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One Parent’s Hotel Wish List

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 bathroomhotel-amenities-Eileen-Gunn

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.

Room Dividers

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

  1. Tell me where the closest supermarket is.
  2. Point me to a really good playground.
  3. Refer me to an outside babysitting service the hotel regularly uses and …
  4. 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?

Eileen Gunn

Eileen Gunn

Eileen Gunn is a former financial journalist and mom to a well-traveled 8-year-old. She found the website FamiliesGo!, to give parents the tools they need to plan better vacations more easily and to enjoy their family vacations more. Feel free to follow FamiliesGo! on:
Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

21 comments

  • – safety mat for the tub
    – high shelving – to put valuables and breakables; kids get into everything
    – HOOKS , especially in the bathroom
    – washable floor rug or something so the crawlers don’t get too dirty
    – extra towels

  • It’s funny how our wish list changes when we have kids. We won’t stay anywhere with the kids unless it has free breakfast or a kitchenette so we can bring our own food. The kids wake up hungry and want to eat right away, they don’t want to wait to get dressed & drive to restaurant and wait to be served.

  • Shoot I’m happy as long as the hotel has free wifi & free breakfast.. a cozy bed always works too.. Other than that.. We have 4 kids, so we can’t be too picky and stay cheap..

  • I agree with everything you said! Last year we went to the beach and a bunch of teens were next to our room. They kept my little guys up all night and I swear they had to be head butting the way or something. It would have been nice for the hotel to not put a family whom booked with 2 kids right next to a room with only teens most likely there for senior week

  • Hotel accommodation is really important because every client they need an escape from their own bedroom and hotel is a good relaxing place and it should be right to have at least different from a usual bedroom but look homey. it doesn’t have to be luxurious but fancy enough to have adventure to lalaland. You really know how to pick the room that fits your needs.

  • It really amazes me that hotels have not realized how important some of these things are to families and what a difference they make. I love staying at a hotel that has a separate room for the kids and where we can stay up past 8pm. We haven’t hidden in the bathroom but we did have to go out on a balcony for about half an hour in a hotel so my kids could fall asleep. I had not idea there was a restocking fee for moving stuff around a tiny fridge, that is crazy! We’ve never had that problem although we did have to pay for a small refrigerator in a hotel that didn’t include one. Now I always ask and do not book if there is nor place for my daughter’s almond milk (she is lactose intolerant).

  • As a non-parent, I never had to think about these things when booking a hotel room, but when I read about a step stool being placed in the bathroom of hotel rooms, it was like a light bulb going on. Of course! That would be especially helpful to parents with small children. That should be added to more hotel rooms. I have never had an issue with small fridges being in rooms, though, but that could be because of the caliber of hotel I regularly stay at. We’re loyal Hampton Inn people and there are always small, empty fridges in the room, along with a microwave which is especially helpful because I like going to the grocery store and getting small things I can heat up in the microwave to eat in the middle of the night.

    I say you need to take these recommendations to the boards of some of your favorite hotels. They are really great ideas that could easily be implemented and even expand their businesses.

  • You have got the list down to perfection. We recently attended a family wedding. Many of the guests stayed at the same hotel. However, there were no room dividers which meant my bed time was the same time as my children. It would have been nice to have a spot to at least read a book in without disturbing the kiddos. Or a place to visit with other adults post 8 pm. Also I would love a knowledgeable front desk staff. I asked for a grocery store, where I could buy fresh fruit. I had to speak to two people before I was able to get a name of a store never-mind directions. Who has time for that with tiny tots in tow?

  • When we travel, we want the kids in sight even when we are all sleeping. It is a safety thing of wanting to know they are okay. I never traveled when my kids were really small so I never had to worry about storing food items. We bring some that are non-perishable for snacks and then an ice chest with bottled water and use the ice machines. I can understand the rooms next store, I sleep light when I am traveling so the slightest noise is going to wake me and make me jumpy (comes from being attacked many years ago). I would love a family area because hopefully the other parents would watch their language as well and not teach my kids anything I do not want them learning.

  • This is so true! Everything is different when traveling with a child! You never really think about things like this until you are in the position of going. You thought of quite a few things I wouldn’t have!

  • I love the idea of a family wing in hotels. It’s ridiculous when people who have been partying til all hours come yelling down the hall. Maybe they need a designated party people floor lol.

  • Super list–I love the family floor idea—I just would like it for the fact when my kids run screaming down the hall toward the elevator I know everyone on that floor “GETS IT”– I’ve had other guest open the door and shush my kids…it was after 10 not my fault they were out late the night before…
    The concierge list is SUPER too I’d also add one family friendly restaurant too.

  • Great list! While I don’t have kids, I have nephews and nieces and hear a lot of these same complaints from my sisters. I would also love for hotels to have a floor dedicated to families because I’m usually one of the partiers and always feel horrible when we stumble in at 3am all loud and and happy …

  • I just love going to any establishment that has thoughtfully provided a step stool in the bathroom! I have yet to stay in a hotel that has thought of it. Likewise, I love the idea of a family area but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing that either. I have had the empty fridge though and that is a must-have if you are traveling with kids since eating out can end up being the bulk of your vacation cost!

  • I have no children but did go on a couple of vacations with friends and their children back when–I totally agree with all you are saying–at least I had my dog with me also at the time who was a better babysitter then anyone we could have found–we sat outside the door–he lay down 1/2 in and 1/2 out of the doorway–bound and determined to keep an eye on all of us!!

  • I’ve gone to several out-of-town trips with my son before, but I’ll be travelling overseas with him for the first time next month. I’m hoping the Disneyland Hollywood Hotel where we are booked is family-friendly. It is in Disneyland, after all.

  • About Author

    Eileen Gunn

    Eileen Gunn

    Eileen Gunn is a former financial journalist and mom to a well-traveled 8-year-old. She found the website FamiliesGo!, to give parents the tools they need to plan better vacations more easily and to enjoy their family vacations more. Feel free to follow FamiliesGo! on:
    Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

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