Drinking Like Babies: the Family Hotel Room

As someone who was scared of the dark for as long as I can remember, I loved going to bed on family trips, with the family sleeping together. My sister and I shared a bed, which we didn’t do at home. My mother would turn the lamp in between the two beds, throw a towel over the shade to shield our side from the light, and my sister and I would roll over and face the wall. I’d fall asleep to the sound of my mother’s fountain pen and my parents talking quietly in a corner. To this day, low voices make me feel safe and sleepy.


Grasshopper, photo by AmandaLeighPanda (2008), available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

My dad says he would often run downstairs and bring back cocktails from the hotel bar, if there was one. According to him, my mother favored grasshoppers. But what I remember was a small, hard-sided, plaid travel case, about the size of a make-up case, that accompanied us on every car trip. Inside, were several small bottles, a cocktail shaker, some glasses, and a corkscrew. The most intriguing piece was a never-opened can of “screwdriver mix”. (Even now, I’m not sure what the evasively named “mix” might contain.) It fascinated me that we carried this case everywhere, yet this can was untouched. I grilled my parents each time we packed or unpacked the car–What’s wrong with screwdrivers? Why was the mix never used? Oddly, I don’t remember my parents ever opening that suitcase. Either they waited until we were asleep or they met their cocktail needs in other ways.

In packing to go to Bloomburg, I began to wish desperately for my parents’ little plaid suitcase.

Before I had children, it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t go to sleep when they were told. (Stop laughing.) When Granuaile was about 2, we took her to visit her Seattle relatives, flying in and out of Bellingham. Due to some confusion with our travel dates, we spent two nights in a hotel with her. The first night, we put her down, then spent the next several hours tearing our hair out, as our smiling girl popped up in her crib, happy to see us all in the same room. We pushed the crib into the closet and rigged a curtain out of strategically draped sheets (why I will never travel without a dark sheet and clothespins). She continued to hop up at every sound, pushing the curtain aside and jumping around in her crib. Finally, we turn off the light and pretended to sleep until she was quiet–an hour or so later.

Every trip since, we’ve either gotten a suite when possible or assumed that lights out for Granuaile meant lights out for all of us. In Iceland and Germany, we read with tiny booklights–though even those were enough to keep her up and chatting. The Cap’n and I dared not talk and tried to get comfortable with the idea that she’d sleep when she was tired.

With our trip to Pennsylvania, we were hopeful. Our room in Bloomsburg was a suite, which we were hoping involved two rooms, with a door between them. We packed the sleep/noise machine, the booklights, the dark sheet, and the clothespins. We got little earplugs for Granuaile, hoping she would wear them if we were too loud. (I think they’re still in Pennsylvania.)

At home, the Cap’n and I enjoy a cocktail on our porch after the kids are in bed. We swing on the porch swing, talk about the day, talk about the kids, remember why we like each other–remember why we like the kids. In packing, the Cap’n mentioned he’d miss our porch cocktails. I jokingly suggested we should bring some along. Brilliant, he said, but how? So we began discussing our favorites, figuring out how we could bring a maximum of taste with a minimum of fuss, finally agreeing upon Manhattans and negronis. One cocktail per each adult per day for a four-day trip was not a lot of liquid to transport, so we ransacked the kitchen, looking for the perfect container–not too big and not breakable. After dismissing our Nalgene water bottles (too big), Tupperware containers (too leaky), plastic bags (too…shapeless?), and Ball Mason jars (too fragile), we settled upon several 12-ounce baby bottles. Fitted with the leak-proof plastic disc, they were the right size, non-breakable, and were cheap enough to be lost. And let’s not forget classy.

There were a few hairy nights. Granuaile would thrash around in the bed, calling to us loudly, peering into the Wee Boatswain’s crib, singing little songs to herself. The Cap’n and I huddled on the couch, in the dark, IMing each other on our laptops, and pretending not to listen to her. We weathered it–for the most part–with grace, grace and plastic cups, hotel ice, and cocktails poured from baby bottles.


Two more things:

First, I’ve learned that the Zéro de Conduite bar in Paris serves cocktails out of baby bottles. Huh.

Second, I’d love to hear how other families handle sharing a room with their offspring. Are your children just better sleepers, or do you just accept they can sleep when you get home?

This entry was posted in Remembering, Travel Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Drinking Like Babies: the Family Hotel Room

  1. terra says:

    I hate to say it because it’s not possible for everyone, but we get adjoining rooms and bring a baby monitor. That way we don’t have to tiptoe in the dark, and the girls go to sleep at close to the normal time. Next trip I’m tempted to ask for a room close to the lobby so we can take the baby monitor and go to the hotel bar 🙂

    • SKM says:

      In my head, that’s how we were going to do it, but so few hotels seem to have adjoining rooms anymore. And then I watched a scary Law and Order…:) I’m tempted by the leaving-the-room idea, but not sure my nerves will let me.

  2. Margie Sage says:

    My parents didn’t fuss with portions – when the family traveled, they brought bottles of alcohol…my sisters and I were a handful. I am personally responsible for locks being put on their liquor cabinets (hic). Imbibing from baby bottles begs the question of what kind of imprint this leaves on wee babes – like those fake mammaries from which you could make a splendid beer hat!

  3. erikamarks says:

    A great blog–glad I stopped by.

    The joke between my husband and I when we go back to my home state of Maine every year from NC is that he always tries to convince me that it would be better to drive through the night (it’s an 18-20 hour drive) and that way our girls (4 and 2) would actually sleep. Um, sure. Well, we have yet to try it so I can’t be so smug (Okay, I suppose I can) but invariably our overnight in a motel is never as much fun as I think it will be. This is probably because after four years as a mom, I still imagine I’m entering a hotel room as an eight year-old handed the remote and allowed to pillage the free soaps before my other siblings do.

    I tend to forget you can’t watch TV when the kiddos are in the next bed over (and still wide awake at midnight). And let’s not forget the extra half hour needed to rearrange the furniture so that wee little ones won’t topple off the bed. We usually fill up the sink with ice within five minutes of our arrival and the beers are usually cold enough by the first attempt at lights-out. It seems to take the edge off. Especially when you have to step over the kayak to reach the bathroom.

    • SKM says:

      I now want to travel with your family–beer, kayaks, and kids–it sounds like a wonderful time! I’m also relieved to hear it’s not just mine that aren’t magically sleeping.


  5. Fuzz says:


    That’s it in a nutshell. A drop of that under the tongue sends my darling hyperactive ten-year old daughter into blissful slumber within thirty minutes.

    • SKM says:

      I’ve never tried it with my daughter, but I took it a few times myself. Each time, I had such scary, awful dreams that I decided I shouldn’t try again. But perhaps?

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