There’s an all-too-true internet meme that says parents don’t really go on vacations; they just take care of their children in a different city. And that task often feels like a lot more work than normal—disrupted routines, unfamiliar environments and that oh-so-bouncy hotel bed that—for some unknown reason—is NOT inspiring any sleep.
To help tip the balance a bit more in your favor, we culled the most creative strategies from parents and travel experts for tricking out your hotel room to maximize your vacation enjoyment (and maybe even save you some money) when traveling with kids .
1. Ask for what you want at check-in.
At check-in, don’t be shy about asking for a location that suits your family best—away from the noisy bar or street or close to the swimming pool. And ask what the hotel offers for families, says Laura Hall, director of communications for Kid & Coe resorts and hotels. “It sounds obvious, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know if they do a special early dinnertime or if they have a play area hidden away from the other guests, or complimentary hot chocolate at 5 p.m.”
2. Put your baby in the closet (really!).
Assuming you don’t have a suite with a secondary bedroom, the closest can double as a private space for baby. To trick out a closet space for baby, bring along a dark sheet from home and some thumb tacks and assemble a makeshift darkroom by hanging the sheet from the top of the closet. Add your video baby monitor and voila! Enjoy a quiet evening.
3. Get baby gear delivered to your door.
There are several services available that will rent baby gear to you and deliver it right to your hotel door. Babierge and Baby’s Away are two of these services. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, you can easily ship supplies to your hotel, free of shipping charges.
4. Make your own bed rails.
5. Use the desk as a changing table.
6. Get creative with bottles and baby food.
7. Use the ironing board as a table.
Anuj Adhiya, cofounder of PlanitWide and father of two boys, recommends using the ironing board as a portable table top so your kids can sit on the edge of the bed and eat snacks or meals while watching TV.
8. Don’t forget to baby proof.
9. Use white noise.
Want to sleep better in your hotel room? Pack a white noise machine or download a white noise app. A white noise machine is worth packing since hotels can often be quite loud, and also because the sounds are different from what your little ones are used to at home. We love the White Noise Lite app, as well as White Noise Baby Sleep Sounds.
10. Bring magnetic hooks.
Bring along a few magnetic hooks from home—especially if your kids will be swimming. “Most doors in hotels are magnetic, and if not, use the fridge,” says blogger Larisha Campbell. “We hang up our swimsuits on the hooks so they dry faster.”
11. Don’t forget about your needs.
It’s important to find alone time, even on a family vacation. Bring a headphone splitter, two sets of headphones and a Kindle loaded with Netflix movies for a cheap, quiet hotel “date” for you and your partner while the kids sleep.
Cynthia J. Drake is a travel writer based in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Since becoming a mom, she’s been stranded at sea with her family, gotten lost in the Rocky Mountains, dealt with more than her fair share of public vomiting, and still can’t wait for the next trip. She writes regularly for AAA magazines, Austin American-Statesman, Texas Highways and Cruise Critic. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.