In many ways, families with kids are no different from anyone else when it comes to finding a desirable hotel; we want our lodging to be clean, comfortable, reasonably quiet, well-located and affordable.
Beyond the basics, however, are certain things to remember about hotels and children:
Who is sleeping where?
- If your family is comfortable with co-sleeping/family bed arrangements, then everyone just piles in at night and gets comfy. The most important factor may be finding a hotel with King-sized beds or two Queen-sized beds instead of two of the smaller double beds (but those who look for hotels outside the US will soon find that it’s not so easy to find affordable hotel rooms that match our standard chain bed sizes.)
- For family beds with babies, you may need to rearrange the furniture and push beds against the wall to create a barrier, plus add extra pillows as bumpers.
- Parents who prefer a crib for the baby or toddler must either tote their own (which guarantees the child a familiar place to sleep each night but is usually too cumbersome unless you’re driving your own car) or confirm in advance that safe, clean portable cribs are available at the hotel. Those who carry their own may want to try adding some padding to a normal playpen, to make it a crib at night. If your child actually likes being kept in a playpen, I commend you; mine would have none of it!
- No crib available, but baby is still small? Use a large dresser drawer, well-padded with blankets and towels.
Room size and number of persons in the room
- Hotels outside the US, especially in cities, often have much smaller rooms than the US average, no matter the price point. It’s no big deal, but there’s no extra space to spread out suitcases or allow for messiness (another reason to pack light.)
- If your family is too big for one room, ask about a “suite,” with a pull-out sofabed in the sitting area, or at least adjoining rooms. Wheeling in a spare bed or cot will usually incur an extra charge.
- Not all hotels allow children to stay free in their parent’s room; ask first before you’re billed for your darlings at the end.
Surroundings are not familiar
- Young children, in general, like some measure of order, routine and predictability. Bouncing from one lodging arrangement to another is the opposite of that, so try to check in early enough that everyone can look around, “nest” and familiarize themselves with bathroom fixtures and light switches well before bedtime. Stick to as much normalcy as possible – bathtime (IS there a bathtub, or just a shower enclosure?) and bedtime books – whatever sleep routines you have for your kids.
- Speaking of bathtime, remember that hotel hot water may be quite scalding. Check first.
- Pack a small plug-in nightlight, with a spare bulb, and a small flashlight to go next to the bed (for late-night suitcase rummaging without turning on the lamps.)
- Remember to child-proof upon check-in. Pack small plastic plugs for the electrical outlets, move any breakables up and out of the way and be aware of sharp corners, loose cords, unstable furniture and easily accessible windows and balconies.
- If the tap water is not safe to drink, remember to keep bottled water near the sink for teeth-brushing, and explain the “no swallow” rule.
- The “squat toilet” is very common around the world; if in doubt about what is available at your hotel, be sure to ask or be prepared to give the “squat potty how-to” lecture.
Hotel amenities to consider
- A good breakfast, with cereal and juice choices and plenty of fresh fruits and yogurts, is starting to matter more and more to me. I don’t need a hot meal, but a continuously re-stocked Continental breakfast gets my family going in such a nice way (and I hate those empty containers laying around when there’s 20 minutes of scheduled breakfast time left.)
- A small refrigerator in the room is a helpful convenience, but if it is already stocked, make sure kids know that all those drinks and munchies are not free!
- Free WiFi. Not only do I want it, but now my teen wants it for her laptop. Charge me for it, Mr. Fancy Hotel, and incur my wrath!
- A pool. Nice if you can get it, especially in the summer, but don’t obsess over it (and don’t look for it as standard outside the US)
- In-room video games and in-room porn. Know what’s on that TV set and how much it costs. I’m just saying….
With a little foresight and planning, kids can look forward to the adventure of a “new bedroom” while they’re traveling the world.