10 Insiders' Hacks That Make Staying at a Hotel With Kids Easier

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Whether you're headed to a family reunion, a theme park visit, or a weekend getaway, traveling with your kids can quickly go from exciting to overwhelming. How do you go about finding the right accommodations? How can you ensure your kids are safe and happy once you actually settle into your hotel room? And is there any way to actually sneak in nap time despite those party animals down by the pool? Here, travel-industry insiders share their best tips for parents headed to a hotel with kids. 

Read on for 10 insiders' hacks that make staying at a hotel with kids easier.

  • Request a fridge -- or ask to have the minibar emptied.

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    If your room does not come with a fridge, you can request one -- they're often available (sometimes, for a rental fee). Or "ask that the minibar be emptied so you can store milk, juice, and kid-friendly snacks like cheese sticks and yogurt inside," recommends Corinne McDermott, founder of parents' travel site HaveBabyWillTravel.com.

  • Travel with duct tape.

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    "Always travel with a roll of duct tape in your checked luggage," McDermott recomends. "It comes in handy to quickly baby-proof a hotel room by covering electrical outlets and securing blind and lamp cords. We've even repaired a stroller frame that was damaged after a flight with duct tape!"

  • Try this trick if your child is between a crib and big kid bed.

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    If you don't need a crib for your toddler, but you're concerned that they may tumble out of a regular bed without bed rails at night, try this trick: "Roll up towels and place them under the bed's fitted sheet to create a barrier at the bed's edge," recommends McDermott.

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  • Ask about special promos.

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    "Call the hotel ahead of time, and ask if they have any special promotions for families," recommends a former manager at a major hotel chain in Chicago, Illinois. You can of course also do this upon check-in. It could save you money on family fun.

    "We had a kids' club, and we did a movie night in the pool area," she shares. "Also, a lot of places have partnerships. For instance, there's a hotel in Chicago that has a special package with a popular toy store that has activities and events. So, research pays off!"

  • Be patient and understanding with staff.

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    "Nice begets nice in the hotel world," according to an LA-based guest services manager. "If someone is supremely difficult and mean with the front desk, reservations, food and beverage, or management team, those staff are way less likely to go above and beyond for that difficult or demanding guest. Sure, we may throw something complimentary that guest's way just to get them off our backs, but the folks who do get the best experience are those that treat hotel staff the same way they wish to be treated."

    Don't think this means you have to be handing out big tips or staying in a fancy room. "Such treatment doesn't have to come in the form of excessive tipping or paying the most expensive rate," he notes. "It can simply be through patience, smiling, and understanding. Those go a long way."

  • Book directly with the hotel.

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    Need a crib? Handicap accessibility? "Book directly through the hotel, so we're aware of your family's needs in advance, and so our notes and communications are clear," advises a guest services manager for a luxury hotel in Los Angeles. "Booking through third-party sites not only makes the hotel less money -- read: you are a lower-priority guest -- but often notes and special requests, such as allergies and room locations, are lost in the process. Along these same lines, a guest arriving with a third-party reservation on a sold-out night is more likely to have their reservation 'walked,' wherein our hotel will pay for you to go to another, neighboring hotel if we've accidentally oversold our rooms."

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  • Ask for a room away from hustle and bustle.

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    Obviously, you'll want your child to be able to catch some Zs when you head back to the room either for nap time or at night. "Room type and location needs will vary depending on the family, but if staying at a hotel with food and beverage outlets like restaurants and bars, and louder, well-attended pools, it might be best to book your room away from these, as well as elevators and ground floors," says the LA-based guest services manager. "If these locations aren't available, don't worry! If we see in the notes that you have a family with children that may be light sleepers, we will do our best to place you in a room further away from any noise we might expect to occur during your stay."

  • Request early check-in and late check-out.

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    "Families take extra time to do everything, so please allow enough time for check-in and check-out, for your bags to be brought down to the lobby, and for us to call you your car from valet, a cab, or shuttle to the airport or your next destination," recommends the guest services manager. "If you can request an early check-in and/or late check-out when booking your reservation and your schedule allows, this might remove the stress of having to rush to meet the hotel's check-in and check-out times. Just keep in mind such requests are very popular, so if we say we can't accommodate it due to a sold out or nearly sold out house, we really mean it!"

  • Familiarize yourself with hotel brands -- and become loyal.

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    Over the long haul, you'll do well to get to know your hotel brands by trying out a few different ones in your travels with your family, recommends the guest services manager in LA. "Some hotel brands offer unique rewards programs and extra perks that are helpful for -- or even cater directly to -- families," he says. "You may find a hotel brand that becomes your favorite, with properties located on your regular travel routes, that also is very family-friendly. If you stay often enough, you can rack up rewards points that help you get future perks such as room discounts, free stays, upgrades, and vouchers to spend on hotel amenities."

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  • Take advantage of meal deals.

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    If your hotel offers a breakfast buffet, often kids under a certain age are free, notes the former manager in Chicago. "At my hotel, children under 5 ate for free." It's worth it to call ahead or investigate the specifics prior to your trip, so you can have a money-saving meal plan in place!

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