Our family–my husband, toddler daughter, puppy, and myself–have moved to a new town for my husband’s job and we are waiting for the loan to close on our home. In the meantime, we are making our temporary home in a local budget hotel. The number 1 question I’ve gotten lately is some variation of, “How on earth are you surviving in a hotel room with a toddler and a puppy?!” I also know other families may find themselves in a similar situation… having to stay in a hotel room for an extended period of time for whatever reason, so I figured a blog post was in order.
Besides confirming my suspicion that our family would never survive living in one of those understandably-trendy “tiny homes,” hotel living hasn’t been too bad. Here is the rundown: We have a standard room with 2 queen beds on the 2nd floor near the elevator, a tiny fridge and microwave are included. The only sink is located inside the bathroom. The room also includes a low chest of 4 drawers, 1 television, 1 window, 1 night stand (which has one drawer and a small storage area underneath), a small dining-style table and 2 chairs, a tiny closet area with a hanging bar for clothes (no door), and a folding luggage rack. A huge bonus is that the hotel was recently renovated and now has hardwood floors! There is a small area of carpet between the beds, and tile in the bathroom, but everywhere else is hardwood flooring. I was impressed as it is much easier to keep clean and also looks better overall. We moved into our little room nearly a full month ago.
So, how are we surviving?
First, we made friends with the staff. Not just because we want them to do things for us as guests of the hotel (though that is inevitable), and not just because we want them to have grace with us when other patrons call the front desk and complain about the screaming toddler next door (ahem, not that I would know anything about that), but because they’re super nice people and it’s always nice to make new friends. It has made our stay more pleasant and makes them happier to have us hanging around.
Second, we inquired about a weekly rate. When we first made our reservation, we got our military discount, but the rep didn’t mention a weekly rate even though we were reserving the room for a month and it was not cheap (even here at a “budget” hotel, $75/night adds up). It didn’t occur to me to ask for a cheaper rate until I noticed another hotel deal online that mentioned a weekly rate… sure enough, all I had to do was ask and they took off an additional $20/night off our already-discounted rate! We also made sure to sign up for the hotel rewards program. We will be getting about 5 free nights out of this stay, though we can’t apply those free nights to our current reservation. We’ll make use of them eventually, especially when family comes in from out of town.
My kitchen area is located between one of the beds and the wall with the window on it. I have it further partitioned off from the rest of the room with the dog’s kennel and a box of random stuff – this is necessary to keep the dog and child out while I am working since everything is basically out in the open and within their reach, so things can get chaotic pretty quickly when they join me in that space.
While packing, I thought about hotel living the way I would think about camping (except with a microwave and fridge instead of a fire and cooler). I brought bare minimum essentials, including dishes and silverware since it is my desire to limit the waste from disposable products. Also, I brought our VitaMix blender and our Berkey water filtration system. The blender has helped to guarantee at least one nutrition-packed meal per day for our daughter, who loves smoothies. Most of what I keep in the fridge and “pantry” (a large canvas bag that I keep next to the fridge) are smoothie, salad, and sandwich ingredients. Our eating is definitely “off” since we are eating at restaurants a little more often (though not as often as one might expect living in a hotel, which is intentional) and using a microwave for all of my cooking, an appliance I haven’t personally owned in years and I am being reminded why. Food just doesn’t taste as good to me when it comes out of the microwave, but it has been a blessing here in the hotel. The hotel provides a hot breakfast, but it is not the kind of food I want my family eating 7 days a week, so we enjoy the hotel breakfast about 1 day out of the week and eat in our room the other days. Cereal is easy to do in the room, though we have smoothies most mornings.
Some things I brought and discovered I don’t need: Food storage containers (they are too bulky in the fridge, so I’ve been using baggies or plastic wrap when needing to store food out of its original package); electric tea kettle (the hotel provides coffee and hot water in the lobby); canned tuna fish (I know this is very specific, but I was thinking it would be a quick, easy protein source we could use, but I absolutely despise the smell and the potential mess created from opening and draining it. Lunch meat, grass-fed beef sticks, pre-cooked grilled chicken breast, etc. have all been much more practical for us here).
I use a small section of the table for food prep, but we generally eat sitting on one of the beds (our daughter puts her plate on the chest of drawers or uses her closed toy bin as a table) since our table is typically full of stuff and there isn’t much we can do about that given the very limited surfaces and storage in the room. I use a dishpan I bought from the dollar store for dishes. Dirty dishes go in the bin; once per day, I take the bin to the bathroom and fill it with hot soapy water and wash the dishes in the bin and set the clean dishes on a dish towel on the bathroom counter (one of two Norwex towels I brought – they are the best and give me much more peace of mind than if I were to use a towel provided by the hotel). Once the bin is emptied of dirty dishes, I wash out the bin, lay the 2nd dish towel in the bottom, and place the dishes back into the bin to air dry. I have placed 3M adhesive hooks on the fridge for drying the dish towels when not in use. I’ve actually placed hooks in a few places around the room. Obviously, the hotel room is designed for a maximum stay of a couple nights at a time, not for “living” in, and there is only one tiny towel bar in the bathroom, so the hooks have been a big help.
