20 Ways to Survive a Hotel Stay With Lots of Kids

A hotel stay with lots of kids doesn’t have to become a horror film! In fact, you can turn a hotel stay into a great family memory. How do I know?–because our large family (17 of us) has done it for years! You can read more about our adventures here and here.

Here are some tips and tricks that can help:


I’m not kidding–those things are filthy–so take along a clear plastic bag and slip it over each unit. It will save you time and energy later because you won’t be dealing with some monster bug…

2. Bring extra trash bags.

Unless you like living in the middle of a landfill, that is. The hotel trash cans are quite small, and the trash you will generate will be quite huge, so plan on filling the can up a number of times and sending an older child out to empty it as a “chore.”

3. Make sure your hotel is built out of concrete, not a wood or metal stick frame.

Oh, maybe this should have been first… Seriously, sound-proofing is so vitally important during a hotel stay, something we didn’t notice for about 8 years until we stayed in a stick-frame building and had to leave early because of the complaints…

4. Bring extra pillows.

There are never enough provided for the amount of children co-sleeping in the beds!

5. Try and separate genders as much as possible.

This is especially true if you have an uneven number of boys vs. girls and a number of them are old enough to need “privacy.” We have only four boys, but 11 girls, so we kept the boys in the other bed in our room.

6. Keep a watch on the TV!

At home we are very careful with what we watch on the screen. There are many reasons for this that shouldn’t be discovered while the children are alone in a room armed with a filthy, albeit covered with plastic, remote!

7. Bring a small vacuum.

We hate dirty floors, and it just is not fun having to call housekeeping all of the time, so bringing along a small vac (you could find one at a garage sale) was the solution for us.

8. Bring your own playpen/crib.

Don’t trust the hotel crib. Babies get pretty intimate with these things, slobbering and chewing and wiping all sorts of other body fluids on them. It’s worth the extra trouble to bring our own germs from home.

9. Bring antibacterial wipes or spray.

You know, to clean the bathtub, the toilet, table top, door knobs, etc. You don’t need to return home and fight some unnamed sickness for weeks on end (see number one above).

10. Bring some dish washing supplies.

There are just some things that I am not trusting to housekeeping. You know, one time I watched a dear lady clean a hotel room, and the glasses they offered for drinking water, well, they were simply rinsed with water and wiped with a towel (that had been used on other surfaces)–YUCK!

11. Don’t forget some laundry detergent and some quarters.

There are often a coin-operated washer and dryer right on the premises. Kids (and adults) can go through clothes pretty quickly due to car sickness or spills on the way.

12. Keep those adjoining room doors from pinching fingers…

…by shoving a washcloth or face towel under the door to keep it open.

13. Include money for bags of ice in your budget.

This keeps you from being tempted to raid the hotel’s ice maker to refill the cooler (which you will need, trust me!).

14. For entertainment (besides jumping on the beds) bring Legos and other open-ended toys.

Believe it or not, a huge bin of Legos are all the toys you need. When there isn’t much to keep a group distracted, these can be the trick! Even the older children get into the mix. (We have never worried about the little children with the small parts because there are so many eagle-eyes watching out for them.)

15. Bring drawing utensils and paper.

Twist-up crayons and mechanical pencils are recommended (no sharpeners needed). My children are usually not very impressed with coloring books, so blank paper is best for us (I cut the sheets into fourths and staple stacks together to make mini notepads).

16. For tiny tots, bring some floating devices with seats.

Remember, there are no life guards on duty at these establishments, and you want to prevent accidents. The year I found some floaters with criss-cross seats was the year we all had so much fun in the pool! The little children had some mobility and freedom, and I knew they were safe.

17. Enjoy the pool just before bedtime.

There is something about splashing around in cool water that gets kids tuckered out and ready for deep sleep. A quick shower and change of clothes and they are out like little lights! Just make sure and rinse out all of the swimsuits and drape them all over the shower rod until morning.

Extra Tip:

You don’t have to break the bank to keep bathing suits modest; simply pop a large, synthetic-athletic t-shirt (this can be from a garage sale or thrift store) on top!

18. Don’t worry about shampoo and soap.

The hotel provides some wonderful, sample-sizes of these, so, unless you have special needs, just use theirs! If you run out, you can request more. Some chains even offer combs and toothbrushes.

19. Be extra courteous to the staff.

You can almost hear the groan of the housekeepers when they see us coming through the door! This is why we always try to be extra courteous and clean up after ourselves as much as possible. And don’t forget, it is often permissible to leave a tip as you leave the room to check out.

20. Be quiet in the hallways.

Even if you are staying in a concrete-slab hotel, the doors are not sound-proof, and I can’t count how many times we were awakened by those walking down the hallways joking or talking loudly at all times of the night. This is why we practice walking softly and speaking in whispers once we leave the rooms.

In case you were wondering, I actually called and talked to my grown children and asked them for suggestions for this list, which made compiling it not only fun, but a short trip down memory lane!

I know that, even with all of these minds working together, there must be something we’re missing…what are some of your tips?

Markus Spiske


5 thoughts on “20 Ways to Survive a Hotel Stay With Lots of Kids”

  1. Loving the whole series of large family travel! I heartily agree with this list. Especially the trash bags and antibacterial wipes (which we have sometimes forgotten to bring, and have had to run to a store to purchase.)

    A friend who also has a large family has suggested, upon arrival at the hotel, ask if there are any spare handicapped accessible rooms. Those rooms have extra square footage, a little extra space to throw down an air mattress, and extra elbow room.

    With hotels limiting, at least in theory, the number of people per room, how do you feel about exceeding the limit per room? This is a problem we always encounter with our large family, and I always have a tinge of guilt, as if we are being dishonest, to squeeze in few more. Although we don’t cost any more for the hotel, it still bothers me that we “break the rules.” Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thank you! Your writing is always encouraging and inspiring. Large family life has its challenges, and you have so many great solutions for making life more peaceful. It’s a joy to see each new post you write.

    • I know what you mean about the hotel rules, Tess. When we did our traveling my husband was in charge of reserving huge blocks of rooms, so we often were “comped” extra space as a reward to him. It helps to use hotels that are equipped with suites that are meant to house more than just a couple of people, I know that these are quite common in resort areas where people travel in groups to save money. We have often been able to book a suite that slept six with an adjoining room that slept at least four more. Condos and time-shares are another option. More on that in another post…

      You are more than welcome–I look at blogging as a ministry to mothers as the Lord leads–I’m glad you were blessed through my writing!

      • We always ask the hotel or campground when we book if we can have more people per room or site, letting them know the ages of the little ones. I think every place I’ve asked has worked with me very kindly to find the cheapest and best solution. I agree, I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to do it underhandedly!

  2. Thanks for this post! We haven’t stayed in a hotel since we had just two-plus-one-on-the-way – I’ve found it too intimidating, plus the above-mentioned problem with limits on how many people can stay in one room. Should I ever get up the guts to try it again, I will refer to your tips!

    I’ve been thinking of trying to use VRBO or airbnb for travel accommodations – there don’t seem to be as many restrictions, and you can often get a place with a kitchen (and more space, and a yard!). That might be another option too!


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