When you travel with kids, your hotel room becomes an activity hub with visits back during the day for naps, a change of clothes, or some downtime. You’ll also find yourself turning in earlier, at your child’s usual bedtime, meaning that you’ll need to be comfortable in the room after they’re sound asleep. So what makes a hotel family friendly at any budget level? Here’s what I look for:
• In a central location or within walking distance to the major attractions you plan to visit
• If you plan to take public transportation, you’ll want to be close to a hub station, not on a transit line that would require many transfers to get where you’re going.
• If possible, your hotel should also be walking distance to a park or playground. You can use google maps satellite view to look for play structures in nearby parks.
• I use yelp to check for cafes or markets nearby the hotel and to get a sense of what the neighborhood is like.
Family Friendly Room Features and Amenities
• Larger rooms In major cities, you’ll need to watch out for hotel rooms that are just large enough to accommodate the beds and a desk. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for a typical family of four! When it’s affordable, we prefer a suite or a regular room that has enough space for the kids to move around. Sometimes a suites hotel can feel more restful than a luxury resort because of the extra flexibility you get with more than one room. In a traditional hotel, check for room upgrades that might give you a separate sitting area to use while the kids are asleep.
• Soundproofing (nobody advertises this, but, for example, we avoid b&b’s and older hotels because we’re worried about disturbing the other guests)
• Separate toilet with a pocket door This can really help cut down on traffic in the bathroom when everyone is getting ready for the day!
• Kitchenette Even if your hotel doesn’t have a full kitchen, it’s worth making sure that there is a small refrigerator that you will be able to put your own items in. A coffee maker or teapot where you can heat up water, or a microwave oven, also let you prepare breakfast and snacks in the room.
• Bathtub With the trend towards providing just a shower in newly renovated hotels, you’ll want to be sure that your room will include a bathtub.
• Space to Explore Do you have an early riser and a child who likes to sleep in? If so, you’ll want to make sure that the hotel grounds, lobby, or location are interesting enough for an early morning walk.
• Food The room service menu and hotel restaurant should have a few kid friendly items at a reasonable cost. It can be tricky to stay in a hotel whose only restaurant is too formal to comfortably accommodate children.
• Takeaway Service Some hotels now have a small convenience store selling healthy snacks, breakfast items and milk right in the lobby.
• Laundry Hotel laundry service can be expensive. For longer vacations, check to see whether the hotel has coin operated machines for hotel guests.
Luxury Options for Family Friendly Hotel Rooms
• A welcome gift Usually a small toy, a stuffy, or some activity sheets
• Babyproofing items At some luxury hotels, this may even include a diaper genie, a stepstool, and other amenities that really do make your stay much easier.
• Kid sized robes These are really just a cute perk, but they do come in handy if you’ll be going to and from a hotel swimming pool.
• Milk and cookies with turndown service
• Kids Camp Many resort properties offer a kids program. Check in advance to find out what age children the programs are geared towards and get a sample daily schedule.
Hotel Room Options for Larger Families
• Two room suites often include a sofa sleeper – making them a great choice for a family of six
• If you’re planning on using a rollaway bed, confirm that the room you’re reserving has enough space
• Vacation rentals can be a good choice for larger families
Hotel Room Options Dependent on Child’s Age
• A crib at no additional cost Carefully check any hotel crib for safety before placing your child in it. You may want to bring your own crib sheet since many hotels do not have them, and instead provide a folded king sized sheet for the crib.
• A rollaway bed or sofa sleeper
• Adjoining rooms
• Babysitting Not every hotel is able to recommend a babysitting service, and most services need at least 24 hours notice, so if you think you’ll need this, it’s worth asking in advance. At some high end resorts, the hotel will work to provide the same sitter for your entire stay if you make your request in advance.
And here are some hidden fees that might add to the cost of your room. You’ll want to know what’s included so that you can do an “apples to apples” comparison of different hotels
• In room WiFi (sometimes charged per-device, not per-room. This can really add up if you have ipads and multiple laptops!)
• Resort or pool fees
• If you plan to use room service or the hotel restaurant, check to make sure that the menu includes reasonably priced kids options.