Sleeping in a hotel with a toddler who’s too big for Pack ‘n Play may seem a little overwhelming! Here are some tips to help make it a fun experience!
Being a first-time parent, all of the different stages of my son’s development feel like the wild west. Transitioning them from a crib to a bed was one of them. It ended up fine, of course. I always had this thought in the back of my mind though: “But what about vacations?”. We love to travel and had gotten into a really good groove with sleeping in a hotel room with him in his pack ‘n play. Now that he had graduated to his regular bed, what would hotel rooms be like with him?
After a lot of research, a lot of talks with our toddler, and a few hotel stays under our belt, we have it down! We found a routine and a formula that works great for us. What is it, you ask? Let me tell you! I’ll walk you through all of the things that we did to prepare and the routine that we have now. Hopefully, that will help ease the transition to sleeping in a hotel with a toddler in a regular bed.
Tips for Sleeping in a Hotel with a Toddler
Be Flexible & Stay Cool
I’m putting this first because it really does wonders to your mood when you just keep yourself flexible and cool. Like with most new things that we have our kids try, there’s usually a learning curve. Sleeping in a hotel room with a toddler when they have free reign to go wherever is one of them. Just staying cool and knowing that it will be okay will be super great in helping you enjoy your vacation. Here are a few tips for staying cool and flexible when sleeping in a hotel with a toddler.
One of the biggest things you may need to be flexible on is the time they go to bed. This one was a little hard for us, but when we relaxed about it and just went with the flow instead of stressing it, the world didn’t end. That felt good! Your toddler may just need an extra-long nap the next day (or just a nap in general if they don’t usually take one anymore). There are ways to adjust things around if your toddler stays up later than normal and it’s ok!
Try to Keep your First Trip Short
Our first hotel stay with Oliver on a regular bed was just one night. This helped SO MUCH. It really helped us get a taste of the process and how Ollie would do but it eliminated the pressure of having to do multiple nights in a row. The one-night stay helped us stay more flexible when it came to bedtime in case it didn’t go how we hoped because we knew we didn’t have a long trip ahead of us.
Keeping the trip short also helped it feel more manageable if Ollie had a rough night and we all ended up a little sleep-deprived.
Set Realistic Expectations
It is normal to hope that your toddler will pick up sleeping in a hotel room with you really quickly. However, we can’t let that hope become an expectation. We have found time and time again that when we have expectations for how something is going to go with Oliver, it makes it really hard to be in the moment when those things don’t pan out and we need to pivot.
For our first stay in a hotel with Ollie in a regular bed, we only had the expectation that he would stay asleep through the night. We felt comfortable with that only because he’s been sleeping through the night ever since he moved to his regular bed at home. For everything else, we hoped it would work out, but were not expecting it to. That helps so much!
Upgrade Your Hotel Room
Upgrading your hotel room may not always be possible, but if you can, I would highly recommend upgrading your hotel room to a studio that has more room to separate you from your toddler’s bed, or to a suite that allows you to at least close the door and have space between you and your toddler.
Kids usually go to bed a lot earlier than we do, and if you are in close proximity to them, you may need to go to bed earlier than you may be used to. This is definitely not the end of the world though! We’ve done this a few times and we just get ready for bed with Ollie and then just watch a show under the covers on our phones or the iPad. Once he’s fast asleep, we feel more comfortable surfacing again. Ha.
If you can upgrade your room, I usually recommend getting a one or two-bedroom suite. There are some hotels like the Marriott or the Hyatt Place, that have studio rooms with pseudo-dividers between the bed and the sitting area. Since the pull-out bed is usually in the sitting area, this creates a good separation for bedtime.
Josh and I are huge planners, so this one came a little bit easier for us. We totally understand that it doesn’t always come easy to very many people though, so let us help you! When sleeping in a hotel room with a toddler, it’s super helpful to plan ahead so that you can bring the stuff that you need from home. During our hotel stays, we have made sure to bring a comfort toy for Oliver that he typically sleeps with. We also bring his pillow. That one is kind of funny to a lot of people, but it has helped him feel the most comfortable whenever he’s sleeping in a bed that’s not his own. Plus his pillow is pretty small so it’s really easy to travel with.
