TFW your kids are obsessed with Embassy Suites

My kids love this room

My kids love this room

We’ve stayed in some pretty nice hotels in our days of traveling as a family. Four Seasons properties. Ritz-Carltons. Fairmonts. Heck, we’ve even taken the kids to some pretty romantic five-star resorts here in Wine Country (looking at you, Carneros Inn and Meadowood).

But my girls like to keep it real. Their favorite hotel remains the Embassy Suites hotel near my inlaws’ house in Silicon Valley.

Among the things they like best about the hotel: The breakfast buffet, the indoor pool, and the fact that they can watch planes landing at San Francisco International Airport. We always (for some inexplicable reason) get handicapped-accessible rooms there, so both girls also sing the praises of the bathroom, which they describe as “super big” and “fun because of the handlebars on every wall.”

Lucky for the girls, we’re headed to their favorite hotel tomorrow night. For the third time this year.

This particular Embassy Suites has become our home away from home whenever we hang with my wife’s family. They live too far to drive there and back in the same night, and we’re now too large of a pod to crash at my inlaws’ downsized apartment.

Naturally, we’re headed down for Christmas Day. It will be the second Christmas Day we’ve checked into the good old “E.S.,” as we call it.

My wife and I like the room for its efficiency. The living area has a sofa bed and a drawing table for the kids to use when they wake up at 5:30 a.m. and we do not. There’s a mini-fridge and a microwave. The bedroom has one king bed. Pretty much everything we need for an overnight.

Our routine is simple. I drop off Powerwoman and the girls, then double back to check us in, make the fold-out bed for the big kids, and get all of the bathroom supplies ready for a lightning-fast pre-bed ritual. This way, when we get back to the hotel at 11 p.m., all we have to do is get the kids upstairs and they can crash out.

Is the Embassy Suites fancy? Not by a long shot. Is it cheap? Compared to other hotels, not really—we book on Expedia and it usually runs about $249 per night. But this particular property works for us. So when we visit family in the southern part of the Bay Area, we’re sticking with it. And if you travel regularly to see family members (or for the holidays), I encourage you to find a hotel you like and do the same.

New gear for traveling with a new baby

LullaGo.

LullaGo.

It’s been more than four years since we’ve traveled with a newborn. Naturally, then, in anticipation of our first hotel overnight with Baby G later this week, it was time to invest in some new gear.

Our product of choice this time around: the Chicco LullaGo Travel Crib.

We had heard rave reviews of this travel bassinette for its ease of assembly and its size—good news since we’ve always hated how big and boxy traditional pack-n-plays are. Friends also told us it was sturdy enough to use at home as the primary newborn bed (which means we can save money, too).

While we haven’t traveled with this sucker yet, I can tell you that I already am hooked. After I took the product out of the box, it took me less than 60 seconds to set the thing up. The sides have adequate ventilation, so we don’t have to worry about the baby rolling on her side and struggling to breathe. And the size thing is a huge deal—the bassinette is spacious yet noticeably smaller than a pack-n-play.

The only downside I can see at this point is that the carrying case could be a bit bulky to take on a plane trip. To be fair, though, I’m not sure we’d ever WANT to take it anywhere we can’t travel by car.

Of course the true test for us Villanos will come Christmas Day, when we part ways with family members and take the bassinette to a hotel for the night. I’m eager to see the LullaGo in action. Stay tuned for details on how it performed.

What newborn-oriented travel gear do you love and why?

Soaking Up the Holiday Spirit

Little R, mesmerized by a window display at Selfie's.

Little R, mesmerized by a window display at Selfie’s.

You don’t need much of a sightseeing itinerary when traveling during holiday season; all you need is time to explore.

I’ve been reminded of this simple fact numerous times over the last week or so here in London. Every time I head into the city for a day of big plans with L and R, we are sidetracked by a bunch of decorations.

One day, we spent two hours watching a carousel in front of the Natural History Museum. Another day, we spent 75 minutes admiring the windows in front of Selfridges. Today, little R and I counted giant ornaments in St. Christopher’s Place (which, by the way, has the best shopping in the West End). I’ve already blogged about some of the fun we had with my folks at a decked-out Covent Garden Market.

Later this week, our plan includes dragging Grandma and Grandpa with us to South Kensington to marvel at decorations at Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

Throw in ice-skating rinks, Christmas trees, caroling extravaganzas and holiday lights pretty much anywhere around the city and I’d say we’ve got enough to keep us busy from now until we head home Dec. 23.

Oh, and unless we ride the carousels or do the ice skating, all of the stuff is free.

The lesson here, of course, is that especially when kids are young, it doesn’t take much to create a fun day of experiencing a new place during the holidays. I like to think the equation looks like this:

Spectacle + Snacks + Public Transit + Downtime (when necessary) = Smiles

I know this equation isn’t universal. And I’ve been doing this family travel thing too long to know that this equation isn’t going to work all the time. But with the right weather and the right attitude (and the right snacks, I guess, and no public transport delays), it sure puts family travelers in a good position for a day that everyone will remember for all the right reasons. And it hasn’t failed us Villanos yet.

What is your equation for a good family travel when traveling during the holidays?

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