Of all the privileged first world problems to have, loathing being in a single hotel room with small children probably tops the list. I get that and I own it. My children are clever and delightful and I love them very much, and weirdly enough I feel the same way about my alone time. Small spaces, not having anywhere to decompress after a long day of travel, suddenly being on a toddler's sleep schedule, and hearing housekeeping's violent *tap tap tap* at 7am causing your children to perk up from their crunchy low-thread count sheets like meerkats all make hotel staying less than desirable. A lesser person would call my innate need for alone time as "introverting" or cite some sort of self diagnosed personality Engram nonsense, I choose to call it "Parental Boundaries of Steel".
It probably goes without saying that we avoid hotels when we travel and opt for vacation rentals instead. We discovered VRBO (remember that?) eight years ago shortly after our first born came along and we suddenly realized that you can actually have a home away from home. Like for real. We loved it and swore off hotels forever. We wanted to be able to enjoy a glass of wine and watch re-runs of The Office in the living room alone more than we wanted daily housekeeping. It was the perfect trade off. Laundry on site, not some coin operated nonsense three floors away and a kitchen to try to maintain normalcy. It was a game changer for us when it came to travel. Suddenly doing the daily kid grind on the road was manageable. More than manageable. Fun, even. Very quickly we became big fans of short term vacation rentals. It is our default and we are so happy.
Unfortunately AirBnb's aren't always available and of course there are short stays (12 hours and under), and early morning flights that force us into the dreaded hotel with kids pushing our steely boundaries to the breaking point. How do we survive it? Especially when you're the kind of parent who enjoys some well earned me time at the end of a long stressful day with another long stressful day of travel in front of you, and when me time doesn't really happen in a single room with a rickety air conditioner.
Improvisation and finding ways to cope are probably your sure fire bets. There really isn't much in the way of life hacks for hotels. You are all stuck in a 500 square foot space with small children and no barriers. So you will either be taking some very long showers to unwind or watch Netflix on your phone under the covers while your little ones "sleep".
There are things you can to do lower the pressure in the Instant Pot that is a hotel room with disrupted road weary family members. For example we try to patron hotels that have a pretty consistent track record of having "two room suites". The Hilton Doubletree has delivered almost every single time in that department. Plus you get delicious cookies upon check in. You can try to stave off the "everybody is awake at the same time and humming at this weird level of where is breakfast anxiety" by chilling a small pint of milk in the ice-bucket. There is always the trick of using the hanger with the trouser clips as a means of closing the ever-present gap of the room's black out curtains. And of course, tiring out kids at the hotel pool before bedtime. Sure, all these things do add up to giving you the illusion of control, but we're eight years into this whole thing and the most improvement we've ever seen is that our kids now have the self governance and understanding to just go to sleep so we can watch Netflix above the covers at the end of the day. With ear buds, of course. But, none of these tricks are game changers. So the best chance of keeping some level of sanity is to accept that there are no game changers, unless you get two adjoining rooms.
Hotels with kids is just miserable. The key to success is finding little things that help you feel in control. Have I declared a "mommy time out" by leaving Scott with the kids whilst I camp out in the lobby pretending to read the Wall Street Journal? Yep. Have I given the kids coffee filters to use as plates when they complained that they didn't have anything to put their pastry on? Oh yeah. Have I covered for Scott while he took an insanely long time to "load up" the car when I really knew he was probably just taking a mental health break? Yes. Of course.
Have any of these things made me feel like I just spent a weekend alone at the Waldorf Astoria? Haha. Of course not. But, they did help us get through the situation. That's all you can do in a shared hotel room with kids, just get through it. And just think in eight or so years, you too can have above-the-sheets Netflix.