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Travel Secrets From the Real Pros: Moms
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- Look into suites and junior suites if you have more than two kids. Many of them have small kitchens so you can save money by preparing meals in the room. Hawthorne Suites, Marriotts, and Hilton Hotels usually offer larger rooms that are great for families.
If you need to have a fee waived (one you didn't notice before) or have a problem with a room rate, wait until the last minute to negotiate with a hotel manager. By then, he won't want to lose the room and will be more willing to comply.
Call the hotel manager directly -- don't call 1-800 numbers.
Ask for an upgrade instead of a price cut. You'll be more likely to get your way.
Ask for a bigger room. Hotels always have larger rooms that are reserved for disabled guests. Ask if you can have that room, but make sure you're not taking it from someone that really needs it.
"Go to the dollar store before the trip and buy a handful of non-toy items that are fun to play with. When Kate was two, I found a little lipstick case that snapped closed, with a mirror inside. She played with it for about an hour, opening and shutting it, looking at herself in the mirror, tearing up paper and seeing how much she could fit in it. If you can, take ten minutes and wrap each item first. It makes them seem more special -- and kills time on the road."
-- Lisa Bain, Parenting staffer
"If we have to stay overnight while on a road trip, I pack a separate small bag with everyone's swimsuits, pajamas, toiletries, and a change of clothes so we don't have to lug our suitcases into the hotel."
-- Melissa McNeese, Red Hook, NY
"Pack dark sheets or big towels to pin up over windows if you're renting a beach or lake house with a baby or toddler. A dark room can help them drift off, but most of the time you get only flimsy, wispy curtains."
-- Andrea Messina, Parenting staffer
"On my must-take list: suction-cup hooks to hang in the shower. With extra towels and wet suits, extra places to hang things really come in handy."
-- Michelle Weeks, Gordon, GA
"For air travel, I always pack empty water bottles in our carry-ons. After passing through security, the boys have fun filling their bottles at the water fountains, and we don't spend a fortune buying bottled water at the airport."
-- Jennifer Harjehausen Covington, WA
"Now that we have four children, we always get a two-room suite in hotels. Usually that means my husband and I get our own room! But it also means we can separate the kids if someone is having trouble settling down to bed."
-- Katie Grisbacher, Lititz, PA
"For car trips, we dress the kids in their pj's and leave at bedtime. When we arrive, it's really easy to move them from the car to the bed."
-- Jennifer Carpenter, New York City
"We visit the local library when we're on vacation. Many allow visitors to borrow books and DVDs without a card. The librarians are usually delighted to talk with traveling families."
-- Cris Crytzer, Pittsburgh
"Don't try to eat at restaurants. Go to a grocery store or street market and pack a picnic for a park or beach. It's also a much better way to get to know the local flavor. At a hotel, tell the front-desk clerk that you have a young child who naps after lunch and ask for a late checkout."
-- Kristina Bertucco, Dededo, Guam
"Having a seven-year-old and sixteen-month-old makes every outing an adventure. On vacation, we do the things that everyone can do in the morning, and then while Skyler, my toddler, is napping, my husband and Hunter do things that Skyler can't. This way, I don't have to distract Skyler, and he's less grouchy at dinner."
-- Lisa Bauman-Brown, Barr Nunn, WY
"At theme parks, dress the kids in matching brightly colored or tie-dyed shirts so you can spot them quickly. Also, bring snacks and try for a slightly off-hour lunch break. If you're staying overnight, ask about reentry and leave to catch a nap."
-- Stacy McAnulty, Parenting staffer
"We scout out the local playground wherever we travel. It's a nice treat for the kids."
-- Deborah Sacoto, Shelton, CT