In case you missed the news, the girls and I are flying to the US Virgin Islands to go see Eben and our friends!!! I am now looking into hotels for our layovers between flights.
I think I can say with confidence that with all of our travels I have gotten pretty good at navigating search engines looking for the best Family Friendly Hotels, and narrowing down if they have what we need for a specific trip. Sometimes I am looking for budget, sometimes comfort/luxury, sometimes proximity. Whatever I am looking for, 99% of the time we need it to be a kid-friendly hotel, because it’s not often we travel without the girls!
Here are some of the things I look for to make sure we get exactly what we need:
Let’s start with a LAYOVER scenario, because that is what I am currently looking for, and that is where my brain is currently at!
After a few hours of being cooped up on a plane we all need somewhere comfortable and non-complicated to crash.
These are pretty key. If the hotel is not directly in the airport, a FREE airport shuttle is the first thing I look for. We don’t need the headache of trying to catch a cab, bus, or find a ride, while dealing with two tired kids and all our luggage.
My number #1 is knowing that there is a shuttle that can pick us up at the airport and return us there for our next flight.
Not only is this the girls’ favourite part about staying in hotels, but it makes “getting up and going” really easy.
The first thing the girls always ask when I tell them we will stay in a hotel is, “Do they have a buffet breakfast?”
Forget doing dishes, forget finding the closest grocery store, forget eating at the overly priced airport. A hotel with a complimentary breakfast is GOLDEN! If you have a super early flight some hotels even offer to-go breakfasts for free (muffin, fruit, yogurt, juice.)
SWIMMING POOLS/HOT TUBS
Although a pool is not necessary, it is a great perk to have. It’s somewhere the girls can go goof around and burn off some energy. The last thing we want is to have them in the hotel room watching tv after they just had a flight full of watching airplane movies!
Pools provide the girls with somewhere they can be kids. They also serve as a good place to kill time if you have a longer layover. And if they have a hot tub next to the pool, they serve as a nice place for parents to relax while the kiddos let loose.
The fun part (for the person paying for the hotel bill) about hotels that check off the three above points, is that they are also often budget-friendly. Think of places like the Hampton Inn, Days Inn, La Quinta, Best Westerns, etc. (As you can see from our pics, we especially like the Hilton hotels.) They usually are all around the same price point. They qualify as budget-friendly hotels that also accommodate families perfectly for a layover.
If not booking directly through a hotel, one website we use a lot is HOTWIRE. (no affiliations). On this site you book “blind”. You choose the neighbourhood, star rating and amenities that you are looking for in a hotel, but you don’t get to know the name until you have booked. The site will give you a few of the names of hotels that fall into the categories that you have selected, and when you click on a price you like it will sometimes also tell you “what hotel the last person that booked at this price got”. So you get an idea, but it is still a gamble. But because of this system, you get rooms at big discounts.
For this site, I jump on, select the area I want, that we want a free shuttle, complimentary breakfast, and pool. Then I can see the neighbourhoods in the vicinity, click the one I want (if we have a preference), and then price shop. I often also open google maps and compare which hotels are in that neighbourhood to try to get a better guess at which hotel is being offered at that price. I also largely base our selection on what the “previous buyer” got. If it is something we are ok with, then I cross my fingers and click BOOK, hoping we get the same one!
All of the above points also apply when I am looking for a hotel that I know we will be staying in for a longer amount of time. But for longer-stays there are some added criteria.
Sometimes we want to feel like we are at home when we are travelling. If staying somewhere long enough we also search Airbnb for rental options.
Having an airport shuttle is nice, but if we are staying somewhere for a longer period of time, it’s not proximity to the airport that I am looking for, but rather proximity to the things we are hoping to go see.
(Although if they have a free shuttle and are close to our points of interest then they are winning!)
We want to know that the hotel is in a neighbourhood that we are keen on visiting. That there are restaurants in walking distance. And that public transportation is also available close-by.
There is no point getting the hotel across town because it is cheaper if you are then going to spend a ridiculous amount of time AND MONEY to get to where you are wanting to visit.
Also, think about nap times. If you are wanting to stick to your kids’ to nap time routine, and have them nap in a bed, you want your hotel to be close to your sight-seeing spots, so that you can go back to the hotel for a mid-day break, and then continue on your adventures in the afternoon.
