When it comes to family travel, many resorts go above and beyond to appeal to parents and their children. But even if a hotel doesn't have a waterslide, character-inspired rooms or free snacks, it may still deliver a great experience for kids (and parents, too). Here are some simple ways to gauge if a hotel is really kid-friendly.
There is perhaps no better barometer of a hotel's kid factor than the reports provided by fellow parents. Review sites like TripAdvisor are the first place you should look to see if a property caters to little ones.
According to Maureen Stella, director of sales and marketing for The Pierre New York, A Taj Hotel, reading unbiased reviews can also help visitors decide whether a hotel delivers on its family-friendly promise. "A quick visit to TripAdvisor will tell you if families have stayed [there] and how they rated the hotel's child-appeal," Stella said. "The warmth of staff toward younger guests is something which also indicates how welcome your family will be made to feel."
You can easily filter reviews on TripAdvisor, for example, by clicking on "Families" under the "See reviews for" section. This will help you weed out reviews provided by business or solo travelers.
"Different travelers have different needs and expectations," said Krista Canfield of Gogobot's Getaway Guide. "A place may have five stars, but if it's recommended highly for backpackers or nightlife lovers and you're a family traveler, it may not be the right hotel for you. And that's what matters most."
Look for clues on the hotel's website
While reading reviews is a helpful way to help narrow down your search, visiting the hotel website can also provide clues on the property's targeted client base.
For example, if a hotel only uses images of adults on the website and promotes adult-only pools, couples promotions and fine dining, it may suggest the property caters to an older crowd.
When you're on the hotel's website, look for images of families and kids, highlighted family-friendly amenities or nearby attractions, and child care services or kids camps. These are all strong indicators that a property is equipped to host you and your kids.
Hotels that offer incentives for parents are another useful indicator that a property is geared more toward families. For instance, a hotel may offer complimentary breakfast, babysitting services or allow guests ages 18 and under to stay for free in their parents' room. The good news is that more hotels are focused on providing family-focused experiences to encourage guest retention.
Marti Mayne, a public relations manager for the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Bureau, said parents can evaluate a hotel by asking these questions:
1. Do the rooms accommodate more than one couple easily? Are there a number of suites, lofts or other options for my family to stretch out?
2. Do the rooms come equipped with a bathtub and kitchenette (or at least a fridge)?
3. Are there children's programs or children's amenities at the resort? We're not just talking a playground. The resort should have a year-round pool, plus a game room to keep busy kids happy.
4. Does the resort's location offer plenty of fun for families? Are the nearby attractions easy to reach?
5. Are the rooms affordable enough to enjoy a five-day vacation without breaking the bank?
6. How old is the hotel? This may seem like an unnecessary question, but older hotels usually don't have the same soundproofing that newer properties do, meaning any noise (either from your family or your fellow guests) will carry.
Research kid-friendly brands
With its "Kids for All Seasons" program offering recreational and educational activities, the Four Seasons brand is well-regarded for its ability to provide five-star service to both parents and children. Plus, many of the on-site activities are specific to the hotel's location. At the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, for example, the property offers a turtle education program designed by the Sea Turtle Conservancy to teach youngsters about protecting the endangered species. Meanwhile, at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, the on-site chef hosts a teen pizza-making class.
If you're hoping to stay in a Marriott property, the brand offers a tool on its website that highlights properties (more than 700) that fall into the brand's "family travel" category. You can filter properties to show only hotels with pools, kitchenettes, free breakfast and free high-speed Internet. Westin offers a similar search tool on its website. Meanwhile, Holiday Inn currently offers a "Kids Stay and Eat Free" promotion at all of its properties.
While at first glance a hotel may not appear to be kid-friendly, it could still be a great match if the property offers great customer service to help make all guests -- young or old -- feel at home.