Tips for Sleeping with a Baby in a Hotel Room

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!

Set expectations
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.

Set up:
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.

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  1. Emily said:

    This post is so timely for me and my little family! We travel to California for the first time with our son on Thursday for a wedding and will be in a hotel room for a few days. Thank you for sharing your tips! 🙂

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh good! I hope they help. Good luck on your trip 🙂

      8.14.18 · Reply
  2. Alyssa said:

    These are great! Do you have any tips for helping baby to adjust when you’re changing time zones? Trying to avoid starting our day at 3 am for an upcoming west coast trip!

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      So we’ve only changed time zones with her once and it ended up being totally fine even though I was so scared of it. Basically we landed pretty late and she stayed up way past her usual bedtime so she ended up sleeping in the first morning. Then we just kept her on her usual schedule. I think maybe we got lucky!

      8.14.18 · Reply
  3. Stacey said:

    Wow…Those black out shades will be life chaning. Thank you very much!

    8.14.18 · Reply
  4. Christine H said:

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Heading to the beach soon. I’ve wondered about buying travel black out shades, but I’m kind of loving the idea of just using black trash bags and painters tape! It’s so tacky and brilliant all at the same time. Did you bring any kind of tub or bath seat for Amalia when she was a little younger? My babe isn’t quite steady enough to sit in the tub on her own, so not exactly sure how to handle bath time?

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m telling you, the garbage bags are where it’s at. We never brought a tub because it always felt like it took up too much space. When she was tiny, we’d just tag team bath time and one of us would hold her up while the other washed her. OR we’d do it in the sink if it was big enough.

      8.14.18 · Reply
  5. Courtney said:

    I’m curious what you ask the sitters when you interview them?

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I just try to feel them out really but I ask about their experience with babysitting, what ages they take care of, if they know infant CPR, etc. I don’t want a random teenager who has no idea what she’s doing!

      8.14.18 · Reply
  6. Sarah | all in the details said:

    These are some great tips, Julia! We’ll be traveling this fall with our baby, and I’m looking forward to incorporating these!

    Sarah | all in the details

    8.14.18 · Reply
  7. Erin Naberhaus said:

    Love this!!!! We’ve had to travel with our 11 month old son to my in-laws and the room situation has been the worst part. Thank you for these tips – especially the blackout curtains or the trash bag – love it! We’ve never done a vacation yet because the trips back to family haven’t been the best. But with these tips, maybe a vacation is in order!?!?! Thank you!!

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      You can do it!!! I promise 🙂

      8.16.18 · Reply
  8. Talia said:

    Thanks for sharing! My husband and I have traveled quite a bit with our 10 month old so far, but mostly to places where we have family and homes to stay in. We just traveled to a hotel with her for the first time and had a suite. The suite was a lifesaver – it was a bit weird cause her bed was setup in the “dining room” but it was a dark quiet corner and it worked. We travel with her 5 more times this year and on one occasion were going to have to share a room with her. We’ve never had to do that before (at home or otherwise) so it’ll be interesting – luckily it’s only for 2 nights. I have considered getting her the “privacy cover” (i forget what its actually called) so that she wont see us while shes in her crib.

    8.14.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      The suite is so clutch. I wish we could always get one! You’ll be ok in the same room, just tamper your expectations 🙂

      8.16.18 · Reply
  9. Hillary said:

    I just bought those blackout shades for a trip and they were INVALUABLE! Such a great buy. The link for your changing pad isn’t working though. Interested to see what you recommend. We actually just bought dog training pads/ wee-wee pads and used those. They were affordable and disposable. Perfect solution when traveling 🙂

    8.16.18 · Reply
  10. Hillary Nammack said:

    I just bought those blackout shades for a trip and they were INVALUABLE! Such a great buy. The link for your changing pad isn’t working though. Interested to see what you recommend. We actually just bought dog training pads/ wee-wee pads and used those. They were affordable and disposable. Perfect solution when traveling 🙂

    8.16.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      They’re so good. Literally best money spent for travel with babies I swear! Here is the link for the changing pad:

      8.16.18 · Reply
  11. Elizabeth Mayberry said:

    These are great tips!! I am pinning them for later! We are about to have our first baby and love to travel!

    8.19.18 · Reply
  12. Antoinette said:

    Just rereading this preparing for our first hotel stay (have been lucky enough to stay at Airbnbs thus far)… Have you used a hotel’s crib? Would love to not travel crib but like your advice to block babe’s sight line to us, which travel crib can do better. Thanks

    1.6.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I haven’t but I’ve heard some horror stories from friends about the state of hotel cribs. Let me know if you end up doing it and it goes well though!

      1.7.19 · Reply
      • CHRISTINE said:

        Just wanted to share that we had good luck using a hotel crib in Antigua. It was in decent condition, but I brought wipes to clean it. At the time my daughter slept in something similar to a dock a tot inside the crib otherwise I would have brought my own sheets for the crib. My sis also had good luck with a hotel crib in Switzerland. Hope you have a great trip!

        1.7.19 · Reply
  13. Tiana said:

    Thank you!! So helpful. I didn’t think about hotels having recommendations & a vetting process for babysitters and I had no idea travel black out curtains existed. I’m an amateur mom… constantly learning! I hope a few of these things help my husband’s anxiety about traveling. We’re pro travelers… just not with a baby. Haha. Thanks again!

    3.7.20 · Reply