Want your baby to sleep in a hotel room? Put them in the closet or the bathroom
For the past five years, before booking a hotel room to share with my 5 and 2 year olds, I have always called the front desk to ask a few questions about the room I am about to book. “What is the square footage of the closet?” “Do you have the dimensions of the bathroom?” (They can only find the answer about half the time, and when they promise to get back to me, I know it will be a dead end.)
I’ve learned to ask for these things in a nonchalant tone, like I’m the kind of candlelight traveler who just needs a big closet and a spacious bathroom in a Comfort Inn. I’m not revealing what I really want to know: can I fit the Pack ‘n Play or my child’s crib in this closet or this bathroom, or even in the shower stall. Because the few times I revealed my true agenda, the person on the other end of the line changed from tone to thinly veiled horror.
I knew what they were thinking: Who the hell would put a baby in a closet? Sounds dangerous – or at least shady. But they don’t know my toddler, a kid who thinks he deserves to attend a rave if he sees a single person in his sight at bedtime.
Nor am I the only one tucking my babies and toddlers into the darkest, quietest spaces of hotels in order to get — and give — a good night’s sleep.
And I can’t exactly book another hotel room for my kids to shield them from the noises and sights of the rest of our family after 8 p.m. Aside from the exorbitant cost of two hotel rooms these days, I can’t leave my baby, or really any preteen child, alone in a locked room. (And connecting rooms are rarer than you might think.)
That leaves the closet or the bathroom. Before you get nervous, let me start with these caveats: I make sure the space is well ventilated, I crack the door. I take out the hangers. Sometimes I even bring my own night lights. I am not a monster !
The first time we put my eldest to sleep in a large shower stall was after trying to put him down in the hotel room for hours to no avail. Being a pampered first child, he was quite particular about complete silence and darkness when he slept, and the hotel room provided none of those things. We put the travel crib in the shower and it fell apart within minutes. I was convinced that I was creating some sort of ingrained trauma that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He would avoid showering forever. I was plagued with insomnia, Google showers, mold and asthma as he slept soundly through the night. Meanwhile, my husband thought it was a perfect solution – and also slept through the night.
I didn’t dare tell anyone about it. And yet, despite the guilt, I did it again. And again and again.
By the time he was 1, my son had slept in many closets and bathrooms around the world as I continued to travel for editorial work and a full book tour. It was then that I finally dared to ask my pediatrician if I was the worst mother on the planet. She laughed in my face, a real chuckle, and told me that she’s been putting her own kids in hotel closets since the early 90s. They all went to perfectly acceptable colleges and all take regular showers.
I trust my pediatrician completely, but parenting has changed a lot since the 90s, when I was allowed to drive home from a station wagon and eat cigarette-shaped candies. So I consulted another pediatrician. “It can be safe, depending on a few factors,” Dr. Florence Segura told me.. “For older babies and toddlers, you should provide temperature control in the bathroom or large closet to allow good air circulation and prevent overheating. I would advise leaving the door ajar and not fully closed for this reason.” She also recommended checking for safety hazards such as coat hangers, locks on the inside of the bathroom door and accessible cords on blinds, hair dryers and razors in which children can get tangled up.
It felt like common sense and also gave me the comfort I needed as I embarked on another pregnancy and entered the daunting world of a family of three. As many of my friends have told me time and time again, the world – and especially the world of travel – is not built for families of five.
Nor am I the only one tucking my babies and toddlers into the darkest, quietest spaces of hotels in order to get — and give — a good night’s sleep. I know one mom who goes further than calling the front desk: she emailed hotels and resorts asking for an actual floor plan. “It helped me better determine a room layout so I could find a place to put the crib, and it kept me from getting an extra room because I could better understand where I would put the baby” , Taryn Berkett told me. “Sometimes I would pack extra swaddles, fabric blackout blinds and binder clips, and MacGyver would make things better.” His other advice? Just before a trip, call and ask if ADA compliant rooms have been reserved for your stay, and if not, ask to change rooms as there is usually more square footage and the bathroom bathroom is larger, which means more spaces to put a cradle.
Sure, a cute kids’ club is great, but when you have babies, you just want a fridge with good storage for breastmilk.
Another friend of mine, longtime travel journalist Regan Stephens, knows a lot about hotels. In fact, she’s one of the most knowledgeable travel experts I’ve ever spoken to and one of my go-to people for family travel advice, as she has three daughters under the age of 10. She told me she put her kids in a closet or bathroom every time she traveled with one of the three under 2.
She particularly remembers a no-frills “boutique” hotel in Brooklyn. “Rooms were tiny. But they had an oversized bathroom, so when it was bedtime, we put the Bjorn travel crib in there. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night felt like a high-flying act, but it was worth it,” Stephens says. “I also remember walking into the Four Seasons in Philadelphia after my daughters were out of a crib and feeling a pang of sadness at not being able to use the cavernous closet as a baby room. . I can’t ignore the potential of closets and bathrooms, even a few years from the cradle stage.
I wish more hotels would provide the information that makes their rooms suitable for families. Sure, a nice kids club is nice, but when you have babies you just want a fridge with good storage space, not a minibar which costs me money when I try to empty it of everything. alcohol to store my breast milk. I’d like a microwave so I don’t have to pay for a bunch of restaurant meals that my kids won’t eat anyway, and I want to know if I can put my kid in his cupboards so everyone can pass a good night’s sleep. Is it too much to ask from a hotel website?
“I guess the people selling the rooms aren’t parents,” Stephens says when I ask him why hotels don’t sell to parents a little better. “Or maybe it’s unseemly to say, ‘Choose our hotel, we’ve got the biggest closets you can shove your baby in and you’ll all sleep more.’ “”
Improperness is one way of looking at it – parent empowerment is another.