Bedtime with a toddler can be a challenge, and doing it in a hotel room can be even harder. One thing that makes bedtime in any location easier is a repeatable bedtime routine. In this post, we’re going to share a sample bedtime routine that is perfect for hotels. It’s simple, packable and can be done in just about anywhere.
This is the bedtime routine we do with our 3-year-old every time we stay at a hotel. (In our case, that has been close to 150 nights!) It also pretty closely mirrors our bedtime routine at home, which is helpful. Throughout this post, we’ve peppered in several tips and our favorite products that help make bedtime in a hotel a breeze. While all kids and parents are different, we hope this will help you craft a bedtime routine that works for you and your child in a hotel setting.
For even more tips and tricks, be sure to check out our post with 10 Things to Know About Hotel Stays with Toddlers.
Set Up the Bed
The first thing we do when we check into a hotel room is set up our toddler’s bed. At 3 years old, they no longer sleep in a Pack N Play, so we have to toddler-proof a regular size bed. We prefer a sofa bed or rollaway bed that is smaller and a littler closer to the floor, just in case they fall off, but that’s not always possible. We can work with a full-size regular hotel bed if that’s the only option.
The key to converting regular hotel beds into toddler-safe beds in a hotel room is bed rails. Some hotels will provide rails upon request, but in our experience, that is not very common. We travel with our own inflatable bed rails, which pack up small and have been very effective for us.
While the bed rails are helpful, they don’t protect all edges of the bed. (There are only two of them and they don’t span the full length of a Full/Queen/King bed.) Plus, our toddler is a wiggly sleeper and sometimes ends up all the way at the foot of the bed, where there is no rail.
To be extra safe, we throw some pillows on the floor in places where they might fall off. We also throw pillows on top of any particularly sharp nightstand corners near the bed.
Prepare the Room
When bedtime approaches, I like to take a few minutes to get the rest of the room ready.
First, I close the blinds all the way. My favorite travel hack is using pants hangers to clip the blinds shut to prevent the light from pouring through the little gap. (I think a lot of people know that one, but if you don’t, it’s a game changer.)
Next, I set up the technology. We have a white noise machine and portable speaker (for a lullaby) that each need to be plugged in. I find a good spot, plug them in, and turn them all on to make sure they work. I also plug in the nightlight, which I’ll talk about more in the next section.
Then, I gather everything I need for bedtime. I lay out their pajamas and sleep sack on the bed, put toothpaste on the toothbrush, and set out our bedtime storybook.
Lastly, I go through and turn off all the lights except one. Hotel rooms always have so many light switches, and finding them all can actually be a pain. Once I put my child in bed, I only want to deal with one light switch.
Get Myself Ready for Bed
This is particularly important if you’re sharing a standard hotel room with your toddler. If you have a suite or something like that, you can simply move your things into the room you’ll be staying in. But if you’re sharing a room, you don’t want to be fiddling around and making noise looking for things while you’re toddler is trying to fall asleep.
I always make sure I have my phone, phone charger and headphones in place, wherever I plan to spend my time. Sometimes I’ll just sit on the bed, but sometimes I sit in a different part of the room that’s a bit more secluded until they fall asleep. If my husband and I are both hanging out together, we like to get our laptop (and charger) out so we can watch a movie or something.
While I don’t normally get fully ready for bed, I do like to set out my pajamas and make sure my toothbrush is easily accessible. Basically, I just want to have everything I need for the night within reach so I’m not clomping around too much.
Turn on the Nightlight
My toddler doesn’t listen to a lot of things, but man do they listen to their Hatch light. They know that purple means “stay in bed” and green means “okay to get up.” I can count on one hand the number of times my child has ever gone against their Hatch light.
This is amazing, but the Hatch light doesn’t travel well. (There’s a travel version, but it doesn’t do the colors!) Our toddler was always waking up early in hotel rooms and asking, “Time to get up now!?”
To solve this problem, I recently bought a $10 Amazon nightlight that changes colors with the touch of a button. This nightlight quickly became essential to our travel nighttime routine.
