Updated: Oct 30, 2020
So, the worst part of international travel: jet lag - waking up at odd hours of the night, battling to stay awake in the afternoons.
What if I told you I found a way to beat it (without taking melatonin or doing other things to your body)? And it allowed you to stay in a more central location, closer to all the tourist attractions, without breaking the bank?
You don't have to share a room with a bunch of people like in a hostel – or worse, those coffin style “capsule hotels”
You don't have to share a bathroom with anyone and you get those little bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner so you can pack lighter!
You get room cleaning service every day, change your towels and bed linens every day (although I suggest against that for environmental reasons)
You even get enough complimentary happy hour charcuterie, wine and coffee that you don't need much after that and can save on dinner
For a modest sum (even more modest if you have kids because they eat free), you get a wonderful European style breakfast buffet (different breads, croissants, spreads like nutella, butter and jam, self-serve yogurt parfait bar, cereals, and breakfast meats and cheeses, and plenty of delicious coffee that you can grab a final serving to-go of as well)!
Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . picture first . . .
Windowless hotel rooms . . .
Let me explain:
It All Began with Painful Jet Lag in Geneva
On a 2016 work trip to Europe, I spent five days in a lovely Geneva AirBnB, but for the sleepless nights and early morning rising. Geneva was nine hours ahead – which means bedtime was actually late afternoon for my body, and morning was the middle of the night.
Guess what time the sun just starts setting? 9:30 p.m.!
Guess what time the sun rises in Geneva in late June? 5:30 a.m.!
For five days straight, I could not get on Geneva time because I couldn’t hide myself away in the dark to force myself to bed at night. I also couldn’t get enough sleep in the morning because the sun shined in through my window bright and early. Exhausted but forced awake in the morning, and exhausted at night but unable to sleep.
Enter location change: Geneva meetings done, London workshop begins.
The NGO that was doing the workshop housed all participants at the same hotel:
Z Hotel Victoria
I have to say, room size was not impressive – tiny! . . . and no window! The room was the width of the bed and a small bedside table (refilled daily with complimentary filtered water). The length of the room is the length of the bed and the depth of the shower/toilet/sink area. You only have a few hangers and the drawers in the bedside table for your clothes (or your suitcase, which you stash under your bed).
I didn’t have much time to think about it though. I dropped everything off and ran out the door. We ended up not making it to Westmister (squeezed it in later), but made it back to the hotel after a nice evening out.
We made it back before dark. And this was when I realized the beauty of the windowless room:
I could go to sleep in absolute darkness, set an alarm (for 7 a.m.) and not be forced awake prior to the alarm by an early sunrise.
Drumroll please . . . It worked!!!!!!
I spent the next three days in bliss. Falling asleep with no problem. Waking up exactly when I wanted to and not a minute earlier.
Flashforward to Summer 2019 Travel Plans
So, in monitoring flights for our first summer immersion travel to Italy for 2019, I calculated that the cost of roundtrip tickets to London and roundtrip from London to Rome, would be approximately the same as getting round-trip tickets with a layover to Rome.
Enter my wild plan to turn said U.K. layover into a whole week by myself with the kids in London and an overnight to Salisbury/Stonehenge. By myself (Marino would join in August), with two kids, one of whom (Dante) had a million things he wanted to do– I knew I’d need central London accommodations.
I searched all the usual sites – TripAdvisor, AirBnB, Booking.com, etc. The best I found was at Marble Arch, conveniently close to Hyde Park, where the kids could burn off their energy. And then, I remembered about Z Hotel Victoria.
I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check out their rates. Now, the Marble Arch studio (without complementary happy hour food and all the amenities of staying in a hotel) was approximately $125 per night. I say this so that you all aren’t shocked at the price tag on the Z Hotel Victoria.
With two children (ages 2 and 6), I wanted to make sure we were all comfortable. So, instead of the full-size inside room for $135, I got the queen-size inside room for $145 (Please note, these are summer rates and if you can travel off-season, the rates as low as £50).
As I tried to figure out if it would be worth the extra cost, I added the following into my calculus:
Proximity to tourist attractions within walking distance
Proximity to a central coach (bus), train (for our trip to Salisbury), and tube (subway) station with connections to multiple lines
Free happy hour (which could be a full meal for my children’s small stomachs)
Breakfast for three for $11 USD because children eat free with an adult (true it would have been cheaper, but not by much, if I stocked up in an AirBnB fridge)
And the possibility that a windowless room could help all three of us beat jet lag!
Friends of ours had just traveled to London with a 2-year old and shared their experience of heading to Hyde Park every morning at 4 a.m. because of their son’s jet lag. This of course led me to my thought process around the windowless room.
The AirBnB place would have windows without blackout curtains and I’d be dealing with 10 p.m. darkness and 5:30 a.m. sunrise with two highly light-sensitive children (come on, whose kids aren’t?) versus a windowless room where I could prevent light from getting in.
So I went for it. All those considerations were enough to make it worth it to pay the extra $20 per night.
I was Right! It Worked!
Well, it wasn’t immediate but we beat jet lag in two nights!
We arrived in the afternoon. I got us to the hotel, dropped our bags off, got the kids back out, had them burn their energy off at St. James Park, got a quick bite to eat, washed up and lights out!
At 9:30 p.m., despite it being 1:30 p.m. Los Angeles time, both kids were fast asleep! I had my shower and joined them too. Boy was I hopeful it would work.
Come 3 a.m., Leila was up. I didn’t turn the lights on, especially because Dante was still sleeping, and we chatted until she tired again. It was approximately 5a.m. before she fell asleep again. With Dante up at 5:30 a.m., I went with it and we started our day.
After a day of hop-on/hop-off bus and boat touring, we were exhausted and got to sleep by 9 p.m. Even with a midday stroller nap, Leila did not wake until 5:30 a.m.! I will so take 8 ½ hours of sleep!
The next night was even better! 10p.m. bedtime with a 7 a.m. wake-up!
Call me crazy but I really think it worked! I don’t know of others who beat jet lag with their children in just 2 nights. I can only imagine how easy it would be for someone without children to make the adjustment with a windowless room.
So, to sum it all up:
Booking a windowless room at the Z Hotel Victoria let me:
1) be in the absolute center of London at a price I’d never be able to find (free happy hour snacks, wine and coffee)
2) beat jet lag in 2 nights (me AND my 2 children – ages 2 and 6)y
I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, experiences with this type of traveling in the comments below or on the Facebook post here. I know, it seems like a crazy idea to some, exciting or curious to others. I want to hear it all!