Getting a baby to sleep in a hotel room can be tricky, but it can be done. We have been traveling as a family since my first baby was 4 weeks old. We survived that, and have been traveling as a family ever since.
I have two children. Before they were born, I assumed that babies just fell asleep when they got tired. Maybe that's true for some babies, but not mine!
If you're reading this, I'm guessing that your baby isn't an anytime, anywhere sleeper either. And that's OK. There are lots of things you can do to make sharing a single hotel room easier.
Here's what worked for us.
Where will your baby sleep?
Will your hotel provide a crib, or will you take your own travel crib? Figure this out before you leave home.
We preferred to bring our own Graco Pack n Play when we could because we knew it was clean and in good condition. However, most hotels will loan you the same type of travel crib for no extra cost. Just call ahead to confirm.
If you use the hotel's crib, inspect it for safety, then wipe it clean before use. Bring your own fitted sheet and baby blanket.
It's not a good idea to let your baby sleep overnight in their car seat when they aren't fully strapped in and when you're not keeping an eye on them. A newborn could suffocate if their head tips forward in a car seat. There are lots of articles about this from reputable sources, including this one from ConsumerReports.com.
If your stroller converts into a bassinet, this can be a good crib alternative for newborns. Our newborn slept in our Graco travel system on our first trip. The stroller seat laid completely flat and had fold-up sides.
Stick to your bedtime routine
Getting my kids to sleep all night in their own beds was important to me, and having a consistent bedtime routine was a big part of that. Both our babies slept at least 5-6 hours through the night most of the time from about 3 months old.
Whether we were at home or in a hotel, my baby knew that it was time to sleep when we followed the routine. Our routine looked something like this.
- Change the baby's diaper and put on pajamas
- Brush teeth (for older babies and toddlers)
- Read a storybook or two
- Feed the baby (for younger babies)
- Put the baby in bed with a pacifier and favorite stuffed animal or blanket
- Turn off the lights and keep the room quiet until the baby is asleep
The bedtime routine worked nearly every time. Consistency was the key for us.
I usually had to retreat to the bathroom to read or sit in the dark with my Kindle or phone while the baby fell asleep, but it was nearly always less than an hour.
Make a plan for older kids
If your baby is used to going to bed alone, make a plan for older kids to leave the room until the baby is asleep. Once the baby was fully asleep, we could usually turn on lights and the television as long as we kept the noise low.
This is where it's helpful to travel with two adults. One can put the baby to bed while the other entertains older children outside the room. When we had a baby and a preschooler, my husband would take the older child to the nearest McDonald's Playplace, a local park, or to a movie. She saw her first movie, Horton Hears a Who, with my husband on a family vacation.
Newer technology can make this easier. Headphones and a mobile device can keep an older child quietly entertained in low light while the baby gets to sleep.
Don't skip naptime
My babies slept better at night when they had good naps earlier in the day. Overtired babies can have a hard time getting to sleep, so we stuck to our usual nap schedule as closely as we could when traveling.
This meant that we scheduled long drives during nap time, set up the stroller for naps, or returned to the hotel in the middle of the day for a nap break. My newborns (under 6-9 months) napped twice a day. My older babies (up to 2 years) napped once a day. Both my kids stopped napping consistently around their second birthdays, though travel sometimes prompted naps in the car or stroller.
Some babies nap well anywhere. My babies often needed their nap routine (a simplified version of the bedtime routine) to fall asleep during the day.
Consider a family suite or vacation rental
Getting a baby to sleep in a hotel room was so much easier when we had more than one room.
You don't necessarily need to pay double for two hotel rooms. There are moderately priced hotel chains like Homewood Suites or Embassy Suites that offer 1-bedroom suites where you can easily get a little extra space for your baby to get to sleep.
If your hotel bathroom is big enough and you're OK to not use it after bedtime, it can work well to put the travel crib there for the night.
Booking a vacation home through Airbnb or VRBO.com is another good way to get extra space. Hotel suites and vacation homes often include full kitchens. This can help you save money on food and off-set any extra cost of booking a larger, more comfortable place.
It can be tricky to get a baby to sleep in a hotel room, but with good routines and good planning, it can be done! My family did it successfully many times with our babies.
What works for your baby? Please share how you get a baby to sleep in a hotel room in the comments.