I've learned so much from all of the family travel adventures that we've embarked on over the past couple years, and I don't just want to tell you about what I've learned - I need to. You see, family travel is not all fun and games. It's not. For all of us happy travel bloggers on the internet, I will speak up and admit that it's not always as easy as it looks.
Family travel is not synonymous with vacation. In fact, I'd argue that vacation isn't really an escape from real life issues. You just have to carry them with you to a new and unfamiliar place and hope for the best.
And as busy as it all is, it's also kind of challenging -- a good challenge for crazy Type-A people like me. I plan for everything and pack accordingly. I work hard and play even harder, because I am well aware that these opportunities to spend time making many magical memories with my sweet Danger are limited.
So I've come up with a few tips for surviving LONG hotel stays with a child to help you, if you are ever so lucky to be stuck in a hotel during an unseasonably cold streak. Because yeah. I've learned a thing or two already this year.
Tips For Enjoying An Extended Hotel Stay With A Child - It's Possible!
- The BIG lifesaver -- Snacks. Stock your cabinets, drawers, fridge, suitcases... anywhere that you can put snacks, fill it up. A hungry child is a cranky child - and a hungry mommy is the *worst* Just trust me on this, ok?
- Bring along a small engineering toy set. We grabbed some GoldieBlox and built a zipline from a wall fixture to a small end table. This brought hours of fun to each day of our trip, and allowed Danger to get creative while learning important physics concepts.
- Pack a few puzzles, too. One of my daily highlights was working on puzzles with my family each evening. We took turns, searched patiently for the right piece, and accomplished something together, without the distraction of TV or the internet.
- And yeah, you'll want to have a Netflix subscription, too. Our most recent hotel had maybe 10 channels, and none of them were all that great. We did luck out and caught a Seinfeld marathon, so not all was lost.
- Make plans to escape and explore. If it's not possible for you to travel away from the hotel due to unexpected circumstances, it really does help to have a plan in place for the weekend. The harsh wind, snow and freezing temperatures kept us inside for most of our three week stay, and having something to look forward to on the weekends made a BIG difference in our attitudes.
- If your hotel offers a gym, USE IT! Otherwise, you will return home just a wee bit fluffier than when you left. Not that I know from experience, or anything. Our most recent hotel did not have a fitness center and was a long walk in the cold from anything of value. I spent a lot of time doing a whole bunch of sitting, laying, and pacing the floors. You know, for funsies. Gotta get those wiggles out somehow.
- Unpack your clothes as soon as you can and then straighten up your luggage and other items to maintain your sanity. You cannot escape the mess in a hotel room, so the sooner you get a system in place, the better. What worked for me? I brought along extra hangers and hung most of our clothes as soon as we arrived. I designated a drawer each for our socks/undies/miscellaneous and another drawer to stash dirty clothes in. Trash always went directly in trash bags and dirty clothes were tossed in the dirty drawer each day.
- Bring along your own full-sized bathroom products and pillows, if you are able. It really does help to have at least some of the comforts of your actual home with you.
- Try new foods. This may be obvious, but if you can mix things up and try new foods, you will have a sense of adventure even if you're just sitting in a big, bland room.
- Don't sweat the small stuff. Housekeeping, noisy neighbors, frigid temperatures... If you dwell on the negative, you will never find the positive. And as much as an extended stay in a hotel room with a child sounds absolutely dreadful to many, it can also be really fun. Think about that. You get to make memories and get really really close without all the usual distractions of daily life. It's a blessing, really.
- If all else fails, get lost in a book. I got a kick out of reading "Orange Is The New Black," and my daughter enjoyed reading through the new National Geographic 2015 Kids Almanac.