My husband and I have traveled the world together, from Botswana to St. Barts to Japan. But this year, we had a very new, very different type of travel first: we checked into a hotel with our infant son, who, at the time, was just two months old. And there were loads of fears and anxieties that came with this trip that made it more than just your average hotel stay.
Granted, we did not have to go far—we spent the night just ten blocks from our apartment, at the brand new 1 Hotel Central Park. The hotel has a prime location—it’s literally five minutes away from the park—and a warm, friendly staff. The restaurant downstairs, Jams, serves a lovely brunch, and we were able to dine there with our stroller, no problem.
But as any one who’s ever traveled with a baby knows, even the simplest of tasks can become difficult, and the best laid-out plans often go awry. Here are a few things I took away from this quick trip to help first-timers make their hotel stay stress-free.
1. Call ahead to ask about the crib, tub, and sink situation.
For all new parents out there, here’s the great news: hotels will lend you a crib or a pack ‘n play for your room for free. All you have to do is call ahead in advance to request one. Within minutes of arriving in our room at 1 Hotel Central Park, a pack ‘n play was set up. So Bobby had a place to sleep (phew). When it comes to picking a place to bathe your kid, things can get a bit tricky—is there a sink? tub? shower?—what to do! I suggest calling ahead to see if your room has a tub, and if it doesn't, ask how big the sink is, and pack a portable tub to put in the sink, like the Puj Flyte. That said, some sinks are still not big enough or are made of unforgiving materials (ours at 1 Hotel was beautiful, but it had a hard granite edge). If it’s a case of the latter, consider padding the sink with a washcloth. If it's the former, just give your baby a sponge bath. If your baby can sit up AND your room has a tub, consider yourself lucky: there are inflatable baby tubs that you can pack in your suitcase.
2. Calculate your diaper count in advance.
We figured we’d need about 8 diapers to get us through the night—and then I brought three extra just in case. That said, I knew we could dash out to a drug store if we needed more, and New York is a familiar place to us. If we were traveling to a new city for several days, I would have done the math to see how many diapers we needed per day, and either a) brought them with us in our checked luggage, or b) ordered a box shipped to the hotel. Voila, you show up, and they are waiting for you in your room.
3. Pack travel size baby bath products.
Between the Aquaphor, the Triple Paste, and the Mustela Cold Cream, sometimes I feel like my son uses more beauty products than I do. I made the mistake of toting a full-size Triple Paste to the hotel since we had one at home. But wouldn’t you know it, they make travel-friendly-size Triple Paste, too. So go small when it comes to packing these things; it makes your luggage lighter and your hotel bathroom less cluttered.
4. Bring a stash of plastic bags.
These come in handy all the time, from throwing out dirty diapers (call the housekeeper for disposal if need be) to stashing bottles to separating soiled clothes. I even used one to wrap up my bottle brush and dish soap, which I brought from home for cleaning.
5. Every square foot counts.
Our room at the hotel was beautifully designed, with a reclaimed wood desk, plush mattress, and stellar view of Central Park. It even had a beautiful window seat where I could curl up and read a book (oh wait, that’s my old life). But with any hotel room comes space limitations, and it was tough to figure out where to put Bobby’s crib. We settled on placing it at the foot of our bed, which had its drawbacks: I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with every little noise he made. It’s worth scoping out in advance the size of your room and if there’s some little alcove to place the crib for a little separation. Clearly, staying in a suite is not in the budget all the time. But if it is within reach, consider that spending extra on a larger room might buy you a better night’s sleep.