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When we moved to Abu Dhabi we spent 3 months living in a hotel. When we travel domestically and abroad we stay days, sometimes weeks, in hotels or small apartments. I could characterize myself as an expert at hotel living with children! Technically, depending on the length of stay and the hotel chain, it could be called hotel survival with children. Let’s go with the positive though and discuss tips and tricks for successful hotel stays.
- Sleeping arrangements. We have used a variety of setups. Co-Sleeping is our norm, but we have also asked for rollaway cribs and Pack n Play. The best bet is to call the hotel in advance to see if they have them, that way if they do not you can bring your own. Even if you are not using the Pack n Play or the crib for sleep, ask the hotel for it anyway. When you are getting yourself ready put those handy dandy Papo Figurines or bath toys and books in the crib, and you are set to get ready while the little one plays.
- Location, Location, Location! Find a hotel close to parks or with a decent pool area. If you are in a city, walking distance to and from your hotel is a lot easier than having to get in and out of taxis or drive places yourself. Parents get frustrated (or I do) when children go bonkers because they have unused built-up energy. My wise, well-traveled, always on-the-go, Daddy once asked a great question when I was frustrated and tired, traveling pregnant with my toddler. “Has she been outside today to play? Children need to get energy out. Get her outside to play at a park or to the pool so you can both take a nap later.” He also was the one to start night swims and pizza parties at hotel pools while traveling as a family. I have great childhood memories of driving 10 plus hours in a car to get out and order pizza to the hotel and swim until the pool closed. A few summers ago when my girls and I traveled for a few weeks around the Southeast with my sister and her two children, we made sure we kept the tradition going. When we lived in the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi for 3 months we frequently went across the street to the park and we used the amazing pool area daily. Then when LF and TRPC and I stayed in NYC last year, I am almost positive we hit every splash pad and play structure in Central Park. One day we went to breakfast and didn’t end up leaving Central Park until almost dusk. Being able to use a hotel pool or the ability to easily get to a park or walk to museums from the hotel is essential to me when I am picking a place to stay.
- Pack Strategically! Before we moved here I asked a million questions about the move. One amazing expat mother of 5 said to bring a box of my kids’ own toys that pack well so they have them if they want to feel at home since people are usually in a hotel at least a month or more. This box was my lifesaver for the 3 months in the hotel, but also for my road trip across America with my girls alone. Here are a few of the items that were our go-to toys and go to items. Micro-Scooters, they are awesome and fantastic for travel. We usually take ours apart and take it with us most places as LF prefers to use it when she can. She has dominated the streets all over the world on it. I like that it also can go under my stroller should she get tired and need to get in to the stroller for a bit.
• BATH TOYS Bath toys can double as pool toys which is great! I also feel they give my children a feeling at home when we were in traveling.
• PUZZLES I store the pieces in ziplock bags and write which puzzle they go to. Then lay all puzzles flat in the box and put bags on top.
• Dress up clothes I am going to tell you LF was the hit of the breakfast buffet daily for 3 months. The staff eagerly awaited which costume she would wear daily. Also, if you are at the beach for a week in the summer, it’s nice to have a little thing to do should a rain storm come (and everyone traveling to FL in the summers said Amen).
• Papo Toys These toys are wonderful and can provide hours of entertainment. They travel well and are small enough to fit in a diaper bag or backpack. They are great for allowing children to use their imagination about where they are with their figurines and make up great stories.
• COLORING BOOKS & Crayons! They are awesome; you just need to choose wisely as they get heavy fast. Honestly a 3 ring binder and colors can work if you find that easiest. I am not sure I go anywhere without colors & paper. Trust me when I tell you-IT IS A LIFESAVER!
• Baby Doll and Umbrella Strollers fold up great and fit in the bottom of my Bob jogger. Toy strollers are a great for parks. They are also great for hotel hallways and lobbies. I would not make it as an expat or traveling with my children without these items.
**Obviously, you don’t need to take everything on this list on a weekend getaway, but I wanted to share my TOP MUST HAVES list for items that we feel travel well for longer trips. Pack as much as you feel necessary for your trip.
- Snacks and Water Cups We usually try to stop at a market of some sort on our way to the hotel or shortly after we arrive. Obviously, my children wouldn’t mind cleaning out the snack section of the minibar in most hotel rooms, but that can add up quickly. I try to grab waters, some type of breakfast bar, and fruit so the girls can have that on hand. When we travel internationally I always stop and get items because the only thing worse than a 3-year-old up at 3:30 AM with jetlag is a child who is up at 3:30 AM with jetlag who is HANGRY. You know when you are so tired and so hungry you become evil? You can thank me when your child wakes you up and you can grab that sippy cup and a breakfast bar and put on the tv quietly and lay with them until you all eventually snooze for a little bit longer and then wake up to go outside and walk to the park that is close by your hotel. Mommy also makes sure that where she is staying has coffee, water and wine as well as a wine opener.
- A Polite and Flexible Attitude Just like on flights, you will find in hotels that babies cry and toddlers throw tantrums. Just because you are traveling does not mean that life stops being real. One morning at a hotel breakfast when I walked 2 feet away to refill my coffee TRPC pulled over the table where I had just placed our entire breakfast. Everyone stared! Those traveling for work looked frustrated and a few people glared at me like I had zero control of my children. I had to take a deep breath help clean it up and let it go. One night my oldest had an ear infection and sobbed that high pitch ear infection sob all night long. I felt horrible about that for a minute, but I was more concerned with finding a doctor and getting her well. Explain to your children the importance of being polite and remind them that they are in a hotel and to use an inside voice. Teaching them to be respectful and polite to both the staff and other guests is just as important when traveling as when they are in a classroom or at home.
Did I miss anything? I hope you have an incredible trip and these tips help ease your mind in ways you had hoped. I am eager to hear any tips and tricks you might have regarding travel or adventure as a family. Feel free to comment with any questions you might have about traveling as a family and I will be happy to try and answer or put you in the right direction of someone who can.