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Jeff Worcester and his family showed up at a waterpark resort with a car full of kids. They were all set for a weekend of fun until they discovered that there was no crib for their 1-year-old.

They’d requested one. But, because the industry standard for reserving cribs is that there is no standard, the hotel noted their request and told them it would do its best. Which wasn’t very good. “They were out of cribs. They gave us a bunch of blankets and pillows and the toddler slept on the floor,” recalls Worcester.

baby in crib
(Photo by Onfocus / Getty Images)

He knew exactly what his kid didn’t get: he is vice president of digital marketing for Foundations, a Medina, Ohio, company that manufactures cribs, play yards, high chairs and other gear for the hospitality industry.

It’s rare — if not impossible — to actually reserve a crib or play yard along with your hotel room. Worcester and spokespeople for three hospitality companies confirm that the typical practice is to note the request and provide the crib if one is available. And if it isn’t? Parents are on their own to figure out a Plan B — a situation that one sleep expert says can compromise children’s safety.

“All our hotels are required to have approved cribs available for guests to request,” said John Wolf, a spokesperson for Marriott, in an email. “While we cannot guarantee availability, we make every effort to ensure the guest’s request is fulfilled. Typically, properties that cater to families such as resorts have a greater number of cribs available.”

Responses from Walt Disney World Resort and Hilton were nearly identical.

Sleep Tight

A safe and secure sleeping environment in an unfamiliar environment is essential for a small child’s well-being and safety, says Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The center offers advice for parents at BabySleep.com.

“It’s an incredible safety concern,” says Mindell. Small children are much more likely to sleepwalk when they are in new settings, which means that parents must not only arrange a secure sleep surface but also a secure room. (Mindell recommends using a security door stop that will set off an alarm if the room’s door is opened.)

crib policies in hotels
The Westin New York Grand Central welcomed 5-month-old Neina with not only a crib, but also a brand-new baby bathtub and rubber ducky. Accompanying Neina were her grandmother (pictured) and mother. (Photo courtesy of Joanne Cleaver)

She recommends continuing your regular bedtime routine as much as possible while on the road, immediately adapting to the new time zone. “If you’re a family that travels a lot, create routine for being on the road,” says Mindell. “A story with a certain book is much more portable than a tradition of snuggling in a certain chair at home.” (And, she adds, when you return, immediately revert to your home routine.)

Crib a Crib

Even if a crib is not available when you first arrive, continue asking. And, recommends Mindell, be flexible. A portable play yard can be a great option. You can even bring it poolside so that the baby can nap while siblings play.

Because hotels stock only as many cribs as necessary to meet their average demand, be sure that the manager knows that you need a crib, adds Worcester. The number of cribs is based on the perception of demand, so…stoke the demand. Adds Worcester, “If there’s demand, they’ll try to fulfill it.”

Plan A: Requesting a Crib or Play Yard

  • Hotels that are marketed to families usually have more cribs.
  • Use the “special requests” field in the hotel’s app or reservations site to request the crib or play yard and also, notes a Hilton spokesperson, additional towels and other amenities that might make life easier with a little one.
  • Call the day before and talk with the manager to reiterate your request for the crib. Note your arrival time so the staff can plan accordingly.
  • When you are on your way to the hotel, call again to request that they hold a crib.
  • Request the crib immediately upon check-in; confirm its arrival in your room before leaving for the fun part of your visit.
  • Always wipe down baby equipment before using it. Request fresh linens for the baby as needed.

Plan B: Guarantee a Crib When the Hotel Won’t

  • Consider staying at a property that can guarantee a crib or play yard, such as a boutique hotel or home rental.
  • Bring along a portable play yard or travel crib and request necessary linens from the hotel. “The hassle of bringing your own portable crib is worth it given the issue of not having a safe crib,” says Mindell.
  • Find a local service that rents baby gear and arrange for a crib or play yard to be delivered to the hotel for your exclusive use. Of course, that means you must also arrange for it to be picked up, lest it be mistaken for hotel property.
  • Always wipe down baby equipment before using it.
Image of the Lotus Travel Crib (courtesy of Guava)
Image of the Lotus Travel Crib (courtesy of Guava)

Bottom Line

You’d think crib availability at a hotel would be a no-brainer, but it can actually be the source of a big headache when one isn’t available upon check-in. How’s your track record with crib requests? What has a particular hotel brand impressed you with its availability of baby amenities? Mommy Points things these are the best hotel chains for families in general, but sadly none can 100% guarantee baby cribs.

Featured image by BenDC / Getty Images

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