Suddenly, all my previous notions about staying in a hotel were upended. Gone was my passion for a plush Four Seasons room, no matter how small as long as it had a deep tub and that decadent perfumed smell. Now I cared not about the ambience in the lobby bar. Nor the Yelp ratings of the spa. Nor the thread count of the sheets.
I sought just one thing: a suite. A real one. With a door that shut.
It was a little-known fact about parenthood, to me anyway, that after just a few months, the key to happiness would be the ability to close my sleeping infant off in a dark, safe place and sit within earshot watching television or drinking a glass of wine. I’d never thought much about the logistics of traveling with children, blithely assuming, I suppose, that everyone shared a room or babysitters somehow always stepped in to provide parents with the nighttime liberty they’d enjoyed pre-birth.
Three months after my son was born, we spent a night in a one-room cabin on the Eastern Shore of Maryland as an attempt at an easy getaway. After the baby fell asleep in the Pack ’n Play next to our bed, my husband and I sat there in the dark — with nowhere to go, no ability to even talk to each other without waking him up. It was 8 p.m. When the baby woke up to eat in the middle of the night, he roused both of us, something we avoided at home by putting him in his own room. The next morning, we swore that we’d never go away again.
“Oh no,” my friend Dafna, herself the mother of a young boy, said in horror when I told her about the trip. “Didn’t anyone tell you? You have to get a suite. Always.”
And beware, she said, the L-shaped room masquerading as a suite — or other single rooms with only minor tweaks that hotels hope to pass off as something more.
Of course, cost was our top concern, especially as we tried to book the kinds of hotels we would have stayed in when it was just us. Upscale hotels with single rooms that run in the $200 and $300 range rarely offer suites for anything less than $600 a night, sometimes running as high as $1,000, well beyond our budget for traveling with a toddler.
So for a time we limited our trips to friends’ and parents’ houses. And then, thanks to the derecho storm in the summer of 2012, we rediscovered Embassy Suites.
I was pregnant again when the storm, with high, gusting winds, knocked out our power during a heat wave. Never one drawn to hardship, I waited 10 minutes for the lights and air conditioning to come back on before calling around and landing us a reservation at the Embassy Suites in downtown Washington.
We showed up at 8 a.m., at the height of the breakfast buffet rush. Our 1-year-old was instantly enthralled by everything that had annoyed me as a single traveler: the echoing interior atrium, the too-cute-by-half fish pond in the lobby, the piles of waffles and limitless packets of peanut butter.