Traveling With Kids: 8 Tips for a Good Night of Sleep

hotel with kids

Two beds, two kids, one night to get through. Credit: prayitno

When I headed down to the Sweat AC fitness festival in Atlantic City, I just had to bring my family along. The city is just two hours south of where we live, and my husband and I had wanted to check it out since we moved to New Jersey. We’re not gamblers, so we hadn’t been sufficiently motivated to head down until I had the chance to work out with THE Jillian Michaels. We don’t have family nearby to help out or take the kids overnight, so we brought them along for the trip. (And there’s the whole breastfeeding thing to consider too and my crazy unwillingness to leave my littles for long stretches of time.)

We were just going to be gone overnight, so I packed the bare minimum. Meaning plenty of clothes and diapers in case of accidents, but no real baby paraphernalia. I didn’t really know how the sleep thing would go with the whole family in one room, and it proved to be interesting. My daughter refused to take her nap in the hotel and then woke up at 4:30 a.m. raring to go. We also got to witness her movement while she slept, and it turns out she sleeps like a tumbleweed. Here are a few tips we learned traveling—and trying to sleep—with two kids!

8 Tips for Good Hotel Sleep with Kids

1. Keep the naps on schedule. As much as possible, keep your routine the same as at home. My daughter caught a morning nap in the car on the way to Atlantic City, and it threw off her whole day. She refused her afternoon nap and by dinner it was crazy meltdown city.

2. Use the car. Don’t be afraid to use the car for naps. If it fits into your schedule to take a drive over nap time, it’ll be a way to guarantee sleep. (It can also be problematic if you’re not careful, see No. 1.)

3. Sweet suite. If you can, opt for a hotel that gives you a bedroom suite with a door you can close. We didn’t have this, but it would be nice because you can have the kids in the bedroom while you watch TV in the living area or vice versa.

4. Bring headphones. Because kids go to bed insanely early, you may want to bring headphones so you can watch a movie on an iPad or listen to music.

5. With that said, hit the hay early. You never know when the kids will be up for good.

6. Home sweet home. If your child sleeps with a blankie or stuffed animal, bring it with you. Like fools, we didn’t. In a completely strange environment, familiarity will go a long way in helping kids settle down for bed.

7. White noise. My daughter still sleeps with white noise, and I wish we had brought her sleep sheep along for the trip. Every little hotel noise had her saying “What’s that?!” and startling her from her sleepy state. It was hard to get her to zone out.

8. Do what it takes. When we got that 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, we were in no way ready to get up for the day. My daughter wanted to be in the bed with me, so we made it happen in a hurry. Sure enough, she settled back down for a couple hours longer. We would have given her a chocolate cake if it had meant she’d go back to sleep.

Have you done the hotel thing with little ones? What tips would you add? —Erin

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  1. Jessica says:

    The sleep sheep was one of the best gifts we got when our baby was born. The only place he has slept away from home so far has been Grandma’s and we always take that little sheep along. We haven’t tried a hotel yet, but might have the opportunity soon wit ha couple out of town weddings coming up. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Kristen says:

    My kids are just a little bigger (7 and 4) and I’ve found that they MUST fall asleep in different beds. So we put the smaller one in our bed and move him once they are both asleep. If you put them together it is a disaster! And I second the recommendation about a suite, or at least headphones.

  3. sistersister says:

    Not only did I do the hotel thing, I did it with an Alaskan Malamute that we couldn’t find a sitter for and that would not stay at a kennel. A co-worker and I attended a conference in upstate NY. We were invited at the last minute and just threw stuff together and grabbed the dog and left. Me and the kids got a double, not a suite. It was me, the kids ( 2 of them) and the dog in one room with a double bed, and my co worker in another room. The kids played video games and watched TV while I finished up the paper I planned to present. We were all knocked out by 11:00 pm that night, including the dog. We woke up super early, took the kids to brunch, ran to the local grocery and bought fruit, snacks and lots of junk and dog food and drinks. I got dressed for the conference which started at 9:00 am. I was upstairs for every break, in between speeches, until it was my turn around 3:00 pm. After I was done, I went up to the room, undressed and slept until it was time to get dressed for the banquet. I dressed the kids up, put the dog in the bathroom with food and water and the radio. We went to the banquet like civilized people and everyone gushed over my very happy and well mannered kids. That night there was a blizzard! So, the next day we bundled up and took the dog and explored the city which was completely shut down by 18 inches of snow. My Tips: Don’t do hotel food. Bring your own. Kids love familiar and easy food on trips. Break all of the rules except the good manners and hygiene rules. We had no sleep time, sleep where you could find a spot, we just passed out. Remember, good warm baths calm everybody down. It turns out that taking Nikki the dog was the best thing we could have done. She was a great babysitter and body guard and she loved all of the attention the kids gave her while I was down stairs at the conference. The hotel staff loved her especially watching her and the kids in the snow . If you travel in the winter bring plenty of warm stuff. You never know what might happen.