Something else that you want to plan ahead for is making sure that you have any safety items that you need for your toddler. If your toddler still sleeping with bed bumpers at home, you want to make sure that you bring some probable ones or that you figure out the layout of the hotel room to see if there’s anything else that you can use to help like couch or couch cushions. In some of the hotels that we have stayed in, the pull-out bed is very close to the floor, so we’ve just been able to use couch cushions as bumpers. In other hotel rooms, we’ve had to bring some bed bumpers.
Something that we always travel with and can’t leave home without when taking Ollie overnight anywhere is a sound machine. It does wonders to help him sleep and helps drown out any noises that may wake him up. This is especially important in a hotel room where people may be walking in front of your door in the hallway late at night and may not be as quiet as we would like them to be. Having a white noise machine can help mute those sounds so they don’t wake up your toddler.
Here is a list of things we like to bring:
- Sound Machine
- Inflatable Bed Bumpers/Travel Bed Bumpers
- Ollie’s Pillow
- Stuffed Animal from Home
- Small Blanket from Home
- 2-3 Books
- Eye Mask and Ear Plugs for Us!
Create a Safe Space for Your Toddler
Creating a safe space for your toddler in a hotel room can be a little bit tricky sometimes, but it can be done! Like I said above we don’t want to set an expectation so there is always a chance that your toddler will get out of bed even though you have asked him or her not to. If this is the case, you want to make sure that they can’t get into anything dangerous. One thing I would always recommend on your first few hotel stays is to put something in front of the door, like pillows or your suitcases. Having a barrier will make it louder for them to try to open the door. For some reason, them escaping into the hotel in the middle of the night is one of my biggest fears!
Another helpful place to try to keep safe is the bathroom. Making sure that the door is closed will make it harder (and hopefully loud enough to wake you) if they try to get in.
Along with creating a safe space, you want to make sure that if your toddler does get out of bed but they won’t hurt themselves trying to do so. If your toddler still sleeps with bed bumpers, it is helpful to make the space that they can come out of has pillows or anything that will keep them from getting hurt in the dark.
Let Them Explore the Room
Kids love exploring. They just seem to have this one goal when they get to a new place and that is to explore it and understand it. The same is true in a hotel room! If you let your toddler explore when you get to the hotel room, they will (hopefully) be less likely to want to explore in the middle of the night or early morning. It’s also really helpful to let them explore while you are able to supervise and help them understand what they should or shouldn’t be touching or playing with within the hotel room.
Explain the New Routine in the Hotel Room
If your toddler is big enough to sleep in a regular bed, chances are they can understand more now. If that’s the case, then explaining the new routine while in the hotel is huge. For the most part, kids like their routine. Explaining it in that light can help them the excited about it.
Before our first few hotel stays, we made sure Oliver knew what was going to happen. We started with our drive to the hotel. When we got to the hotel explained it to him again. And then before bedtime, we explained it again. It may have been overkill, but he did really well his first night, so maybe it helped?? He did go to bed later than normal and woke up earlier than we hoped. He did stay in his bed throughout the night and didn’t get out in the morning until we got him. I call that a win!
Along the lines of explaining the new routine to your toddler, we have found it really helps to maintain the basic structure of a bedtime routine. Ollie’s routine is basic and when we outlined it, it was super simple to recreate in a hotel. This helped Oliver’s mind wind down just as it does at home and prepare to go to bed.
Here is the routine we have for when we stay in a hotel with our toddler now:
- Get Bed Prepped and Ready
- Jammie Time
- Brush Teeth
- Get in Bed
- Read 2-3 Books
- Snuggle and Lights Off
That is a wrap on all of the tips that we’ve got for sleeping in a hotel with a toddler! It can be done and it can be enjoyable! You got this!