Staying at a Hotel With a Baby -- Without Losing Your Mind
Have infant, will travel! Except . . . everything you take for granted at home isn't necessarily available on the road. For families traveling with infants, creating a home-away-from-home environment in a hotel can be tricky, but with a little planning it's possible to be prepared for baby life in a hotel room. Here are some recommendations on where to stay and how to make travel with an infant work for all of you.
Aim for Apartment-Style Hotels
Apartment-style (or extended-stay) hotels are often overlooked by points-and-miles travelers, but for those with a newborn in tow, they can be just the ticket. These hotels typically have larger, well-equipped standard rooms that feature baby essentials such as refrigerators, dishwashers and even washers and dryers. While they're designed for business travelers who are staying more than a couple of nights, those amenities prove quite useful for managing the needs of a newborn.
Because these hotels are not usually in high demand by points and miles aficionados, award availability tends to be good -- even when cash rates are high. Below are a few of our favorite brands in the extended-stay universe.
- Home2 Suites by Hilton
- Embassy Suites
- Homewood Suites
- Towneplace Suites
- Springhill Suites
- Residence Inn
Even if you're chasing status with a certain hotel chain or you've got points/miles to burn, it may be wise to alter your lodging strategy while caring for a newborn. Most hotel rooms are not designed to cater to infant needs, and perks like late checkout, free breakfast and daily cleaning service seem to matter less if you're scrambling to find a changing table.
Renting out a fully equipped condo or home will make life on the road a lot easier (we've outlined ways to maximize earnings on Airbnb stays). Instead of pivoting from your home to a hotel room, you'll simply swap homes. Just make sure that the Airbnb listing you choose is kid-friendly and includes amenities like a dishwasher, washer/dryer and a refrigerator. Or, look to Kid & Coe, which is like a high-end Airbnb that solely lists rentals that are appropriate for families, complete with a rundown of family-friendly amenities offered in each location.
Regardless of where you decide to stay, here are some tips for managing life with a baby on the road.
Cleaning Bottles on the Road
Ideally, if you have baby bottles to contend with, you'll be in a room with, at least, running water, a pot and a stove so you can sterilize bottles, nipples and pacifiers with boiling water. If you aren't that fortunate, grab an empty three-ounce liquid container (sold at megastores such as Walmart and Target, as well as online retailers such as Amazon) and carry along your dishwashing liquid of choice. That way you can carry the liquid on the plane with you, enabling you to use an airport, airplane or hotel sink to wash bottles in a pinch. You should also carry several cleaning cloths, a bottle scrubbing brush and a labeled bag to hold used cloths until you can get them washed.
If you need boiling water and don't have the requisite equipment and appliances, many hotels will bring a kettle to your room for free. Alternatively, it never hurts to ring the front desk or the room service department and ask for a quote on cleaning a set of bottles. While it's an unusual query, fancier hotels generally try to accommodate all reasonable requests. There's no guarantee the bottles will be sterilized but perhaps they can help with the first round of cleaning.
Should you have access to a microwave and/or dishwasher, you will have additional sterilization options. You can also take some microwavable steam-cleaning bags.
So you need to give an infant a bath, but there's only a shower. What do you do? If you're able to plan even two days in advance (thank you, Amazon Prime), you can pick up an inflatable bathtub. These collapse down to almost nothing for travel and blow up once you've arrived at your destination.
Along with your three-ounce bottle of dishwashing solution, buy another empty container to carry your bathing solution of choice. That way, you aren't forced to use whatever's available near the hotel (and you are assured of having what works for your baby's skin).
Especially for a shorter trip, you can often bathe the baby with just a sink and some washcloths. Traveling parents have also been known to hold the baby tightly and head into the shower for a "team" scrubbing.
For a hotel stay with a baby, it's wise to pick up a travel bassinet like the Brica Fold N' Go. Infants tend to sleep more soundly when they're in a familiar environment, and you can hack the system by getting your little one acclimated to a travel-friendly bed ahead of time. Here are some of our top recommended travel cribs. If you don't want to BYO and rely instead on what the hotel happens to have on hand, you can sometimes rent cribs and other baby gear.
I introduced the bassinet shown above on the right to our infant a couple of weeks before a cross-country flight, and he slept great in it at home as well as at our destination. As an added bonus, you can whip the bassinet out during transit for some rest, as we did here at a Delta Sky Club lounge in Salt Lake City (SLC).
Closets and Bathrooms are Your Friend
If you have accommodations that allow you and your baby to have separate spaces for resting, that's great. But if you find yourself in a standard hotel room, you can get creative with sleeping arrangements -- especially if your baby is used to their own nursery at home. Many a traveling parent has turned a large closet or even a bathroom into a makeshift nursery. It's not a perfect solution, but it can beat tip-toeing around the same 300 square feet.
In those first few months, taking care of a baby is so much easier if you have a system in place. You probably have a system at home, so replicate that in your hotel room. Use towels, other linens and pillows to create a "changing station." Designate a place for bottles, toys, etc. Consider actually unpacking and using the drawers, even if you lived out of your suitcase on trips before you had a baby.
Extra Things to Pack
Over time, your backpack of items that can help make life on the road with a baby easier will get more refined, but here are a few other things to bring:
Clothes pins: Those old fashioned clips can work wonders keeping sub-par blackout curtains shut so that your baby (and you) can sleep.
Tape: If your baby is crawling and exploring, you can do some basic baby-proofing with a roll of painter's tape or something similar. You can cover outlets, secure cords and more with a simple roll of tape.
Anti-bacterial wipes: Looking clean and clean enough for a baby's hands and mouth aren't always the same thing, so bring a pack of antibacterial wipes to clean surfaces in the hotel that your baby can reach.
Download a white noise app: This one doesn't require you to bring anything extra, but download a white noise app to your phone or iPad to help drown out the inevitable noise from the hallway, neighbors, etc.
Plastic sacks: Dirty diapers need to go somewhere, preferably a trash receptacle outside of your room. Pack those diapers well and take them away. In a pinch, the liner in the ice bucket can help you with diaper transport.
Ask for a fridge: Even if your hotel doesn't usually have mini-fridges in the rooms, they will probably bring one to your room if tell them you have a baby and need refrigeration.
Have any other tips for making hotel life easier with an infant? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
Read on for more traveling with a baby tips:
- Best Hotel Amenities for Babies and Toddlers
- Keeping Luxury in Travel When You Have Kids
- Babyproofing Hotel Rooms
- Making Your Baby's First Flight Special
- How Young is Too Young to Fly
- 6 Things to Know When Flying With a Lap Infant
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