Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to drive across country with a toddler, part 1: hotel stays

So, this morning as Charlotte was peacefully napping in our hotel room, I start mentally writing a blog post. I'm highlighting all the things we did well, and bragging on my amazing, wonderful, flexible daughter. 

And of course, tonight, as I'm actually physically typing out the post, Charlotte is rolling around in her bed, talking to herself, after standing up twice and asking for water at least three times. Humble pie for dessert, me thinks. 

But the imperfection of tonight's bedtime aside, we have been on the road in our cross-country move for over two weeks now. We should arrive in Washington tomorrow night, and we won't have to travel again for a long, long time [Praise.The.Lord]. 

Before our trip, I did a bunch of research, and some friends gave me a few good tips. We have had a VERY successful time staying in a hotel with Charlotte and I want to share some of the things that worked for us, in case any of you are crazy enough to plan a cross country trip with a toddler. 

Here goes:

1. If at all possible, stay in a suite every night. We had four nights in hotels and the absolute best experience was one where we had an actual suite... Meaning that Charlotte had an entire living room to herself, while our bedroom door could close and we could talk to each other after she fell asleep, and read with the lights ON. I think sometimes a suite can cost more, but I would definitely say it's worth the cost. 

2. Bring a large sheet and 5-10 thumb tacks. This is so important!! My friend Melissa found this tip and it saved our sanity. Every night, even in the suite, we would section off Charlotte's bed with a sheet, thumb tacked to the wall in two places. This prevented her from looking all around the room as she settled down and also meant that she couldn't see us if she woke up in the middle of the night. She stirred sometimes, but always put herself back to sleep and didn't get us up in the middle of the night at all during our hotel stays. Amazingly, hotel walls are compatible with thumb tacks-- maybe because they are made of sound proofing material...? 

3. Also bring- a fan for white noise, whatever your child sleeps with at night (for us it's a sleep sack and two owl loveys).

4. Keep the bedtime routine as consistent as possible. Every night, Joel said goodnight to Charlotte, then left the room while I turned on the fan (And turned off the light), gave her a milk cup, put on her sleep sack, read three books, and gave a drink of water. I put her to bed more often than he does at home, so we kept that consistency, and her bedtime routine, in an attempt to make things normal. 

5. If possible, use your own travel crib (and also if possible- have your child sleep in it a few days at home before your trip, to practice). Hotels usually have a crib you can borrow, but I really think the consistency of using our travel crib made it easier for Charlotte to sleep in a new place every night. 

6. Only go to hotels with swimming pools. For real. After being in the car for hours and hours, swimming is a great way to get some energy out. Twice Joel took C swimming while I drove to get dinner, got her bed set up, or planned our day's adventures, or just took a short rest. Another night all three of us went together and had a great time. Charlotte LOVES the water, so playing in the pool was an absolute blast. 

7. Finally, try to be patient and flexible. It's not easy to share a bedroom with a toddler, especially under the stressful circumstances of traveling across country. There were many moments of difficulty, particularly the last morning of our travels when Charlotte woke up at 5am. We were beyond exhausted, but just decided to pack up and hit the road, since it wouldn't do any of us any good to hang out in the hotel room being stressed or annoyed. Joel did a GREAT job leading the charge that day and helping me maintain a good attitude. 

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