From frayed nerves to jet lag to new and unfamiliar surroundings, travel can take its toll on a child's bedtime routine -- and that can mean vacation nightmares for parents. Fortunately, a new trend of nighttime treats sweeping luxury hotels can alleviate some of the stress.
In an effort to help little ones relax and sleep soundly, more and more hotels are beginning to offer bedtime amenities for children that go far beyond a tray of milk and cookies.
"Parents want their kids to be as entertained as they are on a vacation, in a safe environment that makes them all feel as comfortable as they do at home," said travel and lifestyle expert Sally Horchow. "This will no doubt influence all aspects of the travel industry in the very near future, from the seat choice on an airline to marketing directed at 'Jet-set Juniors.'"
To wit, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, little ones are invited to don pajamas and "raid the fridge" on Saturday nights between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. then bring a complimentary nibble back to their rooms.
For kids who are less motivated by snacks but love to splash in the tub before bed, Waldorf Astoria Chicago now offers "Nighty Night for Children ($40)." The in-room spa set includes a bath toy, calming lavender bath ice cream, and soap and lotion to help soothe Junior to sleep.
Little princes and princesses will love the pint-sized robes and plush Wooly Boo pillows available for use at The Benjamin Hotel in New York City. Both come as part of the complimentary Winks Kidzzz Club. Led by a fictional ambassador named Winks the Owl, the program teaches children ages 2-12 the importance of healthy bedtime rituals to help achieve their dreams. And if any of the Club elements become too beloved to part with, guests can purchase a mini robe ($35), pillow ($45) or an additional Winks doll ($10) to take home.
Plush bedtime pals are also popular at Kimpton's Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va., where guests can pick up a teddy bear ($20) to pair with the complimentary bedtime story library and nightlights. And at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, guests can create a stuffed animal from scratch -- doll ($25), clothing ($15-$20) and accessories ($5 each) -- for cuddling under the covers.
Still, some experienced travelers say the bedtime amenities are excessive and only serve to over-stimulate children at a time of day when they should be winding down.
"If we're on vacation, chances are good my child's day has been too long, filled with a lot of stimulation and more treats, food and activity-wise, than they probably need," said Eileen P. Gunn, editor of FamiliesGo!, a family travel blog network. "I'm fairly sure the people coming up with [these hotel amenities] are not parents. If they were, instead of cookies and milk for kids, they would send lavender bubble bath for the parents, along with free cookies and wine for us to relax with after finally getting our exhausted kids to sleep."