Just three days after a bittersweet forage into the world of travel with babies we were a bit gun-shy about the entire family accompanying my husband on a four day business trip. We set out anyway, but this time without the support of friends and family, determined to mold travel adaptable babies who would be able to seek adventure with us. Since we were still raw from the last trip we felt better prepared to deal with home base becoming the confines of a hotel room. The entire entourage behaved, proving that business trip groupies can get by without (necessarily) destroying their surroundings and everyone's last nerve. I know that a lot of this was luck, and an increased tolerance for bad behavior, but I'd like to think that at least some of it had to do with the new bag of tricks that we'd developed to make a hotel room a little more like home.
A Room of Their Own
From our limited experience we've found that a suite works best. Not only does it give you a separate space to watch TV, play cards or just hang out, it gives everyone involved a little bit of privacy. We found that sharing a room with Molly means that she becomes super sensitive to every movement or sound. Not only were we tempted to throw a sheet over her crib hoping that she'd behave like some sort of bird and realize that it really was night time, but that we also ended up going to bed earlier than we wanted to and watching TV at a volume level of 12.
Bed is Boss
Calling any hotel ahead of time (when you book) to find out about lender cribs, playpens, highchairs or anything else they might have will allow you to find out 1) how children friendly the hotel is and 2) will give you an opportunity to request a quiet corner away from the beaten path so you and other hotel guests don't disturb one another. Most trained front desk staff will automatically do this when you check in, but it's good to ask. At our second hotel we ended up on the same floor as a women's hockey team, which worked out in the end, but could have gone the other way. If you are worried about germs either bring your own portable playpen, or a couple of extra crib sheets and a bottle of Fabreze. You may also want to request a King sized bed for yourself. We have found that a King sized bed, some pillow borders, a bunch of toys and some supervision can make a playpen that our kids love.*
Brand New Treat
At first I wasn't convinced that a brand new toy would be distracting enough to hold their interest, but the new plastic ring stacker** was a huge hit. A new item or two can save your butt when bored babies are about to meltdown, but be sure to play your hand wisely. If they're already too worked up, in my experience, the new toy will get rejected and thrown against the wall.***
Location & Amenities
By selecting hotels with restaurants, parks, shopping malls and interesting walks nearby I was able to get out during the day rain or shine. We were also able to head out to dinner each night, with a quick getaway planned if either child started to act up. If they are in a particularly fussy mood you may want to look into room service options.**** All restaurant travels worked well, but this may also have to do with the copious amounts of warm rolls we stuffed into their little mouths. Another great amenity for us at the hotel was the pool. This gave everyone a break from the four walls of the hotel room and worked off some energy for everyone before bed time.
Be Prepared to Bus Your Own Room
For some reason whenever I managed to get the kids down for a nap it was the exact time that maid service wanted into our room. I'd quickly collect all of the garbage and dirty towels from the room, secured a note to the door warning about sleeping babies and requesting whatever I needed and it made everyone's life easier.
Use What You've Got, But Come Prepared
A sink can make a quick on the road bath for any small child, a microwave can boil water to sterilize bottles and if that isn't available you can always bring a plug in kettle. If you are somewhere where you aren't so sure about the water supply, bring a filtration pitcher. Years ago Chris and I created a fool-proof camping check list to make sure we went out prepared, adding in items when we had the, "I wish I had blank, that would make life so much easier" moments. The same has gone for travel with the minions. There are things that I needlessly brought (bumbo and vibro-chair) and things that I forgot that I really needed (electric kettle), but you make do and add or subtract from your list for the next time.
*It also helped that we brought along so many toys that the bed looked like a giant toy orgy.
**We have discovered that we lack creativity when we describe or name toys. Dolly is Dolly, the stuffed frog is Mr. Frog, the giraffe rattle is Mr. Giraffe. When Chris mentioned this I claimed that it was so we weren't confusing kids about what things are really called, but I'm full of it and just lazy. I also don't know why I've added a surname onto most of the toys.
***Gee, I wonder which child did that?
****This became our only option after we arrived in town really late one night because most pubs will not allow you to bring in children after 10PM.