Hotel Tips that Will Change the Way You Stay

I just finished a 2 week road trip with three children through the majority of Southern California to Yosemite to San Francisco and then back down the coast to home – which is San Diego. We stayed in 7-8 hotels (I lost count) and I took notes on things that I thought might help you all with your own travels.

Some of these tips will apply to those who change hotels often and some work with a one hotel vacation. Take a look at what I’m suggesting:

Use an Over-the-Door Shoe Rack 

I found this immensely useful for keeping things organized and off the bathroom counter, which drives me even more insane while staying in close quarters with three children and a husband.

Buy a shoe rack at Target or the like and fill it with all sorts of items. Give each person his or her own pocket to fill and also store larger items like flat irons and bottles of hair spray.

I folded this up with each of our departures, put it in a bag and then pulled it out for the next stop. I won’t travel again without using it.

shoe holder 3


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Number Your Cords

My husband insists that I hold the world record for losing I-whatever chargers in hotel rooms. He might be right. They’re small and they blend in with the walls. I’m actually quite impressed now when I DO remember them.

Cords are spread throughout the room or suite. It’s easy to forget to check one or two outlets to make sure they’re all accounted for.

Because of this, I started a numbering system. We have lots of I-pads and phones and laptops and such, so I started using tape to number each cord to keep track of it to ensure we leave with 1-7 before departing from the room. Use electrical tape, washi tape, masking tape – doesn’t matter. Just label each cord with a number to ensure you leave with all of what you brought in.

This helped us know that we had every cord, rather than hoping we did. It worked very well for us.


Pack or Unpack – Don’t Go Half Way

I have a three day rule. If I’m staying three days or more, I unpack. It helps me feel at home and it creates less chaos by not having to dig through bags. Having clothes in drawers – separated by kid – eases my routine and I feel less stressed.

Here’s the rule, though: Don’t unpack unless you unpack everyone’s items. Before leaving a hotel room, you should know whether or not to make a thorough inspection of drawers. If you unpack one person, but not the other, you might forget some items completely. (My sister did this. Caroline!!!!!!!!)

During our 14 day trip, I never unpacked because we were never in a room for longer than 2 days. For this reason, we had a quicker exit routine. However, when I had younger children, I still went through every drawer and cabinet because little ones tend to hide things for fun. So, I encourage you to check out everything if you have toddlers or preschoolers.


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Give Everyone a Job – Regardless of Age

This works for us for many reasons. It instills some responsibility during a time of fun and it keeps kids accountable. Assign each child (and adult) something to be in charge of that will help your hotel room stay run smoothly.

Some ideas:

*Gather towels before departing the room each day and put them in one place.

*Tidy the food area so housekeeping knows what to throw away and what to keep.

*Fill water bottles so they’re chilled upon your return to the room.

*Check under beds or under bedding at the edge of beds for plush animals or small toys that could get left behind.

*Gather electronics and/or meds to store in the safe.


Cover the Small Things

*Decide who will get to push the elevator button. One kid gets to do it the whole day? Or we trade off with one kid pushing it to go up and the other does it going down? My little ones are 7 and 9 and blood is still shed over this each time we go on a trip. Blood shed, friends.

*Decide who will push the luggage cart and if kids are allowed to help.

*Think of anything else – small or big – that can be decided ahead of time.


Be Flexible and Don’t Insist Everyone do Everything

This one is the most difficult for me. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that not EVERYONE wants to do everything as a family. A teenager comes in handy here. During our long-distance trip, our oldest watched his brother when they both wanted to skip one of our excursions.

Be flexible here if you have the means (a teenager, a babysitting service, a family member, etc) and split up if it makes everyone happy. And, if you have Disneyland haters, take a look at this post for some options nearby.


Bonus tips:

*Visit my dollar store post for other items that will help your hotel stay including clothes pins to hang up wet swim suits and to close hotel curtains for maximum black-out. I also mention buying a pop up hamper to store laundry during your stay. Keeps it all in one place rather than all over the floor. 

*Know what is around the Disneyland area should you forget an item or two for your trip.

*Consider offering a special reward for kids helping and doing their ‘jobs’ in a timely manner and without being asked to multiple times. You know what works for your kids. Entice them to help you make their visit go smoother. (And, yours.)

*Count your bags before you enter the hotel and upon leaving. We’ve left a bag at a hotel due to not paying attention. It was a child’s backpack full of Tsum Tsums! After many, many phone calls, we finally had the hotel search and search the storage room until they found it. We had stored our items on a luggage cart while enjoying our last day at the pool before leaving and the backpack failed to make it out of the storage room on the cart when we departed. Things were so hectic with kids loading in the car and us trying to fit bags, etc, that we didn’t know we were missing one. If we had just had a bag count, we would have known one was missing.

And, please feel free to leave me a message with more suggestions! I love your ideas.

Find me on Facebook, too, to discuss this post and more.

