Before we had our daughter my husband and I had pretty simple standards for booking a hotel: It had to be central to what we wanted to do, fairly inexpensive and not horrible.
Post baby, we find ourselves hanging out in the hotel room a lot more because of naps and early bed times. We eat breakfast in the room more often and sometimes lunch or dinner, too, when yet another restaurant meal with a wiggly, non-eating child seems unbearable.
We think a lot more about where we stay and gravitate toward hotels that seem to understand what families (parents, in particular) really need.
Here is a list of things I would love to see in hotels that promote themselves as family-friendly. Think of it as an open letter to hoteliers or as a list of things to think about when you’re booking a room for your family.
Step stools in the bathroom
We were given a “family room” in a 3-star hotel that we happened upon in the German city of Ulm two summers ago and boy, was it cool. The room had a $5 footstool from Ikea in the bathroom, which meant my preschooler could wash her hands and brush her teeth without me holding her awkwardly over the sink. It was a simple but clever and really handy amenity. I don’t know why more hotels don’t think of it.
More hotels (like the one in Ulm and a Hyatt Place we stayed at last spring) are designing rooms with a half-wall dividing living and sleeping areas or adult and kid sleeping areas. It’s not perfect but it allows us to, say, keep a reading light on while our daughter is going to sleep.
In hotels where this isn’t an option, I’d love to find a folding Japanese screen in the closet (or available from housekeeping). It would have helped during that phase where we had to hide in the bathroom because Tiny Traveler would not go to sleep if she could see us. And even now would help with the we-want-to-stay-up-after-our-5-year-old-falls-asleep-at-8:00 thing.
An Empty Fridge
Here is an item where it seems easy to provide straightforward information on a website and many hotels don’t. Just because they don’t specifically mention mini-fridges doesn’t mean they won’t have them. And often when they do say they have them they turn out to be too crammed full of tiny vodka bottles for me to fit milk and yogurt I was counting on storing in there.
Recently, a few hotels we’ve stayed in have threatened a restocking fee (as high as $75) if I shifted their booze around to make room my dairy. One of those hotels, a Hyatt, offered to deliver an empty fridge to our room, gratis.
But a Best Western with no in-room refrigerators wanted to charge $15 a day to rent one to us. Had I known in advance I would have to choose between paying $75 to store $3 worth of milk or using an ice bucket to keep it cold, I would have just picked a different hotel. A non-parent might think that’s nuts. But any parent whose kids are attached to a particular food the way my toddler was to her morning milk will totally get it.
Our own floor
While I loathe the idea of airlines establishing family ghettos on airplanes, I love the idea of a family floor or wing in a hotel.
Here’s why: Even on vacation I probably won’t get to sleep past 7:30. So when I’m woken up at 1:00 am by high-pitched laughter and bad music from the hotel room next door, I’m really, really grumpy. And I’m sure those revelers are equally out out when my small child wakes them up at 7:00 am by blasting Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while jumping on the bed.
Put aside the handy amenities and extra services a family section might facilitate (though I can think of several). It would make our stay so much more relaxing to have neighbors that all follow the same early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule we do.
A family-savvy Concierge
I would like every hotel concierge (or front desk) to be able to
- Tell me where the closest supermarket is.
- Point me to a really good playground.
- Refer me to an outside babysitting service the hotel regularly uses and …
- Give me the name of a local taxi company that provides child car seats. (If there isn’t one, how about partnering with the service that promises to provide them?)
This is surprisingly hard. Even though its basic information that families routinely need when they’re traveling. The first brand to tell me their concierge has these basics covered will have my loyalty.
One of the best hotels we ever stayed in was the pricey-but-worth it Ansonborough Inn in Charleston. Loft-style rooms had separate sitting and sleeping area, a fridge and microwave. And there was a Harris Teeter supermarket across the street. In three days we stopped in four times. We stayed in 2008 and I still talk about–just as I’m still talking about that hotel in Ulm. If only it could always be that easy!
What hotel amenities do you want the most when traveling with kids?