For 8 weeks we lived in a hotel. One with two stove burners, no oven, and a dishwasher. We lived this way with two grown adults, a toddler, a baby, and a St. Bernard-something-stubborn mix of a dog. And we lived to tell about it. How do you make 400 square feet work for a family of 4? Well, it’s not easy, but learning how to live in a hotel as a family can be an adventure and bearable with the right steps.
My husband urged me to unpack my suitcase.
I did not want to do this. For some reason, in my mind, this meant we were going to be living in a hotel for longer than I wanted to.
You see, we packed up 14 bags, a stroller, and 2 car seats to hop on a plane from OKC to Boston without a place to call home or even a car to drive.
“It’s an adventure!” we said.
“It’s only temporary!” we said.
“We’ll laugh about this!” we said.
And, yes, all of those things were true. However, in the moment, it felt claustrophobic, un-ending, and unnerving. But, again, we survived.
How to live in a hotel as a family for more than a couple of weeks
Find a hotel that offers evening snacks or meals.
We stayed in Element by Westin for our second hotel and it was the best decision we made. Though we were in a studio setting this time, the amenities were wonderful.
Not only did they have a free full breakfast each morning, they also had a snack or small dinner available Monday-Thursday. This not only was easier on our pocketbook, it also encouraged us to get out of the room, meet people and develop temporary relationships with the staff and those staying there for longer periods of time.
Have a set day and time you go out to eat at the same place and a set day you try new.
At least one day a week in the evening (usually Friday since the hotel didn’t offer any food that night) we would go to Chipotle. This again allowed us to feel like we were building community and not just isolated in a hotel room for weeks on end.
The same people typically work the same shift each week, so we were able to meet and talk to familiar faces.
But then to also try out new food, local places, and explore the area, each Sunday we would eat at a local establishment.
Find excuses to get out and about.
My mom came to visit our family about 7 months after we moved. She was shocked at how well I knew the Boston roads. And our next door neighbors were amazed at how many things our family had done in the two short months we had lived in Massachusetts that in their decades of living here hadn’t done.
But, in the end, it’s because I didn’t just stay locked inside the hotel room when we moved here. Some days we would get in the car and just drive. Other days we would find an attraction like driving from Boston to Brimfield for the antique shows.
And for us, we did so much it somehow turned into starting a whole new blog called Boston Kid Friendly!
Discover local parks, trails, and attractions.
On the same token as getting out, do some research and find places to go. No matter where you are, there are events and landmarks unique to the area. Whether it’s a children’s museum, a boat ride, or something quirky, go do it!
You’ll be glad you did and it enhances the experience and memory of the “time you lived in the hotel”.
Immediately set boundaries in your new space.
Because we had a tantrum-prone 2-year-old at the time, the rule was no crying unless it’s in the bathroom. This cut down on noise for other people and encouraged her to communicate with me so that we didn’t have to go to the bathroom or the car to finish her fit.
Because our second hotel was an open studio, bedtime was so much more difficult if something needed to be done because a light needed to stay on. So we set boundaries about being in bed even if not asleep.
We also made the bathroom the dog “bedroom”. While he didn’t spend his time there, his food, water, and bed were there so he, too felt like he had his own space.
Develop a routine.
If the hotel you’re in has a pool (our first one did not, but they did have a playground), then set a time each day to utilize it. Or even break free from your routine on the days that “aren’t working” to visit the snack shop, the pool, or watch TV in the lobby.
Routine made the time pass a little easier because each day felt normal.
You can even start long-term routines like a toy rotation. I had a suitcase of toys for the girls and I would pull out a different set each week to go on the shelf under the TV.
Check out our completely free routine chart and chore chart downloads.
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Make it home.
Even if you’re like me and don’t want to unpack suitcases, go ahead and do it for your children. Let them know a specific shelf, drawer, or section of the closet is theirs.
When you leave the hotel, say “bye, bye home!” and when you arrive, announce “hello, home!”.
Making your stay feel like home for your children makes them not feel so displaced. Same with pets. If you stick to a routine like it’s home with set walks and routines, they seem to have less anxiety about the process.
In 9 weeks we lived in a total of 4 different places: our former home, one hotel, a second hotel, and our new house. But each time our kids just saw the new place as a new home. It made the experience feel like ours and not like a chore of moving so much or living in such a small space.
What did you do to prepare to live in a hotel as a family?
Download your free customizable routine and chore charts for kids
It’s 17 pages and includes a guide for how to use it most effectively. There are also several pictures, chore puzzles, and even contracts to sign with your kids. Yes, we even did this as young as three! It’s both written and includes visual cues as well, making the whole packet of routines and chore charts fully customizable.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!