Hotels Infant Travel Preschooler Travel

Surviving a night in a hotel with two kids under 4

Since our daughter was born, it’s been our goal to continue traveling regularly with our kids. Maybe not as often or as far, but still enough to make it “regular”.

One thing we did with M is take trial runs: short flights, nearby hotel stays, etc., just to see how she’d hold up. We’re continuing the tradition with H, especially since we need to adapt to accounting for two.

Hotel room two kids
Happy to be in “Powrt-lan”

We are gearing up to go to Scotland in a few weeks and one of my concerns is staying in small European hotel rooms as the four of us. To prep we took a trip to Portland, Maine beta testing.

I thought I’d share our experiences a bit; even though all kids and siblings are different, I always find it useful to hear how people handle various situations so hopefully this can give parents of young kids food for thought.

Where to put the pack and play?

Traveling to hotels with M was easy. She was (and is) always happy to sleep in bed with us, so whenever we traveled we’d get a crib but she’d just end in bed with us anyway.

H is totally different. Once he hit like six or seven months he was not really into co-sleeping anymore. While we managed it for one night in Aruba, lying in bed with him these days usually results in his climbing all over us and never wanting to sleep. The best is when he tries to see if he can fit his entire hand in my mouth when I am snoring.

For a kid like that, upgrading to a suite (even without a free upgrade) can sometimes be the right choice for the separate room. But we are beta testing so I didn’t push for anything at the Hyatt Place here (though they actually have some pretty nice suites). So we ended up in a regular (US) sized room and a pack and play that we needed to put in an ideal location for H to sleep.

Hotel with two kids
I’ll just drink this while you figure out where to put me

So, what to do? If you’re just dealing with one kid, you can leave the crib in the main room and go hang out in the bathroom after the kid goes to bed but that pretty much sucks. If we were in that situation we’d probably just go to bed at 8, but that’s not an option with a second kid.

If the bathroom is big enough, though, you can put the pack and play in the bathroom! Which is exactly what we did. I welcome your judgment. Anyway, this lost us a bathroom but gave us the ability to split up our kids.

Handling bedtime

We decided to put the kids down in shifts. After bathtime I took M downstairs to go look at the pool while Jess put H down in the bathroom crib.

This led to the embarrassing situation of walking around the lobby with my daughter in her pajamas while people were on their way out to hit Portland’s happening bar scene. We checked out the pool and I taught her how to use the treadmill but still couldn’t avoid sitting in the lobby reading tourist brochures in our PJs for awhile. I died.


Anyway, after what felt like an eternity (but in actuality was 10 minutes) we finally got the all clear to come back up. H freaked out for about five minutes like he does at home but we decided better five minutes of loud crying at 830 than loud crying every two hours throughout the night. (We know our child, and that is exactly how it went down. Five minutes of screaming and then peace and the rest of the night).

So we were all set…until we weren’t. M rarely needs to use the bathroom after bathtime. But Murphy’s law dictates that about fifteen minutes after she got in bed she had to use the bathroom.

I decided the lesser of two evils was to take her down to the lobby to go to the bathroom. If we woke H up it was probably going to set up for a long night. More lobby pajama embarrassment but everyone was soundly asleep by 930. Great success!

An early morning

As every parent knows, a change in environment means changes in schedule for the kids. In a worst case scenario that means they wake up multiple times through the night.

Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with that, though M did wake up at 230 because she almost fell off the bed. But no crying, so no problem. I could have prevented this, of course, but M kicked me to the couch to make room for her doll to sleep. Happy Father’s day, dad!

Anyway, H woke up at 5 (Murphy’s law), an hour earlier than usual. Being in such close proximity meant M was up by 505 and asking to eat breakfast. Obviously that was a non starter.

We ended up dealing with this in a not so great fashion, as parents are wont to do. We just let H crawl around on the floor and play, alternating between the floor and the bed. Cleanliness standards decrease exponentially after the second kid! Plus, you can’t reason with infants and we weren’t going to let him scream and cry even for five minutes that early in the morning (though he definitely would have fallen back asleep if we had done that.)

M, on the other hand, we told to go back to bed. She refused, but we also refused to let her play. STANDOFF! Our compromise was that she sit in the chair, quietly, which she managed to do for half an hour. I honestly have no idea why she preferred that to lying down; kids are weird. Eventually she went to lay down on the couch – I got my spot on the bed back! She didn’t sleep but at least she didn’t expend too much energy. This didn’t get us any extra sleep but we got to lie in bed casually keeping tabs on H which is better than nothing.

Hotel with two kids

By 7 AM H was finally exhausted – he fell asleep on me which almost never happens anymore (sad!). M finally got to go get her breakfast, so while H slept they ate breakfast in the lobby and then made their way to Standard Baking Company, one of our favorites.

The aftermath

Since our kids got up that early I was pretty worried they would be overtired all day, especially M. H woke up and Jess and M were back in the room by 8.

After some playtime in the room we went for a walk and I grabbed some breakfast. After we got into our car to kick off our official plans for the day, both kids were passed out within two minutes. Crisis averted!

Planning for Scotland

At this point in our lives, staying in a hotel can be a tough proposition for us. For that reason we are mostly looking at apartments and such for our trip, points be damned.

If we do end up in a small European hotel room my guess is the “cot” (that’s what they call them over there!) probably won’t even fit in the bathroom. So we’re going to have to play it by ear…

Final Thoughts

Some of you may think our experience sleeping in the hotel was horrible, some might think it was nothing. I wasn’t too worried about it and I actually thought things went better than expected; I’m fairly certain Aruba was tougher.

Either way, I highly recommend dry runs: practice makes perfect. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re ready for Scotland, but I will say we had a ton of fun in Portland so any headaches were totally worth it!

Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

4 thoughts on “Surviving a night in a hotel with two kids under 4”

  1. I remember having a confusing discussion with my English MIL about the sleeping arrangements when a bunch of us stayed at her house. She said she had a bed that folds up that she put in the back room and I said, “oh, like a cot” and she said no, and further described something that sounded exactly like a cot to me?! And she was probably thinking, “why the heck would I set up a cot (i.e. crib) for a teenager to sleep in?!”
    It sounds to me like your night went pretty well for the ages of your kids. Love the PJs in the lobby. Funny how you can walk down there thinking that it won’t be too odd, because it’s bedtime anyway. And then you realize as people walk past on their way to go out for the evening, that it’s not really bedtime for most people.

  2. I had to laugh at the embarrassment, Joe. Some of those people heading out for the night were probably jealous, you know.

    My terminal parent moment was when I finally broke down and bought a minivan for myself and my four kids. And wondered why I’d resisted so long.

    But really, you guys did great. One of the few trips taken when my own kids were little was to drive down the Mississippi to see the changing leaves. We ended up in an old hotel in Winona with an enormous room, plenty of running around for the two oldest, and number three, who was only 3 months old at the time, had a lovely night’s sleep in the pulled out drawer from the dresser.

    You followed rules number one and two for traveling (or doing anything in public, really,) with kids: one: safe, happy kids. Two: minimize the upset to the lives of strangers.

  3. Our kids are now 9 & 7 and world travelers. We’ve also done the pack & play in the bathroom, or half in the closet for space. We also once put my then 7yo daughter in the bathtub padded with lots of blankets and a few pillows when she refused to share a sofa-bed with her younger brother…she thought it was cool and they didn’t spend an hour kicking each other. She also once brought her sleeping bag, used for sleepovers, and camped on the floor on top of a pile of blankets…we made her a little tent with chairs and a spare sheet and she was happy.

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