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  1. Question about the over door shoe holder. Do you leave the items inside when you pack it? If so do they fall out in your suitcase?

  2. Love your tips. My kids are 21, 19 and 12 and still fight over pushing buttons on elevator, grabbing fastpasses, front seat, you name it.

  3. All excellent advice! I love the way you think 😉 When my two kids were little, my daughter had even days and my son had odd. So if it was June 25th – all decisions, button pushing, who went first, where to eat, seat choosing, what ride to go on next, etc… went to my son. Next day was hers…. and so on. If there was a 31st day of the month – it was MY DAY (since it would be two odd days in a row). I decided who did what. So many SOOO many arguments avoided. This was every day – not just vacations. They are now 25 and 27 years old and still use this if they are both home at the same time!!

  4. Traveling can be a hassle if you are unorganized or you are unprepared. I like your tip on numbering cords because they are so easy to forget and you don’t notice until you really need them. I think that the next time I travel I will make sure to have everything organized so I do not forget anything.

  5. Thanks for these tips on making your vacation accommodations enjoyable and easy to navigate. I love the idea of numbering cords. I think I will start doing that at home too! It will help me keep track of them and know exactly which one is missing. I’ll make sure to use all these tips on my next trip!

  6. Some of these tips looks like they’re family related. Maybe it would be something for me to share with my wife and kids. Since we’re thinking about finding an inn I’m wanting to teach them some hotel etiquette.

  7. I think it is a good idea not to unpack unless you are staying at a hotel for more than two days. However, I think it is a good idea to do a thorough inspection of the room before leaving every time. It doesn’t take that long and you can always be sure that you never leave anything behind.

  8. Excellent suggestions. I personally liked “Giving the job to everyone-Regardless of Age”. This is a nice idea as it can keep the kids busy doing something and not disturbing all the time. Over-the-Door Shoe Rack is also a nice idea as this can help keep the things in an organised manner.
    Thanks for your suggestions.

  9. Out of all the tips I personally like the pack or unpack tip. I agree that you should never do it halfway, that’s just asking to lose stuff. I also really like the 3 day rule, because its common sence, that if you stay a good amount of time in a hotel you should unpack. Really great list, I know where to go from now on for travel tips.

  10. I really think that all of your tips would be great for my family when we go on our trip next month. I have four young children and so I think that it will be important for everyone to be assigned a job while we are staying in the hotels. I definitely think that having someone take charge of the electronics and another one tidy the food area will help us to stay organized. However, most importantly, I think that doing this will help us to not lose anything that is important.

  11. These are awesome hotel tips! I specially love the shoe pockets as your toiletries bag! And numbering the chargers is genius! Luckily we don’t have kids yet, but when we do, the rest of this tips should come in handy!

  12. Love the suggestions! I really liked the idea to number your chargers – I lose all of mine really easily, and I mix them up with my wife’s all the time. I think next time we’re staying in a hotel, I’m going to try it and see if anything changes. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Casey!
    We are traveling to DLR in March. Do you know if the Grand Californian would allow us to ship water and snacks through Amazon like we do when we travel to WDW resorts?

  14. Thank you for the help. My wife and I have started traveling and staying hotels or motels quite a bit recently. I really like you tip to “pack or unpack.” I almost always get to that frustrating point where my things are everywhere and I can’t find what I need. I may have to follow your three day rule. Thanks again.

  15. The bag count idea is so brilliant! My wife’s family used to be the same way. They have four kids, and between all six of them, they often left things behind on vacation. They did so because they didn’t have a bag count. I’ll have to keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing!

  16. It is interesting for me to learn a little bit about packing tips that really help me with my stay. I did not realize that using a shoe rack would be able to help me keep everything organized. I really like that idea.

  17. I really like how you mention that using the over the door shoe rack is a great way to stay organized. I agree that it gets clutter using those small bathroom counters. I travel a lot for work and I am always loosing things in the hotel room. Thanks for sharing because I will have to try out the shoe rack tip.

  18. I really like your idea about using an over-the-door shoe rack in the hotel room. I can definitely see how that would help keep things organized, especially while sharing a room with kids. My wife and I don’t have kids yet but I still think it would be a good idea for us. We love to travel and are planning on a few trips this coming year. I’ll have to remember some of your tips as we prepare for each one. Thanks for the great ideas!

  19. Those are great tips, especially the cord label and shoe rack. We will definitely use those for future trips! We go to Disney World… often, and have since my kids were little. I use gallon size bags to pack my kids clothes. Each individual outfit gets packed into a plastic bag. They are complete with socks, underware and even hair bows for my daughter. I unpack my suitcase completely and each kid gets a drawer. (It is also fairly sanitary.) Each day they grab a bag and the outfit is ready to go. There is no matching up tops and bottoms and making sure they are putting on clean socks and undies. At the end of the day the dirty laundry goes into empty suitcase so there is never dirty laundry on the floor. All the extra outfits that are not worn (because I always bring a few “just in case”) are put back into the suitcases in the plastic bags. That way the clean clothes stay separate from dirty. When I get home, I know all the loose clothes in the suitcase are dirty and I sort laundry right from my suitcase into the wash. The empty plastic bags also come in handy for extra snacks, garbage or to keep little items in. It is getting more difficult as my kids are getting bigger, but it has been a huge timesaver, especially for a slightly OCD mom!

