As I am heading to Seattle this weekend with the kids, I got to thinking about the steps I take to maximize our overall trip experience. This is installment number one, which will be followed by posts on booking activities and choosing restaurants. My ideal criteria is as follows, in this order: great style, kid friendly, good value.
1. Researching Kid Friendly Hotels
My preference leans towards boutique hotels, but it is helpful to first know that the following hotel groups all do a very decent job with babies, toddlers and kids.
Kid Friendly Boutique Hotel Chains
Kimpton (all over U.S.)
Affinia (New York, Chicago, Washington D.C.)
Joie De Vivre (California)
Kids Friendly Large Hotel Chains
Starwood (W/Westin/Sheraton/St.Regis/Meridien/Four Points/Loft)
Hyatt (Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Andaz )
Hilton (Hilton, Conrad, Embassy Suites, Waldorf Astoria, Homewood Suites)
Four Seasons (If you can afford this, just stop reading since you don’t really need this website. Just go there and have their staff roll you around in your money – and yes, I am jealous of you and your Prada luggage.)
2. Booking Kid Friendly Hotels
I like to start by reading hotels reviews on Tripadvisor.com (or another review site would do). I specifically like this one because they make it fairly easy to filter for family reviews.
I will do a search on hotels using specific filters including:
- price range
- minimum reviewer rating ( I look for 4 out of 5 or greater)
- hotel class (number of stars)
Often this will narrow my selection field down to about 10 hotels or less. Then I will look at the reviews from families, looking at each hotel individually (click on “only show reviews for family”).
Once I have narrowed my list down to about 3 or 4 hotels, I will check the prices on Tripadvisor.com, Expedia.com and on the hotel website. Lately however, I have found that I am by far getting my best rates by booking with the hotel directly. The key to this is generally by:
- Joining the hotel loyalty program online (almost always free). This will give you perks such as a better rate (often 10-25% off), welcome gift, newspaper, early/late checkout, room upgrade, free parking etc.
- Booking a fully refundable room (that can be cancelled or modified if a better rate comes along).
- Checking back frequently to see if something better has come up. If so, calling the hotel and asking for the new promotion ( or canceling if a deal has come up at a comparable hotel).
- This one is new for me. I have now started looking at the hotel’s Twitter and Facebook account to see what else they are offering. On a recent trip to Portland, I checked on Twitter and found out that if I said the secret password upon check in, we would qualify for additional treats. So yes, I did feel a bit ridiculous saying “Flip Flop”, but in return I got free parking ($37/night) and a free in room movie. Not bad, right?
3. Other Accommodation Options
For some other less expensive accommodation options, may I suggest:
Hotel Room Auctions Sites – Created as a tool for hotels to liquidate potentially empty hotel rooms (often anonymously until after you purchase) these can be a great deal. I prefer Hotwire.com over Priceline.com since Hotwire allows you to select more than 2 occupants per room.
Vacation Package Auction Sites – There are quite a few of these out there for couples but in my experience the best deals for a family can be found on Familygetaway.com. If you are a little nervous about booking an auction package, please see my post on this subject (Favorite Family Auction Site).
Home and Apartment Rentals -If you would like to do a home or apartment rental (usually start at a 3 or 4 night minimum), I prefer Homeway.com since they allow you to do an advanced search for family friendly accommodation.
4. Additonal Resources
Tablet Kids – a boutique hotel booking site
Travel and Leisure World’s Best Family Hotels List does a pretty good job on the pricey end of things although a few resorts sneak in that are under $200/night.
Tripadvisor does well with their Travelers Choice Top 10 Family Hotels List 2010. Strangely, however, this category does not exist in their 2011 list. It may be because of their relatively new sister website Family Vacation Critic.
Family Vacation Critic – Tripadvisor’s new family review site. I think this site has huge potential but as it is new I find that many good family friendly hotels have not been reviewed yet. For example, there are at least a dozen great hotels for kids in Seattle but only 7 are listed.
5. One Last Comment
No matter how you book your accommodation, if at all possible get the one bedroom with sitting area (for a crib or a pull out), or the suite. Those of you who have hidden under the covers to watch a movie or shared a bottle of wine in the bathroom of a standard room when traveling with a child will know what I am talking about.