Could we actually do this away from home? Live life as a family of six without our own beds?
A local hotel voucher was just the ticket to answer our question, enabling us to be close to home and forgo the huge financial commitment. Call it a trial run.
So we made our reservations, packed our bags, and began our first hotel visit. A "staycation" you might call it. All along I created a mental list of what I learned in order for us to survive and truly enjoy the real thing - the vacation where we couldn't just go home if things fell apart.
1. Chill out!
This Type A momma struggles with this one. I want everything perfect, organized, and structured. Vacation really throws those options out the window. Staying in a hotel forced me to release the expectations and relax. After I did this, I really enjoyed the opportunity that God had given us!
2. Supplies Needed
We ordered pizza to eat in our hotel room because that is what you do when you are in a hotel room, right? Then I realized that we didn't have anything for the kids to set their food on. I didn't have enough napkins to wipe their greasy fingers. And, I didn't have anything to put the extra pizza in as the pizza box didn't fit into the little refrig.
Next time I will take:
Wipes and paper towels
More empty bags (for wet and dirty clothes)
3. Sleeping Arrangements
With six in our family and two queen-sized beds, it was a tight squeeze in the little hotel room. This meant two kids sharing a bed, one on the floor in a sleeping bag, and Peanut in his pack-n-play. We put the pack-n-play in the entry way by the bathroom. At 5:00 in the morning when the kiddos needed to use the bathroom, we realized that this was a terrible mistake. Walking by the toddler to use the bathroom meant Peanut woke up, meaning everyone woke up.
Next time, we will place the pack-n-play as far away from the bathroom as possible and place the older kiddos close to the bathroom to minimize the amount of movement in the morning.
4. Set Expectations for Sleeping Arrangements
Before we stepped foot into the hotel, we discussed where everyone would be sleeping - where and with whom. That way, there was no need for discussion once we arrived at the hotel.
5. The In's and Out's of Hotels
Hotels are funny places. The timetables of those staying at a hotel vary dramatically. You have families with young children who go to bed early. You have families with teenagers who stay up late. You have couples who sleep whenever the spirit leads. Then you have business people who need sleep for a meeting the next morning. All of these people use the same hallways.
I realized that I didn't talk enough with our kiddos about respecting others in the hotel who may be sleeping. Just because we were awake didn't mean that everyone else was awake. Next time we will begin this talk several days before we hit the hotel hallways.
6. Respect in the Swimming Pool
We have a little pool at our home so we rarely swim other than with those in our family. How we normally act in the pool isn't how we can act when other people - young and old - are in the pool with us. More training needed on this one!
7. One Bathroom
Praise God that our home is blessed with more than one bathroom. Our hotel room was not. This meant getting ready to do anything took longer. Sharing had to occur on a whole new level. Keep this in mind when planning a leave time!
8. Everything Needs a Place
Since the kids didn't know where to put items (dirty clothes for example), they tended to just leave things right where they were standing at the moment. This meant we couldn't find things when we needed them. And I couldn't tell if something was clean or dirty. I realize next time I need to designate spots for dirty clothes, clean clothes, cups, toys, etc so that the kids know where to put them.
9. Carry Fewer Big Bags instead of Several Small Bags
After your fun vacation, the last thing you want to do is make 15 trips to the car. Instead of taking several small bags, pack your items in fewer big bags. It makes for less trips to and from the car. If your kiddos are ages two/three and up, put their items in backpacks or rolling suitcases so that each child can handle his/her own items.
Take toys that don't have a lot of little pieces and books that have several stories or activities. This is just easier and is less to keep up with. Out of respect for neighboring hotel users, don't take toys that make noise.
11. Room Availability
Ask for a room that is away from others. This will lower your stress level is a baby decides to cry or fuss.
12. Respect Others
A hotel is not the place to teach your child to sleep through the night or make a point in a discipline struggle. Training happens at home. So, choose your battles and choose them wisely. You may have to "give in" and do things you wouldn't normally do out of respect for others. Your kids know the difference.
Have a plan on how you will handle a child who is screaming or needs discipline. Know where you will go and what you will do. For a fussy baby, sit in the bathroom and turn on the shower. The noise will help muffle the fuss and the sound may soothe the baby.
Up until our time at the hotel, we had never discussed elevator etiquette. I realized we hadn't taught the kids to let people off the elevator before getting on. Lesson learned!
14. Be Flexible but Don't Stray Too Far from Your Normal Schedule
Missing one nap or staying up a couple hours past their bedroom, won't ruin most children. Doing it several days in a row may make you think you ruined them. Don't be rigid but do what you can to minimize change. Children need sleep especially when they are more active on vacation.
As an engaged couple, we attended a Gary Smalley marriage conference. One point that I have never forgotten from that seminar were the words "creating memories." Smalley encouraged families to go camping. Why? Because everything goes wrong when you go camping. What seems like the perfect scenario turns into the perfect train wreck. But years later, those horror stories turn into the best memories. Those times that you talk about for many, many years to come while laughing over Thanksgiving or Christmas supper.
When things didn't go perfect, remember you are creating memories! Memories are the glue that God uses to hold our families together.
16. Focus on Your Kids and Not Your Cell Phone
We only have a few years to take family vacations. In reality, we have ten years maximum where we can get all four child to go on vacation with us due to schedules and season of life. Facebook, Twitter, and email can wait.
Well, it is time to put my mental notes to a test. In a few days we leave for a four day, three night trip. Come back and see if we were prepared!
Headed to an amusement park? Read our suggestions on how to have a successful visit!
What tips do you have to make hotel stays easy?