    • This is exactly what I do! And all my socks go in one, knickers in another, cords etc saves rummaging through a nicely packed suitcase for a pair of socks 🙂

  20. I really appreciate the tips on how to improve my hotel experience. The one I most related to was having a hanging over the door rack to keep my stuff organized. This is really helpful since I seem to always lose my deodorant or toothpaste.Thanks for the great advice.

  21. I’m OBSESSED with wiping all surfaces, handles and light switches with Lysol wipes when we go to hotels. I kind of thought it went without saying, but then I found out that other people don’t actually do this. I really can’t relax until I have disinfected the room as much as possible. If we’re staying for longer than 1 night, I don’t have housekeeping come in until we need towels. On our most recent trip to Disney World, my Mom was with us and insisted on Mousekeeping coming in every day, so I had to wipe it down every night when we got back from the parks. That was super fun. Every. Night.

  22. Casey, how do you manage to fit 5 of you into one room? There are 5 of us (12, 16, 19, and my DH and my ages are none of your beeswax 😉 ) and we are at a point now where we either need to stay in a condo-style room or get 2 hotel rooms, which is now twice the price for accomodation. How do you manage to fit everyone? Also my rule for unpacking is if we are there for less than 2 nights I unpack everyones outfits for those days and leave the rest packed and if more than 2 nights we unpack it all. Except my 19 year old daughter knows best and does her own thing…

    • We typically get a suite or a two queen size bed room with a fold out couch. My weird daughter enjoys sleeping in two chairs pushed together (she’s itty bitty), so if we must, she does that….and sometimes does that instead of sleeping in a regular bed. I think eventually we will have to move up in size, but for now it still works for us.

  23. Very good tips! We are planning a similar trip. Starting in DL, visiting family in SoCal, then traveling up to see friends in SanFran. Will you be doing a post detailing your trip at all – I have no idea where to start!!?!?!?!

  24. I love the over the door pocket holder idea! My stuff is always all over the place when we travel. Also your tip about letting people go off and do there own thing made Disneyland so much better for everyone. My husband gets crabby when he gets too hot and tired and I could see in his eyes around 1pm everyday that he was starting to loose it. Thankfully I had read your Disney post on letting people break off from the family, so I encouraged him to go off and do his own thing in an air conditioned building every day around 1. I think he was reluctant at first because he felt guilty, but he came back at 4 or 5pm every day in a great mood. It really helped us all to have a great trip!!! (And my parents were with us so it wasn’t like I was messing with the kids by myself :)) now my husband is already planning our next trip. 🙂

  25. Great tips! This is so helpful for any hotel stay. Our kids are 4 & 7 so we are getting into the years of needing to have these “jobs” for them. Thank you!

  26. Hi!! We are currently starting day 6 of our 17 California tour (from Idaho). We are BIG Disney fans and this was our 5th trip as a family. We stayed at Paradise Pier with my sister and her hubs and daughter, on her husband’s family DVC. I hope to never have to travel to Disney as a non-DVC again!! (We’ve gone to WDW the same way, twice; what a treat). Our first 5 days were at Disney, we will be in Hollywood (at the Roosevelt!) through Friday, then San Francisco for 8 days, and finally, South Lake Tahoe for 3, as we head home. We did Santa Monica Pier yesterday and will add San Jose into a San Fran day. I can’t tolerate the chaos and upheaval of travel; I use the over the door hanger in the bathroom, too, and also added a power strip to our “charging station” for all the cords. We too, have never NOT left one behind, until now! Anywho, I love your stuff, and I’m looking forward to some good days on the road, as our first big meltdown day is already behind us day 5). Feel free to check out our trip progress in facebook; Tracy Woolery-Watt. Cheers, Tracy

  27. Excellent suggestions for parents of young kids! I especially related to the idea of assigning the task of pressing the elevator buttons to a different kid each day. Now that my boys are 16 we still will have a small argument about who can get the key and open the door to the hotel room!

    Thanks for all your wonderful notes!

  28. One of the best tips I got for our 14 day Yellowstone road trip was to bring a couple of laundry bags (like college students get) and all dirty clothes go in that rather than back in the suit case. It made it so easy on wash day (seriously, who wants to do laundry on vacation anyway) and then again when we got home!

  29. I definitely always suggest traveling with a multiboard – there are never enough power outlets in a hotel room to charge everything… So this way you can charge up to 5 devices at one time or charge devices and also straighten your hair 🙂