UPDATED FEBRUARY 2015
Hotels that truly cater to families offer amenities that make the family vacation better – preferably for no extra charge. How do you recognize a hotel that really wants your business? Look for these family-friendly amenities:
My kids don’t care where we go or what we do as long as they get quality time in the hotel pool. Some hotels provide little more than a concrete hole in the ground, while others have water slides, splash pads and pool toys. Obviously we prefer the latter, but any warm, clean and well-maintained pool works for us. If you’re traveling to a place with cooler weather, consider choosing a hotel with an indoor pool.
My pick: Check out the water slides, splash pad and family pools at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California!
If a hotel doesn’t offer in-room refrigerators, it’s usually a deal breaker. The pool is #1 for my children, but the mini-fridge is #1 for me because of the convenience and cost savings it provides. The mini fridge is essential for storing picnic supplies, leftovers and snacks. A microwave is nice to have too.
My pick: Frenchy’s Oasis Motel in Clearwater, Florida where rooms have full kitchens!
When my family of four shares a hotel room, everyone usually has to share a bed. It can be difficult enough to get a good night’s sleep in an unfamiliar place, but when we have to crowd into double beds, it can be nearly impossible. It seems that somebody’s hand (or foot) is always in my face, and is it just my kids who kick and sprawl all night long?
Nevertheless, I’ve been surprised at how many hotels – even better brands – put double beds into their rooms instead of queens. If the bed size is not clear on the hotel’s website, call before you book.
My pick: West Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, California. Every bed in this hotel is king-size!
These days, complimentary Wi-Fi is now available in so many places that it’s memorable (in a bad way) when we settle into a hotel where it isn’t. Almost as bad is Wi-Fi that is unreliable or difficult to access.
Families travel with their electronic devices for entertainment, employment, and real-time vacation planning. We need to be connected so we can Instagram, Share and Tweet photos of our view or the kids playing in the hotel pool to our friends at home.
My pick: Wyndham Garden Long Island City in Queens, New York. They have complimentary Wi-Fi and lots of easy-to-find outlets for recharging devices.
On-site guest laundry
It’s easier for a family to pack light when a hotel offers guest laundry facilities. On-site coin-operated washers and dryers are an amenity I’m always glad to see, and even more so when the machines are clean, well-maintained and plentiful enough to go around.
This one is not a deal breaker for me, but a good complimentary breakfast gives a family hotel an edge. Some hotels offer little more than a waffle maker and juice, while better free breakfasts include a variety of items including eggs, bacon, yogurt, fresh fruit and more.
My pick: University Guest House in Salt Lake City, Utah. It offers a wide variety of fresh hot and cold options to suit most tastes.
Cartoon Network is not always appropriate for kids after dark, but at some big-name hotels, that’s the only “family” station available as the kids settle down after a busy day of sightseeing. Disney Channel and/or Nickelodeon are more reliable for family-friendly entertainment. ABC Family, HBO Family, Discovery Family and others like them are good alternatives too.
My pick: Cliff Lodge at Snowbird. There is much more to recommend Cliff Lodge, but the TV is memorable because we hooked our kids up with Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb and a pizza and then enjoyed a romantic dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. Everyone was happy!
Clean Pack-n-Play upon request
When my children were this age, we usually brought our own Pack-n-Play on road trips, but sometimes that’s not practical. Family hotels nearly always have a few Pack-n-Plays on hand. However, it’s important that they be clean and in good condition. It’s alarming how often that isn’t the case.
Sorry, no pick here! We haven’t used this service in years, but it’s essential for families with young children.
I don’t always carve time out of our vacation to visit the exercise room, but it’s nice to have when I have a little time and energy to spare. It’s a good way to get a little time to myself and burn off some of those vacation calories!
My pick: The vast fitness room at Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York. When I say “vast”, think racquetball court vast.
Here are a few more awesome family-friendly perks that I’ve seen at hotels that really know how to take care of families:
- Kids clubs
- Family activities
- Babysitting services
- Complimentary airport and local shuttle service
- Complimentary cookies and milk in the evenings
- Complimentary use of beach chairs and toys
- Complimentary use of pool toys
- In-room DVD players, with a complimentary DVD lending library
- Board game lending library
- Game room with billiards, foosball and/or ping pong
- Grocery delivery
- Diaper and formula delivery
What are your family’s must-have amenities?
Please share your suggestions in the comments!