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10 Things We Want In a Family Hotel


a breakfast buffet is welcome at a family hotelI started FamiliesGo! because when Tiny Traveler was small it was incredibly difficult to find out  whether a hotel, even one that bills itself as a family hotel, had the amenities I needed as a parent.

Most of the guidebooks I looked at defined family hotels as inexpensive with a pool and free breakfast, but but without regard for whether the breakfast is actually good or whether the hotel was safe and appealing. And they were often miles from any thing we wanted to do. a family hotel always has a poolUntil my daughter was about 3 a pool was pretty optional. We didn’t really need breakfast back then either: She just wanted yogurt or Cheerios. And we’re happy to coffee and croissants.

However, we did need a crib and fridge in the room. We liked having a supermarket nearby. And we really liked having some way to divide the room so we could, say, have a TV on or a light to read by after TT went to sleep at 7:30. It was remarkably hard to find out whether hotels offered these things. I once paid extra for a suite only to learn after checking in that it was a “studio” and had no wall between the living area and the beds (D’oh!).

a family hotel has plenty of room for everyoneMid-priced, 3-star European hotels seem much better at serving families and I wish comparable US hotels would take a tip or two from them. Younger, hipper hotel groups are starting to build bunk bed alcoves into some of their rooms, but those rooms are often have premium price tags. And beyond the bunk beds those hotels are often not the most family friendly (no pool; lots of white furniture, noisy bar scene).

Here’s what I think make a hotel truly family friendly:

1. Smile at my kid: Nothing says that kids are welcome like a staff that is friendly and warm to (well-behaved) kids. This makes up for hotels not having every family amenity I might want.

a family hotel doesn't make you guess if it has cribs2. Tell me what you have: If you have amenities like cribs, foldout couches, microwaves, babysitting services or referrals, make this information easy to find on your website. And let me know upfront whether or not they’re included in the room rate.

3. Family Savvy Concierge: Your concierge should be able to tell me where to find a supermarket, drug store and decent playground or park within 10 blocks. If he’s really on his game he’ll also know where the really cool playgrounds are.

4. Refrigerators: Put them all the rooms; not just the suites. If it’s stocked with booze, offer when I make my reservation to provide an empty one or to empty the existing one prior to my arrival.

a step stool is a welcome amenity at a family hotel5. Stepstools! Ever notice that hotel sinks are very high? A hotel in Ulm, Germany, put a $3 Ikea plastic stool in our room and it was so helpful. I don’t know why more hotels don’t think of this.

6. In-room dining: Nothing makes me happier than a table we can dine at in the room. It makes breakfast easy and it means we can bring take-out back to the room after a long day where a restaurant meal is not happening.

the ideal family hotel would deliver this to your roomI love Omni’s offer to bring free beverages to your room in the morning (for Select Guests, which is free). It’s so handy I almost always order food to go with it. If hotels offered easy room-service family meals (roast chicken or pizza, salad, dessert, drinks) I would probably order that at least once during my stay.

7. Privacy! An alcove, curtain, loft or half-wall can go a long way toward giving grown-ups some needed space. If your suites don’t actually provide any privacy, please let me know.

8. Tots are not teens: Families with small children have different needs than families with bigger kids or teens. Differentiate.

a family hotel doesn't spoil just the kids.9. Kid Perks: They don’t sway my purchasing decisions, but if you offer them, do it thoughtfully and consistently. More than once I’ve been offered a kid’s welcome bag on the company’s website when I made my reservation, only to be greeted with quizzical looks when I asked about it at the front desk.

What’s good: A small bag with a kid’s guide to the city we’re in, some crayons, activity pages and stickers, maybe a healthy snack or party toy. An app that tells teens what they want to know about the city. Baby toys or books that we can borrow in the room.

What’s not good: Anything involving yet more junk food (my kids gets plenty when we’re traveling). If you offer a bedtime treat, ask us (discreetly) if we want it before knocking on our door at 8:30 pm. We might not.

