Staying stress-free in Orlando By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher
Traveling with a toddler (Flickr:beija)
Q: Hooray! In early April, my family is going to Orlando. We havenât had a family vacation since my daughter was born, so I decided to tag along with my husband on a business trip and bring our 15-month-old daughter with us. We havenât booked a hotel yet and canât afford to spend a lot, so we are open to suggestions. It is sinking in that my husband will be out at his conference for a good chunk of the day and my daughter and I will be on our own for the most part. Now that she is walking, she is a handfulâespecially at meal timesâso I am starting to stress a bit. I would love your advice on where we should stay and I would welcome your tips on how to eat out with a toddler on my own. â Stephanie from Allentown, PA
A: First of all, good for you for deciding to get away. Since you havenât booked a hotel yet, I suggest that you look for an extended-stay hotel near where your husbandâs conference is being held. Popular extended-stay, or all-suite, chains include Embassy Suites, Hyatt Inn, Residence Inn, Homewood Suites, Comfort Suites, SpringHill Suites (my familyâs choice for a recent getaway in MontrÃ©al), and a dozen other brands.
Waldorf Astoria Hotel Orlando (Courtesy Waldorf Astoria Hotel Orlando)
Extended-stay properties are marketed mainly to business travelers, but itâs an open secret that they are a fantastic option when youâre traveling with kids. For starters, suites deliver more space than a standard hotel room for a similar price and a floor plan that really works for families. Typically, you get both a bedroom and a living area with a pullout sofa, plus either a kitchenette or a wet bar (mini fridge, microwave, sink). All of these features will make life with a toddler a lot easier, since you will have the space to set up a crib or Pack ânâ Play (some hotels will even provide you with one) and also be more self-sufficient about making some of your daughterâs meals in your room. Of course, Iâm not suggesting that you spend all your time holed up in your room. Yet having the right set-up will make your whole stay run more smoothly.
Since you didnât mention where your husbandâs conference is being held, I wonât recommend specific hotels. But location is going to be key. Look for an address that is convenient for your husband and also within walking distance of laid-back places to explore with your daughter, such as a park or outdoor plaza, or even another resort set on expansive grounds. If your daughter gets restless in a high chair, plan picnics in the park or head to open-air restaurants and cafÃ©s that offer plenty for your daughter to look at while youâre eating. Many extended-stay hotels offer a free buffet breakfast. Toddlers are notorious grazers, so take advantage of the opportunity to bring yogurt, milk, bread, and cereal back to your room.
Homewood Suites Universal Studios (flickr:marriottsandestin)
Your options increase if you have a car, but so do the hassles associated with driving and parking. If you wonât have a car, choose a hotel that offers free shuttles to several of Orlandoâs major attractions. Your toddler will enjoy free admission to many of them. And, of course, try to choose a hotel with a nice pool areaâideally with a kiddie pool or splash pad where your daughter can safely have fun.
Donât forget the sunscreen, and enjoy your trip!
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