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5 Considerations for caregiving families planning hotel overnights.

We are RV people.

Without question.

Experience has taught us enough.

Every instance of hotel travel with our medically complex child confirms it: We are RV people.

Traveling with our son is difficult. He is a wheelchair-user, who requires several large pieces of adaptive equipment to accompany him on every overnight travel experience. There is a wheelchair, an (extremely heavy and bulky) adaptive stander, a shower chair, a floor chair, and a double-wide stroller. These are all necessities at this point in his life. He also has two ventilators, an overnight humidifier, oxygen tanks, a large oxygen concentrator, and a medium suitcase-sized mobile oxygen concentrator. Also necessities -- all of it. For longer travel, there will also be several large boxes of singular-use medical supplies, emergency supplies, and back-up emergency supplies. And then his food supplies.... He requires a very specific diet that is homemade, whole-foods, and blenderized. This means we need a large, high-quality blender, room to store formula ingredients, and the ability for refrigeration (and a freezer unit) while on the road.

A lot of supplies.

We purchased our travel trailer a few years ago for this very reason.

Not only is it impossible to fit everything our son needs for travel into the back of our rig (the same rig we upsized from a Toyota Rav4 to a Chevy Suburban because even daily travel necessitated additional space needs), but we have so much equipment that *not* bringing our RV on the road with us means that we are renting a U-Haul trailer to tow the equipment behind us.

Traveling as a medical caregiving family is hard work. Every part of it is worth it, but still, it is incredibly hard work.

It is even HARDER work when we travel with planned hotel accommodations.


When we bring our RV along on our travels, we can use the days ahead of departure to strategically pack and store all the items we will need on the road. We purchased the RV with our family needs in mind. The floorplan accommodates all of our son's equipment. It provides both residential style refrigeration and freezer space. There is additional storage space in the undercarriage area. Everything has a pre-determined place to take up residence.

When we stop for the night and unhitch the RV, I can simply walk into our home-away-from-home and adjust anything that shifted during the drive. For the most part, everything is where it should be and requires very little additional labor.

Hotels are an entirely different story.

Every overnight requires completely unpacking numerous boxes and bags and pieces of equipment. The entirety of a U-Haul trailer must be brought into the hotel room where it can be unboxed, cleaned, and set-up. We bring extension cords with us because we have yet to find a hotel room with a sufficient number of outlets to accommodate basic medical equipment.

The average hotel room also requires some minor (to moderate) furniture adjustments to ensure accessibility and safety for our Disabled son. Even hotel rooms designated as "accessible" mostly fail to meet our son's needs. Most often, in a standard room with two queen beds, we push one bed as far over to the wall as the room will allow and move the mattress from the other bed onto the floor to provide our son a safe space to sleep without presenting a major fall-hazard. The mattress box then becomes storage space for the other boxes of equipment that must be squeezed into the room. In many cases, a dresser or desk will also be moved to give space for the stroller, as well as the shower chair in the instance of an especially cramped bathroom.

It takes two working adults a solid hour of sweat to set the room up for the evening. (And that's assuming you have those two adults to split the work.)

It takes another hour (at least) to undue the work and re-pack the tow-trailer again the next morning.

As a medical/caregiving family, there is no such thing as "just bringing an overnight bag."


Certainly, there are a number of considerations to take into account if you are a caregiving family who is currently planning travel that includes hotel accommodations.

  1. The size differentials between hotel rooms. Even standard rooms with two queen beds vary greatly in size from hotel to hotel. Smaller rooms can create a lot more work for caregivers as it means that certain equipment, like a bathroom/shower chair or stroller, must be moved back-and-forth from the car to the room whenever it is needed. There are some rooms where it is simply impossible to fit all of the adaptive equipment needed for an overnight stay.

  2. The possibility of elevator outages and/or emergency evacuations. It is not always possible to reserve a room on the hotel's bottom floor. However, when you are traveling with someone who needs ground-floor accessibility for efficient (and safe) ingress and egress, a room on anything but the ground floor can pose higher-level challenges. If an elevator requires maintenance or cannot be used in the case of a fire alarm, then as a caregiver, you may find yourself over-stressing your back beyond safe limits to carry your child, their adaptive seat or wheelchair, and basic life-saving equipment down several flights of stairs.

  3. The abundance of germs and unknown hotel standards of sanitization. Any model of congregational living, however short term, carries with it a higher likelihood of exposure to respiratory viruses and other illness. This concern was elevated in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but no doubt has always been the case. Most hotel visitors accept this risk with the knowledge that their well-developed immune system can manage the outcome. That same risk of exposure, however, for those with compromised immune systems, can result in far more serious consequences. While hotels must maintain adequate levels of cleanliness in order to meet applicable health and safety requirements, anyone who has decided, for whatever reason, to "go cheap" on a hotel in the past, can tell you that the standard of habitability is a fairly low bar. As a caregiving family, we learned quickly that hotels are not an area of our budget that we can choose to be "cost efficient."

  4. The availability of luggage carts. In some ways, the availability of a hotel luggage cart as a reason to stay (or not) at a particular hotel seems somewhat silly. However, when you experience travel with someone who requires a lot of baggage, medical supplies, and adaptive equipment to be loaded and unloaded at each overnight stop, something that, at first, might come across as silly begins to sound really good, really fast. If you have several hotel options near your destination, ask about the availability of a luggage cart when reserving your room. Trust me -- your back will thank you.

  5. Other necessary (to you) room amenities. When traveling while caregiving, you will save yourself a lot of stress if you know the type of hotel amenities to request when making a reservation. Does the person you care for need medications that require refrigeration? Do you need a stovetop in the room? Do you need a roll-away or pull-out cot? More bedding, pillows, or towels than hotel staff typically provide? What about access to temporary parking for easy loading and unloading? Create a list of what might be helpful for your family and ask questions about those amenities ahead of your arrival. If certain amenities are unavailable, then at least, you have the foresight to plan ahead to meet those needs or to identify an alternative overnight option.


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