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5 Things to Look For When Choosing a Kid-Friendly Hotel

Westin Heavenly Crib
photo credit: Stephany Wiestling

One of the most challenging parts of planning a family vacation is finding kid-friendly lodging.  When you have an infant, toddler or preschooler, kid-friendly hotel amenities are just part of the requirements… you also need a place where they can sleep while the rest of the family is still awake.  Things I look for when choosing a hotel are:

  1. 1.    Separate sleeping area (with a closeable door) for my napping/early bedtime child.  This is the first thing I look for.  If there isn’t a suite available, I find a different hotel.  (That doesn’t mean I pay more; for my recommendations of hotels that have affordable suites, keep reading.)  This way I can watch tv or, more accurately, write this blog, without disturbing my sleeping child.  (Because if the child is not well rested, nobody’s having a good day tomorrow!)  Another option here, is to rent a condo or house.
  2. Mini fridge or kitchenette so I can store snacks, sandwich fixings, a beer or wine for mom and dad, and, in our case, soymilk -which is not readily available in restaurants and theme parks.  It’s also handy to stick a juice box in the freezer the night before a trip to the theme park so it acts as an ice-pack for our cooler.  If there isn’t a refrigerator in the room already, most hotels will provide one for you, sometimes for free.  Using or moving items from the mini-bar will cost you dearly.  Luckily, many hotels are doing away with those.  Some extended-stay hotels have full kitchens complete with dishes and pots and pans!
  3. Swimming pool comes in handy on a sunny afternoon when it’s too hot to be walking around the city.  Sometimes it’s more fun to take a dip after dinner and call it a ‘bath’.  Of course then we ‘rinse the chlorine off’ in the hotel room shower.  (He hasn’t caught on yet that he’s still getting a real shower with soap and all, so don’t tell!)  Indoor pools are especially fun on a rainy day.
  4. Free breakfast saves us a lot of money on food throughout the week.  This is becoming more and more popular with many hotel chains.  I haven’t seen anyone beat Marriott Residence Inn’s offerings, but some are getting close.  Be sure to ask, though, because it’s also not uncommon for a $17 fruit plate at resorts and upscale hotels.
  5. Cribs, high-chairs and rollaways beds.  We have been a family-bed family, so have not so far needed these.  We always asked the front desk to bring us a high chair when staying at a Residence Inn (they have full kitchens and dining rooms IN the room) and they always happily obliged.   When renting a condo or house, you’ll need to ask the owner in advance (before booking your stay) because there is no ‘front desk’.  Most hotels will have cribs and roll-away beds.  If there’s a restaurant on site, they likely have highchairs.

With our criteria in hand, my first action is to look for a Marriott Residence Inn near where I want to be.  It has all of the criteria listed above.  I love this chain for family vacations because it’s like renting a condo, with all the benefits of a hotel (including maid service).  The chain is an extended stay hotel designed for business travelers, but has become very family friendly- some even allowing pets.  Although you may pay a little more (sometimes it’s even cheaper!) per night for the room than at a standard hotel, the food amenities alone will have you coming out way ahead.   They have a free hot and cold breakfast menu that rivals a Mother’s Day brunch -every day.  They have full-sized kitchens in each room (with ovens) so you can cook and store your own foods (like restaurant leftovers).  My favorite part: they have a grocery service!  You can place your grocery order and they will deliver it to your door with NO delivery fee.  Many of them offer happy hour buffet with free/discounted beer or wine, and they serve kid-friendly food like tacos, spaghetti & meatballs, etc. from 4-6.  Some do this 1-2 nights a week, some do this EVERY night.  Hands down my favorite family friendly hotel is the Marriott Residence Inn.

Okay, enough with the sales pitch… you have your favorites, I have mine.  If there’s no Residence Inn nearby, then I look for other family friendly hotel chains like Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn Suites, AmericInn, Hyatt, Marriott, Westin, Holiday Inn, Homewood Suites, and if I’m feeling flush Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons

I have friends who have had great luck renting condos or houses, and friends who did not have a good experience.  Personally, we travel enough that it really pays to belong to a hotel loyalty program for free and discounted room benefits.  Do you have tips to share on kid-friendly hotels?  Please add your thoughts and tips to the comments below!!

Find the Best Rates on kid-friendly hotels here!

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