel crib into a dark corner of the room. We leave it there for the whole trip and have her nap and sleep at night in the same space so she really gets used to it.
If possible, put it in a spot where your baby can’t see you as soon as they wake up. We’ve learned that if she can see us, she pops up even earlier and wants to party super early in the morning. If we’re hidden from view and she wakes up at 5am, there’s a chance that she’ll go back down.
Set up a make shift monitor: Although we try to really trust the babysitters that the hotel recommends, I still get a little nervous sometimes, so Anel found an app that you can set up to go phone to phone as a make shift baby monitor. It’s called Baby Monitor 3G and it turns one phone into a camera and another into the monitor. You can have your phone off and it will alert you if the baby wakes up. It can be kind of annoying because it sometimes picks up the sounds of the babysitter, but still worth it IMO.
Baby proof: On my packing list below, I include painters tape which helps with all kinds of things including babyproofing. You can easily rip off pieces to cover outlets and hold drawers shut. Obviously remember that you’re not at home so you have to keep a closer eye on your toddler or baby, but doing a little baby proofing goes a long way.
What to pack:
In addition to the usual gear like diapers, snacks, toys, books, bottles, etc, there are a few items that will help you in hotel situations.
Travel Crib + Sheet: We have the Baby Bjorn travel crib and have loved it. Amalia has slept in it on every trip we’ve ever taken with her and it seems to be comfy for her.
Noise Machine: We bring our white noise machine from home which is key so that you can go in and out of the room, use the bathroom, and avoid loud noises from hotel neighbors.
Travel Blackout Shades: Honestly the best thing you can do if your baby likes to sleep in the dark is to bring black garbage bags and painter’s tape, but you can also be a classier human being and buy travel blackout shades which make a big difference too. I think the garbage bags work better, it’s just kind of a pain to put them up each night. I wish we had had them on the first half of our trip this time around because without them, Amalia woke up at 5:30 each morning when the sun came out. Not fun for anyone! We had the shades for the second half, and she gave us an extra hour every morning after that.
Painter’s Tape: As mentioned above, you can use this to make homemade shades, but it’s also helpful for baby proofing.
Changing Pad: We keep our Skiphop changing pad in the diaper bag, but it’s nice to have another one like this in the hotel room. You can use a towel but, as you probably know, this can get messy so it’s nice to have a pad on hand.
Toys and Books: There will inevitably be times where you have to pack a beach bag or get changed when your baby needs to be distracted. We bring a ton of books and toys to keep her occupied during these times.
Stick to your sleep routine
The most important thing to do on vacation for your baby, in my opinion, is to keep as much of their routine consistent as possible. Because eating and nap times are usually off, Anel and I try to make sure that bedtime is on time and we stick to the same steps as at home. It can be a huge pain because you have to stop your day early, but if you just accept that, life will be a whole lot easier on vacation.
Anel will give her a bath at around 6pm while I set up the sound machine, dim the lights, make her bottle, and close the curtains. After her bath, I take over and read her a book while Anel cleans up. Then he’ll leave the room and chat tell the sitter everything she needs to know while I put Amalia to bed.
We try to get to our room 30 minutes before this process starts so that we can get changed for our dinner without having to rush too much! That is key to the whole evening going smoothly. On the nights where that doesn’t happen, we’re rushing like crazy and it’s a hot mess.
So those are my tried and true tips but please share yours in the comments so we can all learn a thing or two!
Photos by Julia Dags.