What to Look For When Choosing a Hotel for Family Vacations
I have always loved a good hotel. I love great service, a cozy bed, a fluffy robe, and the general hospitality that a nice resort provides. It only took one stay with Baby B for me to realize that we would need to be a little more strategic in how we decide where to stay. All of a sudden our time spent in the room drastically increased, whether it was because of naptime, early bedtime, or just needing a quiet place to retreat to with a fussy baby. It has taken us a few tries to get a formula down for what to prioritize, but we have recently nailed the key to making our vacations feel a little more vacation-y just by adjusting how we choose hotels. Follow our guide, and you are sure to have a lovely trip even if you never leave your hotel!
(And why would you ever leave if you had a view like this?)
In the Room:
The joy of staying at a nice hotel, is that it is at least as comfortable as your home but in a delightful new location. This level of comfort is hard to come by when you have kids traveling with you, unless the room has a few key features.
-Two separate areas (two bedrooms, a bedroom and separate living area, or just a pleasant balcony or terrace.)
If you have two bedrooms or a bedroom and living area, this serves two purposes. Not only will you be spared from eating room service dinner on the ground by light of the bathroom, but you also won't have to tiptoe around your room in the dark during naps or an early bedtime. In addition, the extra space is a sanity saver when you have a child that isn't sleeping through the night and needs comforting. Instead of both parents waking up and experiencing the wrath of an overtired family on vacation, you can take turns like your normal routine in the separate space without having to worry about waking the whole room. If your budget does not allow for a suite, consider finding some wiggle room to upgrade to a hotel that has a balcony or terrace. You still may do some tiptoeing, but will have a nice area to relax in outdoors while your room is occupied by your favorite napper.
-Large enough for crib and walking space
If you have chosen a room with two separate areas, this one is easy! If you are unable to add that luxury to your vacation, at least look for a larger room. Scour photos online to see the setup- is there minimal space next to the bed and a desk that will prevent you from putting a travel crib down? Make sure you have ample space and you'll be thanking me when you don't trip over your daughter's crib in the middle of the night, which of course will wake her up and cause you to spend the next hour comforting her instead of brushing your teeth as planned (not that this has ever happened to me...)
**Note- I always recommend bringing your own travel crib. Many hotels will provide them, but often they are strange (and that description is being rather kind for some that we have experienced). Having your own will give you peace of mind, and allow your child to have a constant while away from their bed. Check out our favorite items to travel with for my recommendations!
You can typically find this description when you look at a hotel on a travel website like hotels.com (it may not be listed on the hotel website itself). This may seem like an obvious one, but we never thought to verify that the rooms were soundproof until we had a baby. You know what is worse than feeling guilty about your baby's cries waking your hotel neighbor? Your hotel neighbor's action movie on TV waking your baby. Just make sure the walls are nice and thick when you book the hotel. If this cannot be done, request at reception to be in an area with empty rooms around it if the resort is not sold out.
-A great view
This is a bonus item- there are some locations you may travel to where this just isn't possible. When it is possible, however, it is a Game. Changer. and worth every penny to upgrade. Think of me when you are sipping wine watching the sunset over the ocean while your tot rests peacefully inside (Sunset view, wine, and an early bedtime? That is my favorite kind of vacation).
(Sunset in Positano from Hotel Marincanto-one of our favorite evenings on the trip, even though Bella was in bed by 6:30!)
-A fridge, or at least access to constant buckets of ice (champagne optional with the ice buckets but highly recommended)
This tip will make much more sense the first time you wake up to find all of your pumped milk has been at room temperature all night because the mini bar fridge is set at 78 degrees.
A good hotel breakfast is one of my favorite parts of vacation. It seems trivial, but I have found that it brings a stress free start to our day. The timing always works out incredibly well. Bella wakes up, and is happiest in the morning. We have a little time to get ready before going down to breakfast, then enjoy a relaxing meal where B distracts herself with all the new food. My husband and I get to relax with great coffee before the day really starts. After breakfast, Bella gets a nap, and we get to rest knowing she at least got one solid nap in before the day really begins. During her nap we organize the room and get ready for our adventures so they can be efficient. It is possible to experience something like this if you have breakfast nearby, but the extra travel time between locations takes something away from rolling out of bed and heading to the hotel lobby for a great meal.
(Bella loves a good hotel breakfast also!)
-Air conditioning (avoid wall units)
This may seem like another obvious one, but may take a little sleuthing. A wall unit when you have a baby sleeping in a crib on the ground is particularly useless to providing any comfort. If your child is anything like mine, they will hate to sleep when it is warm, and it will be near impossible to get them down at night if you are in a beachfront room that has a dinky wall unit for air conditioning. We had the misfortune of staying in a room with a window unit once (the hotel advertised air conditioning, but when you looked at the room description it specified that it was a window unit). This meant in order to get any air flow, the curtains had to be open (which means bright bright room). It was 100 degrees and humid out, and stayed light until 9pm. Needless to say, none of us got much sleep on that trip
-Restaurant *look at opening hours, room service is a bonus
Unless one of the people in your party is open to searching the town for takeaway while the other watches your sleeping baby, a hotel restaurant is key to a relaxing vacation. Make sure you find their opening hours (if they don't open for dinner until 7:30 and you are used to eating at 5pm, you will need to create a plan for food if you don't want to get hangry and grumpy trapped in your room with a sleeping child)
**Bonus- if the hotel has an executive lounge, I recommend making the upgrade. This is helpful if you just need a snack, or a quiet place to get away from your room for a few minutes
-Close to the majority of activities you would like to complete
This does not ring true if you are staying at a more rural resort and want to just enjoy the amenities offered there. It is particularly important, however, when you want to do some exploring in a city environment. Before children, a 15 minute train ride probably seemed like a fairly central location. Depending on your child's age, their happy awake time is going to be limited. If your infant has an average of 3 hours happy and awake, that extra time traveling makes a big difference in the quality of your trip (3 hours-30 minutes getting fed and changed- 10 minutes round trip walk to/from the station-30 minutes round trip train ride-15 minute cushion for getting lost and now you officially only have 1 hour and 35 minutes left to enjoy the area before you have a cranky child). Choose the most central location possible, and you will buy yourself a lot of sightseeing time!
(A private beach makes for the perfect hotel location-this one is at Hotel Marincanto in Positano. Can you tell we loved our stay there?)
I hope this guide helps make your vacation just lovely! Where have you stayed as a family that has been memorable? I would love to hear your top priorities when choosing a vacation spot!