Living and Sleeping Areas
We basically live on the beds, which means the linens get dirtied and need to be changed more often than at home. Thank God for an understanding housekeeping staff! Once a week, I leave them a nice tip, get all of us out of the room for the morning, and let them have at it. When sheets need to be changed between housekeeping visits, I simply go down to the front desk and exchange our sheets for clean ones and change the beds myself. We brought one of our air purifiers from home, which we often do even for short hotel stays. It makes me a little crazy that I can’t open windows in hotels, so the purifier helps. I also brought cleaning supplies from home, including a small vacuum cleaner and steam mop for the floors. With a toddler, everything ends up on the floor, including her, so I wanted it to be as clean as possible. I steamed the mattresses and the chairs as well when we moved in. The housekeeping staff here is wonderful and it is one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in; however, I still clean and re-clean the room constantly for my own peace of mind (and we’ve all seen the black light demos on 20/20 – ewww!).
Our daughter’s favorite play areas are either on the chest of drawers (right next to the TV) or on the hardwood floor right in front of the drawers. For this reason, we needed to block the space under the chest of drawers where we were constantly losing toys. Towels work well for this. All of our daughter’s toys fit into one bin. We also bought her a small plastic step stool, which she uses constantly to sit on, to reach the sink, etc. Her drawing supplies sit out on the table and we brought another dishpan just for her books. I either have an extra awesome child or have somehow come up with a magical combination of toys and activities (I’m leaning toward the former) because she has done wonderfully hanging out in this little room even when I feel like a caged animal some days with all this rain. My husband usually has our one car at work with him, so our out-of-hotel options are very limited most days. On nice days, we take a walk and make sure we get out to the hotel pool. Pillows and blankets have been great for forts, creating a temporary reading nook, and all the other things my toddler comes up with to do with pillows and blankets – it’s an everyday thing lately. Another sanity saver has been cable TV, especially since the wi-fi here at the hotel is life-suckingly slow and unreliable (it only connects about 50% of the time). Like many mamas, I drastically limit my daughter’s screen time at home, but at the hotel, I’ve been pretty lax about it. I even watch an episode of my favorite show, The King of Queens, everyday (even though I own the entire series on DVD). I also let her use the iPad for games, which is usually reserved for long car trips. I eat quantities of chocolate that are usually reserved for… Valentine’s Day or Fat Tuesday. We are making due. I will worry about technology and TV-detox (and sugar-detox) once we are moved into the new house. It’s been tricky having all of us sleep and live in one room because our daughter is usually asleep by 7:00. She is in one bed (complete with bed rails from home) and, naturally, my husband and I (and the puppy) are in the other. Once she is asleep, we pretty much just sit up in our bed with our laptops, assuming wi-fi is working, or the Kindle app on our phones to do some reading. Sometimes I turn on the TV, but adjust the “brightness” and “backlight” via the TV menu so that both are very low (we also have the TV screen tilted away from her bed), this seems to keep the TV from disturbing our little sleeper. That and keeping the volume low, of course. We’ve been impressed with what she can sleep through, so in more recent days, we’ve actually begun to have actual conversations after she is asleep as well. Hooray!
Our dog is small and has always used a pad indoors for her potty. This is not ideal in a hotel room for obvious reasons, and we are constantly changing her pad, but it has also been helpful to have her trained this way since it would be a huge inconvenience for me to load up the dog and the toddler 5+ times per day to take her outside. Not to mention that it has been an unusually wet and rainy summer here in Kentucky. The way our room is arranged has also been nice for the dog to get some play time… it’s almost like a long hallway in front of the beds and she likes to chase her toys there or maniacally jump from bed to bed nonstop until she is worn out. 2-3 days per week, we take her to the local doggie day care where she can get her wiggles out and interact with other dogs and people. She loves it and so do we. The hotel is really cool with dogs. There isn’t even an extra charge to have her here with us. If we are leaving the room for just a couple hours or less, she stays in her kennel in the room and is quiet (we’ve tested this ourselves, just to be sure). If we are going to be gone longer than a couple hours, we simply bring her to the day care, a convenience I definitely do not take for granted!
We only had one bathroom in our previous house, so this has not been an adjustment for us, though having just one sink has been rough, especially when it comes to kitchen stuff. I didn’t hold back on bringing all our essential oils and other remedies since 1) I wouldn’t want them sitting in a hot storage unit anyway and 2) anything can happen in the course of a month and it’s nice to be prepared.
We keep our laundry bag under the sink and take it out to the laundromat about once a week. We didn’t have a washer or dryer at our previous home either, so again, not much change for us there, though I know it would be an adjustment for most people. The hotel does have coin laundry machines, but they do not work well. The front desk staff has allowed me to use the housekeeping laundry area (they’ve offered when they see me headed out to do laundry – so nice!), but I don’t want to depend on that every week.
For some reason, we go through waaaaay more bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths here at the hotel than we ever would at home, so I make a trip down to the front desk every few days to make the exchange. Housekeeping must have noticed because the last couple weeks they’ve been in our room, they have left us a huge stack. God bless them!
So, there you have it. A kind-of nutshell of how we are surviving hotel living with a toddler and a puppy.
Have you ever had to stay in a hotel for an extended period of time with little ones? I’d love to hear your tips and advice. 🙂