Choosing a hotel for a family vacation can be a daunting task, particularly if it’s a new town. While you don’t always want to be at an all-inclusive family resort (let’s face it, they can be a little cheesy), you do want to make sure that your hotel is child-friendly, offering some basic amenities, and ideally a few perks.
1. The Rooms:
Family-friendly hotels will offer choices in the type of accommodation such as one or two bedroom suites, adjoining rooms, separate villas/cottages or rooms with kitchenettes which tend to work better for families. They also typically have cots and cribs available at no available charge. Hotels that do not favor families typically allow no more than 3 people to a room, even if it’s a large suite or cottage.
2. The Price:
Hotels that are child-friendly will offer a crib, cot and high chair for free (or at a very nominal cost) and typically won’t charge extra for 4-5 people in a room (up to a certain age).
3. The Facilities:
A big giveaway, naturally. Hotels that are child-friendly will have amenities suited for children such as outdoor or indoor swimming pools, baby pools, playgrounds, free dvd rentals, special “camp” or day care activities, in addition to facilities such as bike rentals, sports grounds and “mommy and me” classes at the gym. At non child-friendly hotels: not so much.
4. The Concierge:
Calling the concierge is a great barometer to test the child-friendliness of an accommodation. Let them know that you are checking in with your family and ask them what kind of kid-friendly activities they recommend in and around the hotel. You can judge instantly from their tone, more than their content whether or not kids are welcome.
5. The Food:
Child-friendly hotels offer everything from extensive kids’ menus at every restaurant and through room service to kids (under a certain age) eating free, special buffets at every meal and free snacks available through the day.
6. The Restaurants:
In a child-friendly hotel there will be several options that are casual and suitable for kids, all equipped with high chairs, boosters and coloring kits. There may be one or more “formal” options that are adult-only for other customers such as business travelers or parents without kids.
7. The Services:
There is no end to the services that are offered at truly child-friendly hotels. Personal babysitters, full-scale daycare centers, special classes, group activities and family events that include things like music, magic, face-painting, s’mores and fireplaces, and the list goes on. Inquire at the concierge or in the hotel brochure in your room, or look on the website before booking.
8. The Location:
Hotels that cater to families will be located close to the major tourist attractions, whereas hotels that attract business travelers will be located in the financial districts of the city. Often these are close together, but if they are not, you know which one to pick.
9. The “Frills”:
Special programs for kids, free cookies and shakes at tea-time, robes and slippers…..you know they love ya if there is free warm milk.
10. The Website:
If a hotel wants to welcome families it will be plastered all over its website. If the description of the rooms focuses on the desk and the fax machine over the bunk beds and free milk, it’s a pretty solid sign that you should be booking elsewhere. Bonus points if they have a separate section for kids like the Four Seasons has.
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