Occasionally, we diverge from the telling of BIG adventures to present family travel tips, based on our own experiences. We’ve suggested technology to facilitate travel, and great places to eat on the road beyond traditional restaurants. We’ve even warned you about road trip mistakes.
This week, we offer our own suggestions on how to find a family friendly hotel, as well as ideas from other family bloggers.
Over spring break, our family stayed at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. This property, in my opinion, sets a gold standard for kid-friendly accommodations, so I’ll use it as an example in many of the following points.
When searching for a kid-friendly hotel, look for:
A welcoming attitude toward children
Hotels can be upscale, grand, and historic, and still be casual enough for kids. The Omni is a stately “grand dame” among hotels, and yet, we never felt self-conscious about bringing the kids through the lovely lobby. It helped that The Girl did not have any public meltdowns. (For a change.) Not only was the staff very friendly, they delivered milk and cookies for the kids during the turn-down service.
Pool(s) and open green space
When on the road, the pool is the first and foremost amenity my kids want in a hotel. Indoor, outdoor, any shape or size will do. Swim time means blowing off steam, or winding them down for bed, or just spending some time NOT in an expensive theme park. We were fortunate that our Omni stay coincided with the seasonal opening of its outdoor heated pool!
A lawn, garden, or ideally, a playground, is also a big plus.
Kids clubs, camps and/or activities
Some hotels, like the Great Escape Lodge in Lake George, NY, offer story-telling programs with their mascot characters, and crafts workshops. Others, like the Omni, have a “Sensational Kids” program, providing kids a backpack filled with fun playthings to keep.
Full-fledged resorts, however, really do kids clubs the best. For example, the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater, FL, offers both full day and half day Camp Ridley for kids ages 5-12. We visited last July, and The Girl spent a morning making friends while building sand castles, coloring T-shirts, and playing.
Every family has specific room size needs, depending on the size of your brood. We’re still able to manage in a double-occupancy with two queen beds. With that configuration, we’ve found ourselves cramped in small rooms with barely enough room to walk past each other. Space allows The Girl to spread out with a coloring book without fear we’ll trip over her.
Deals and discounts
I admit, the words “Kids Stay Free” and “Kids Eat Free” really attract my attention! It’s a sure sign that a hotel wants my family’s business. At four years old, The Girl enjoyed a free breakfast buffet at the Omni, and The Boy ate for $10 (they lost money on him; he’s a voracious tween!)
But even if these offers aren’t made, look for package prices which include extras like in-room movies, or tickets to a local attraction.
Attention to detail
Little things – like electrical outlet covers — make a big improvement in your family’s hotel stay. At the Omni Shoreham, I appreciated that the door leading to the balcony was bolted above the reach of my children.
One pet peeve I have in most hotels, including the Shoreham, is in the bathrooms. Families need ample shelf space to store multiple toiletry cases, and several towel hooks on the walls. The sink vanities need to be low enough for small children to reach the faucets. Hotels, please take heed!
Family Travel Bloggers Weigh In
I asked other family travel bloggers for their input on what makes for truly family-friendly accommodations, and received some great ideas.
Debbie from Delicious Baby looks beyond the property itself, and considers the surrounding neighborhood, including access to public transportation.
Steve from More Kids Than Suitcases has multiple tech-loving kids. He believes in free internet access. What’s more, he doesn’t want to be charged for accessing the internet from more than one device.
Jesse from Wandering Educators loves all the on-site entertainment available at resorts like the Great Wolf Lodge. But she also appreciates that the Traverse City, MI property serves locally-sourced food.
Another entertainment-oriented resort, the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, pleased Jody from Family Rambling because it provided her two stress-free days of watching her daughters enjoy themselves. Conveniently all under one roof.
Kara from The Vacation Gals liked that the Azul Sensatori by Karisma, near Puerto Morelos, Mexico offers a toy-lending library, kids’ personal video-players in on-site restaurants, and Gerber baby food included in the room rate.
WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY LOOK FOR WHEN BOOKING A HOTEL?
Disclaimer: Omni Hotels hosted one night of our stay.
Find more Family Travel Tips at Travel Tips Tuesday!