10. Breakfast: If you are going to offer it, it’s OK to keep it simple. Just make sure it’s healthy, fresh and appealing– to all of us.

What do you look for in a family hotel? What’s your chief pet peeve?

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21 Comments

  1. July 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm — Reply

    The pool is #1 for my kids. The fridge is #1 for me in a family hotel. I also appreciate your recommendation in that hotels outline clearly what is offered and included so that families can plan accordingly. I’d also like to request that if a hotel has full-size beds, please don’t call them queens!

  2. July 28, 2015 at 7:20 am — Reply

    Pool always tops my list. I also want it to be close to the reason I’m visiting (major attraction, etc..) and should have free wifi.

  3. July 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm — Reply

    Yes, a fridge, pool, WiFi and breakfast are things I look for when I’m booking.

  4. July 27, 2015 at 12:09 am — Reply

    These tips are really helpful.With a toddler,we had different experiences during our recent trips.Recently we stayed in a hotel which included breakfast/buffet.I was really happy when I found different types of cereals which I could give to my son.Some hotels don’t pay much attention on baby/toddler food.

    • eileen g
      July 27, 2015 at 10:19 am — Reply

      Yes, as my daughter has gotten older I can usually find something she will eat at most breakfast buffets (cereal she doesn’t get at home or waffles). But kids aren’t too discerning about quality. It’s my husband and I that prefer quality to quantity.

  5. July 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm — Reply

    I hate when they don’t have connecting rooms information or when they do they can’t guarantee connecting rooms. Then I never book as I don’t want to deal with unwelcome surprises. #wkndtravelinspiration

    • eileen g
      July 26, 2015 at 9:42 pm — Reply

      I always forget about this because we usually lump it in 1 room. But for bigger families it’s essential. thanks for the reminder!

  6. July 26, 2015 at 4:25 am — Reply

    Great thoughts here. Funny how quickly they grow up and I forget about all these little thing. Traveling with teens comes with a whole different set of challenges, which I guess will all to quickly be forgotten too,

    • eileen g
      July 26, 2015 at 9:44 pm — Reply

      I would love more insight into the particulars of traveling with teens. i imagine that you get to a point where you are going to bed and they are staying up late, and privacy becomes a bigger issue.

  7. July 25, 2015 at 11:41 am — Reply

    Lots of good ideas in here! I have not even considered half of these. I agree hotels should have clear information about amenities in their websites / brochures. Sometimes they are too general and when you call nobody can answer the questions you have (or you are directed to a call center).

    • eileen g
      July 26, 2015 at 9:45 pm — Reply

      exactly!

  8. July 25, 2015 at 5:59 am — Reply

    Yes it is about time that hotels become more pro-active in providing information for families. Great List.

  9. July 25, 2015 at 5:08 am — Reply

    Eileen, I agree on every single point. In this age of technology, hotels (along with all businesses really) need to get on board with giving us the information that we need. Great list!

    Happy #wkendtravelinspiration!

  10. July 25, 2015 at 4:56 am — Reply

    Interesting…

  11. July 25, 2015 at 1:29 am — Reply

    I am calling on my memories of bringing up my kins and yes, hotels were ill equipped with things that I needed. This meant we had to pack so much to look after them.

    • eileen g
      July 26, 2015 at 9:46 pm — Reply

      Yes, and you have to improvise — like keeping milk cool in an ice bucket when there’s no mini-fridge. yuck.

  12. July 25, 2015 at 12:53 am — Reply

    Eileen we should get together and start a business telling hotels/resorts/campgrounds how to market their accommodation for the family traveller. I am so often frustrated at the lack of information available on their websites.

    • eileen g
      July 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm — Reply

      yes, we should!

  13. July 24, 2015 at 5:43 pm — Reply

    I love the stepstool idea. It’s even helpful for short people like me, as well as kids 🙂

    • July 31, 2015 at 11:22 am — Reply

      it’s such a simple and inexpensive thing and so helpful. I don’t know why more hotels don’t think of it!

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