Whether you’re traveling with 1 or 10 kids, deciding on where to stay can take days, weeks, and sometimes months of research. How do you choose the right hotel for your family?
Unlike your pre-baby days, it’s no longer just about the cost of the room. Other factors come into play when you travel with young children and the type of hotel and room you reserve determines the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
We are now past the half way mark of the school year. I was gently reminded by my daughter’s school a few weeks ago.
With summer vacation only a few months away, here are a few things to consider before you make that hotel reservation:
1. Sleeping Arrangements
What kind of bed configuration does your family need? Double, Queen, King Beds?
Will the kids share a bed, will they share with you? Will a pullout sofa bed do?
Do you need room for a crib or playpen?
When our kids were infants we either rented a crib or play yard or traveled with one from home and set it up in our hotel room.
Now that they’re older and sleeping on beds at home we are good with two doubles or queen size beds and ask for bed rails (if available) or use chairs to keep them from rolling off.
2. Room Configurations
If your children have a fairly early bedtime, look for a separate sitting area or sleeping area (balcony, separate bedroom, living room etc) so you and your spouse can hang out or watch tv without being forced to sit in the dark starting at 7PM.
If your kids are older, maybe having two connecting might work for your family. The kids get some privacy and you don’t feel packed in like sardines in a 300 square foot (or less) room. An extra bathroom helps too!
Suites might work out to be cheaper than two connecting standard rooms and everyone gets a bit more personal space yet stay in the same room.
3. On-site Activities
We now have one child who naps and one who has completely stopped napping (insert sad face here) so having a standard room only works in some situations when we travel together as a family.
If the hotel is near or has on-site activities that our daughter can enjoy (swimming pool, kids club, attractions that we can walk to) a standard room is the most affordable option for us. Our son takes his naps in the room with either my husband or I and the other parent takes our daughter out for some parent-daughter quality time.
On-site activities also help burn off some energy in between attraction visits and when the weather outside prevents us from leaving the hotel — for example during severe thunderstorms in Orlando or snowstorms in Canada (we’ve had many of those this year!).
4. Food and Drink Storage
If you have a bottle fed or formula fed baby a fridge is a must have.
If you are unable to rent one or get one into your room, check out a hotel chain that have suites with kitchenettes or full kitchens.
A kitchenette with microwave and fridge is great for families who want to save a bit of money on food, snacks, and drinks while they travel.
Eating out three times a day for a week can get expensive quickly and having a kitchenette or full kitchen can help alleviate food costs.
5. On-site Dining Options
Speaking of food, does the hotel have on-site restaurants, a food court or around the clock room service?
If you’re changing time zones, your jet lagged kids may decide to start their day at 3AM in the morning and the last thing you want is to be hungry with nothing to eat. This happened to us once in San Francisco and we waited 3 hours before we could have breakfast . Needless to say everyone was cranky and my husband and I were not on talking terms for the majority of the day. Fun times!
Does the hotel offer complimentary meals or have a kids menu?
Holiday Inn has a Kids Eat Free program and up to four kids (ages 12 and under) eat free at any time of the day in any Holiday Inn on-site restaurant.
This was one of our favourite things about our recent trip to Ottawa and it was evident that many other families took advantage of it too. The on site restaurant was full every morning for breakfast and the majority of the diners were families with young kids.
Breakfast totaled just under $30 and dinner was $45. Not bad considering a lunch we had outside of the hotel came up to $50 for our family of four.
How close do you want to be to the fun? Will you be renting a car, using public transit or walking?
Does your hotel have complimentary shuttles or transportation service to where you want to go?
Location is important when you have strollers, booster seats, sports equipment to carry around with you.
7. Bathtub vs Shower
This applies mainly to parents of little ones. Have you tried taking a squirmy toddler into the shower with you? We have and it’s not fun.
Having a bathtub means a less chaotic bath time and keeps the routine relatively the same as at home. We bring bath products from home because our kids have sensitive skin.
8. Extra Fees
If you need parking, internet access or Wi-fi, laundry services or laundry machines, make sure you factor in these extra costs before you make your reservation.
Holiday Inn offers complimentary Wi-fi to all guests without requiring membership to a loyalty program. One less card to carry around in our wallets and online password to remember.
9. Read the Reviews
When you’re at the research stage or have narrowed down the hotel options, consult the online reviews. There are many websites that have hotel reviews.
We try to share as many photos as possible here when we do hotel reviews so you can get a feel of what to expect. Bathroom pics, food photos and room layout pictures are normally included in our reviews.
When reading other people’s reviews, we pay attention to the bad or negative things people have to say and ask ourselves “Is this a priority for us? Will it ruin our vacation if this happened or we didn’t have this amenity?”
Family friendly is the name of the game now that you’re traveling with kids and hopefully you find these tips helpful. Here’s to good sleep and a perfect vacation!