At bedtime, I plug in the nightlight and make sure it’s set to our “stay in bed” color. In our case, that’s purple. If possible, I like the light to be out of reach, so it’s not too bright and so they can’t push the button to change it on their own.
Get Child Ready for Bed
These steps usually go exactly the same at hotels as they do at home. Our routine is:
- Go potty
- Jammies on
- Sleep sack on
- Bush teeth
- Fill up water cup
We personally use a sleep sack (with feet) still, but it’s probably about time to ditch it. Looking back, I probably should have gotten rid of that when we switched to a toddler bed. At this point, it’s just one more thing to carry, because they are perfectly capable of using a regular blanket now.
The other thing I’ll mention here is a tip I learned from my mom. If you don’t have a travel size kid’s toothpaste tube, use a contact lens case! I squeeze a bit of toothpaste into one side, and it usually gets us through two weeks of travel.
Read a Story
Like all toddlers, my kid loves reading stories at bedtime. They love picking out the stories and reading as many stories as possible. Usually, our limit is 2-3 short stories before bed time.
Instead of packing 5+ books (which I definitely did for a while), we got this bedtime book that has six stories in one. (There are lots of different versions, but we have this one and this one.) That way, our toddler can still pick different stories each night, but I don’t have to fill my carry on with a bunch of different books.
Get in Bed
After stories, I offer one final sip of water and let my toddler crawl into bed. We usually use the hotel bedding, and I don’t bother bringing a blanket or pillow from home. The hotel pillows are too bulky sometimes, so we’ll sometimes skip the pillow if it’s too big.
We also always bring one special stuffed animal to cuddle with, which my toddler gets to choose before we leave home.
Turn on White Noise & Lullaby
After they are tucked in, I turn on the white noise machine and start the lullaby.
We use an old iPhone to play a favorite lullaby on a bluetooth speaker. (This is mostly so we don’t have to give up our own phones at bedtime.) Again, they probably don’t need a lullaby anymore, and I should probably stop using that to streamline bedtime even more.
The white noise machine I will never get rid of, though. It’s so helpful in hotel rooms to counter the sound of slamming doors, loud hallway talkers, and any noises from outside. Ideally, it goes in the center of the room, so it fills the entire room without being too close to anyone’s ears.
Explain Exactly What Happens After Lights Out
If I had to pick the most important thing about bedtime with a toddler in a hotel room, it would be this. I always have a very deliberate conversation just before bedtime explaining exactly what is going to happen next.
This is huge in a hotel setting, because it’s a little different than at home. I want to make them feel comfortable and safe, but also make sure that they understand it’s time to go to sleep now.
Here are some things I always say.
- It’s bedtime now, and you’re going to sleep in this bed right here.
- Your water is right here if you need it.
- I’ll be sitting (here) for a little while and then I’ll go to sleep in this bed (here).
- Your bedrails are here to keep you safe — be sure to stay inside them.
- Your nightlight is right here. When it’s purple, you stay in bed. In the morning, you can get out of bed after it turns green.
- I’m going to turn off the lights now, because it’s bedtime. We’re going to be done talking until morning.
- Love you!
And that’s it! We turn off all the lights (except for their nightlight) and leave them to fall asleep.
As well as this goes most the time, they are still 3 and are not perfect. Of course there are nights when they fight bedtime and jibber jabber long after we put them down. And yeah, they’ve fallen out of bed a couple times in the middle of the night. (That’s never fun, but because of the pillows they’ve always been perfectly fine, just a little started.)
But for the most part, this routine has worked well. I wanted to share this as an example of how you can craft a bedtime route that travels well, and can mirror something that you do home. There is plenty of ways to change and adapt this, but I hope this is helpful in providing a starting point for toddler bedtime in a hotel.
Toddler Bedtime Packing List
- Bed Rails
- White noise machine (and charger)
- Portable speaker (and charger)
- Old iPhone for playing a lullaby (and charger)
- Travel night light
- Pajamas and sleep sack
- Bedtime Book
- Favorite stuffed animal
- Water cup
- Toothbrush & toothpaste