As a parent, you often don't remember how much easier life was pre-kids until you try to do something basic, such as stay in a hotel. Before being with child, you could walk into the room, plop your stuff down, climb into bed, and watch the Reese Witherspoon movie marathon on TV for hours while eating Flaming Hot Cheetos (or, you know, do the things you love). When you have a baby who sleeps on a very particular schedule, under very particular conditions (sunlight is evil!), hotel living can be an ordeal. (Note: If you have a baby who can snooze like a log at a monster truck show and believe it is parents who create delicate infant sleep habits, look, I'm... too tired to fight.)
Luckily, many resourceful parents who cherish sleep - their baby's and, subsequently, their own - have MacGyver'd ways to transition from home to hotel without much disruption. "Babies in hotel rooms" is an impassioned topic in online parenting groups, and desperation has spurred ingenuity. Here are some of the best hacks I've found. Feel free to add your own in the comments!
Choose the Right Room
The No. 1 hack parents share when it comes to staying in a single room with a baby is: Don't. If at all possible, get an Airbnb, a suite, or two connecting rooms. With two rooms, you can let the baby nap and sleep in the quiet darkness while you live a normal adult life. This may sound extraordinarily excessive, but as many parents report, having a separate space made all the difference in their sanity.
If you don't want to pay for a second room, know that room selection is still important and you may have some control. Try to request a room at the end of the hallway so you only have to share a wall with one other room and you don't have to hear as many footsteps stomping by all night. Also, specify a room with windows that aren't directly facing the sun. Some parents like to ask if a room with a wheelchair accessible bathroom is available once they get to a hotel (more on why that would be helpful later). If you do this, only take it if the room would otherwise be empty for the night, and tell the front desk that you will move if a person with a disability needs it.
Set Up a Baby Cave
If your baby is used to sleeping in a crib in his own room, you'll have to get resourceful and create your own little cave within the confines of the space. Many parents bring a portable bassinet/playpen for their babe to sleep in (you often don't know for sure whether the hotel will have a crib for you to use).
Now, figuring out how to banish all the light is the big mission. A simple, yet rather spendy solution is to purchase this highly-reviewed SnoozeShade. It's a breathable mesh netting cover that stretches over a travel cot and makes it dark inside.
If you have a SnoozeShade, you don't have to worry much about unwanted light keeping your infant awake, but otherwise, you can use what's in the room to build your own light barrier. Some parents drape a sheet over an ironing board to create a wall or fort. Others move the furniture around, placing chairs or sofas next to the cot to obstruct any light from lamps or the sun. Others put place the cot halfway in the closet to increase the darkness. And then there are those who use the bathroom as the baby's room. If you're in a wheelchair accessible bathroom without a bathtub, it's easy to situate a cot inside. If not, depending on the size of the bathroom, this may not work.
I've seen parents who take sunlight-blocking to the next level by bringing their own heavy-duty binder clips and clipping sheets to floor lamps, headboards or anything else that is clippable. That's an option. Or you can cover the windows themselves. Some people bring black garbage bags and secure them to the windows using painter's tape. Redi Shades are peel-and-stick paper shades that can be trimmed to size and attach to any window frame, while coming off cleanly.
As for drowning out noise, you can bring a sound machine or play white noise from an app on your phone. Or, as one mum mentioned, you can turn on the radio and have it play static.
Pretend You're at Home
Yes, you're on holiday (kind of?), but to keep your baby in her normal rhythm, you should try to stick as close to your regular routine as possible. Pack a toy to create some familiarity, along with your baby's blankets. Sing your lullaby, read a bedtime story, and do whatever you usually do.
Once your baby is asleep for the night, you can either 1) go to sleep, too (a wise choice); 2) party quietly in the dark with your iPad and headphones; or 3) as some parents have figured out, hang out on the balcony or in the hotel hallway with your baby monitor, or sit and snack in the bathtub. Not kidding. You'll feel like you're in high school sneaking away from your parents. Except that you are the parent now. Have a great holiday!