Being able to cook for ourselves while we are travelling is a great way to be able to reduce our travel costs. We also get fed-up with airport and fast-food quite quick, so having a kitchenette allows us to prepare healthy meals for ourselves even when travelling.
They also help you NOT attack the costly mini-fridge! Fill your full-sized fridge with all your go-to snacks for when you and the kids get peckish.
SIZE OF ROOM
For longer stays it is nice to have a larger room so that the kids have some space. We prefer getting a room that has the bedroom separated from the living space, or two separate bedrooms. That way we can put the girls to sleep at night and not worry that our conversations or tv shows will keep them awake.
A couch is a nice bonus too, that way you don’t feel like you are sitting in your bed while watching tv.
Indoor space, outdoor space, kids need space. And parents sometimes need space from their kids. Having a little extra space can make the trip more enjoyable for the entire family.
It may be because our girls were raised on a sailboat (without an actual bathtub, Rubbermaid bins don’t count!), but they go nuts when we get a hotel room with a bathtub! Because of their small stature, having a bathtub is like having their personal pool in their hotel room!
So having a bathtub is not only SO EXCITING for them, but it’s also super nice for us, because while they are splashing around in the tub for hours, we can relax and enjoy our hotel stay.
This won’t make or break our hotel decision, but it is a nice bonus to know that a hotel offers coin-operated washing machines. If you know in advance that the hotel you are staying at has self-serve laundry options, then it can reduce the amount of clothes that you need to pack. Bonus!
ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS/CRUISE SHIPS
If all you want to do is plop yourself in the sun, not have to think about meal prep, cooking, cleaning, and all that, then these make for a great vacation.
MAKE SURE IT IS KID-FRIENDLY
I find that there are more and more hotels and resorts that are geared towards the adult-only, and/or the partying crowd. If you are looking to book an all-inclusive via a search engine, I also recommend going directly on to the resorts website and checking to make sure that it is kid-friendly!
We check the food/restaurant options at the resort. Knowing we will be eating only on “the grounds” of the resort, we want to make sure that there are food options that will please both the kids and adults. And we also want to make sure that there is a variety of restaurants so that we don’t end up eating at one restaurant for the duration of our entire trip.
Some resorts and cruises have “included” and “paid” restaurants. Read closely what is included in the package that you are booking, because some of the restaurants are only available at an extra cost.
Having a stellar kids club is AMAZING!!! We don’t go to resorts thinking, “Yes! We can drop the kids at kids club and relax by the pool all day!”. Our trips are about family time. But some resorts have such fun kids clubs that the girls ASK to go spend time there.
And there is nothing wrong with a few hours apart!
We had one resort that the kids club was so amazing that the girls wanted to spend all their time there! It left Eben and I feeling pretty boring! But we were happy to see the girls enjoying their trip so much.
Some resorts do offer babysitting services. If you envision a kid-free evening at one of the resort restaurants, check with the concierge to see what they can offer.
We have hired resort babysitters a couple of times. On both occasions they happened to be the same staff that worked at the Kids Club, which was nice for the girls because they have met them prior in the day and felt more comfortable with them.
When booking a hotel, for any amount of time, we check for HIDDEN fees. Sometimes the booking price seems great, but then you see that you have to pay extra for things like:
- resort fees
- in-room wi-fi
Seeing these extra fees sometimes sends me looking for other hotel options.
And then there are the “extras”. The little things that make it so that this hotel will be memorable for both you and your kids.
We have come across these during our travels to Disneyland and Las Vegas. Our girls still talk about the time we stayed at Circus Circus. Thanks to that hotel the girls now think that Las Vegas is one of the best places on earth!
Really cool water parks, movie theatres, game rooms. Booking a hotel that offers some of these may make you SUPER COOL in your kids eyes! They are also a fun way of entertaining the kids without having to wander off-site.
We have stayed at some hotels that have put mini bathrobes and slippers in our room. Had toys there for the girls. And gifted us with delicious sweet treats. These small bonuses, although not needed, do show that the hotel cares about our kids too. It’s a nice feeling.
Are there any other tips that I am missing out on? Any tricks that you have picked up while booking family friendly hotels? Let us know, because we have many more hotel stays in our future!
To see some of our favourite things to entertain the kids while we travel, go directly to our SHOP!