This post is reprinted from my May 24th column in Mount Vernon Patch.
You’ve had a full day of excursions. You’re bushed! Ah, time to review the highlights of the day over a cup of complimentary herbal tea, indulge in the chocolate that was thoughtfully placed on your pillow, read a few pages of a novel, and snuggle into the soft clean white sheets of your bed. Does this sound like your last hotel stay? No?
Did yours look more like a scene out of The Gremlins, with little creatures jumping on the beds, having pillow fights and fighting over the chocolates?
My friend Paige and I are passionate about family travel to the point of obsession but over coffee the other day, we started talking about hotel stays with our kids and both of us just sighed deeply as two sets of eyeballs rotated up to the ceiling.
We’ve drawn on our own experiences to compile these coping strategies. Follow these steps carefully, and before you know it, the whole family will be off to dreamland.
- Swim til you drop. If at all possible, stay at a hotel with a pool. Have your kids take a swim after dinner and have them swim laps, if they’re old enough, until the pool closes, usually around 9 p.m. You’ll notice that hotel pools are highly chlorinated. In fact, they’re so highly chlorinated that you could roam the hotel blindfolded and let your nose guide you to the indoor pool. This is good on two fronts. The first, of course, is that it may prevent them from catching whatever disease it’s meant to combat. The second, is that their eyes will burn so much the only relief will be to close them (do you see where I’m headed?) If this works, proceed to step 3. If your kids are still awake and require more extreme measures, proceed to step 2.
- DIY. We tried watching pay-per-view family movies (e.g., the latest Pixar film). We assumed that since 1) it’s really late and 2) they’re physically exhausted from the swimming and eye burning, everyone will nod off within the first half-hour. Not so. The rare treat of watching a movie in bed (!) in a hotel room (!) with mom and dad (!) was too much to bear, apparently, and every eye was still open when it ended. After some measured experimentation, we came up with a fail-proof system: we make them watch HGTV DIY shows with the TV on mute. I-n-s-t-a-n-t– s-l-e-e-p! Proceed to step 3.
- Hit the john (this tickled both of our funny bones because both of our husbands are actually named John—we’re laughing right now!) They’re finally asleep. What, now you’re not tired? Well, remember that novel you optimistically packed? No reason why you can’t dive into that little nugget right now, right? After all, it’s your vacation too! Hmm, but if you turn on the light, somebody might wake up. Lucky for you, you have a private bathroom! And if there’s a phone in there, why not call room service and order up a little treat for yourself. Maybe have a little talk with your spouse, you know, the teary-eyed one about how you can’t imagine your life without kids.
For more tips on getting your kids to sleep while traveling, check out these great ideas from Pit Stops for Kids.