How do you get great Hotel Service when you travel with kids?
This is a question I am often asked – simply because travelling brings with it a load of expectations…and there are certain elements you really want to get right.
Whether a fabulous view, service perfection; gorgeous comfy beds (I need a good night’s sleep); help with the kids, hip location – and on the list goes. The trick is knowing what to ask for in advance.
Where we sleep is the part of the holiday I spend the bulk of my pre-trip research. I comb blogs and travel sites for suggestions and unbiased recommendations. I look at maps and distances from the sights we want to see. I make sure the property can accommodate our family of four in a comfortably sized room (or interconnecting rooms), exceptional Kids Clubs used to be a priority; now the boys have grown I look for other activities on offer (usually an xBox does the trick).
Once I settle on a property and confirm our reservation (after checking different sites for comparative rates and availability); I advise the hotel of our children’s ages/special requirements and tick off my check-list (have a look below).
Over the years I have not been immune from making some spectacular errors – save yourself a potential headache – learn from my mistakes and master the art of Luxury Escapes (with kids in tow)!
- Location. Do I want my room to be closer to the Kids Club or restaurants or swimming pool?
- Layout. Can extra rollaway beds fit in the room type, if so, are there charges?
- Upgrades. Quite often very reasonably priced upgrades can be offered upon check-in, so certainly enquire. Loyalty Programs can offer a host of benefits (I love the IHG Rewards Club (Intercontinental Hotels Group). As members we have received Food and Beverage credits, upgrades, free WI/FI, early check-in, late check-out.
- Executive Club. Most big hotel chains offer club access for an additional fee; generally included is preferential room allocation, complimentary breakfast and cocktails – ask on reservation.
My Hotel Mistakes
- I booked a stunning lodge in the French Alps, ‘a 5 minute stroll to town, with a regular bus service’…the marketing blurb read. 20 minutes hike down to the village and back up again each day (with ski gear in hand). A more thorough study of a map would have saved daily angst from exhausted kids (we didn’t see a bus in the ten days we stayed).
- For our first overseas holiday with little kids, I booked a hotel room with direct access to the pool, thinking it would be easier than hauling pool toys and children every time we wanted a dip. I spent two tropical weeks with the doors of the room firmly closed to prevent toddlers escaping to the unfenced pool. I stuck to garden view rooms for several years after that experience.
- If you request interconnecting rooms, ensure it will be guaranteed by the hotel upon reservation. I have had near misses when checking in and our rooms were separated; you can’t put the kids alone on another floor – and not much of a holiday to have The Husband in one room with one child and me in the other…
- Breakfast. Is it included in the room rate? Is there anything that says holiday more than lingering over cup after cup of coffee and grazing from a beautifully prepared buffet….
- Look at the restaurant menus. Can we afford to eat or do we need to put the kids to work to pay for it?
- Cooking facilities. If this is a priority make sure what is provided is adequate – just a microwave does not a kitchen make.
- Check-in/Check-Out times. If you arrive early or have a late departure flight, ask for some leeway with timing of room availability. If you give the hotel some notice many will endeavour to accommodate you.
- Loyalty Program. Is there one available for the hotel you have chosen, does it cost to join, what are the benefits? This is well worth investigating, I have joined free Programs (IHG), and received Food & Beverage credits, room upgrades and late check-out.
- Concierge. This hotel department can be a blessing, helping even before you check-in. Make enquiries to see if they can book tours in advance, quite often they have access to favourable rates – or they might take kickbacks and charge exorbitantly so do your research – again. Let them know if a member of your family has a birthday during your stay, generally hotels like to make a fuss of special occasions.
- Kids Club. Sadly our boys have grown out of them, but in the past we could not have survived many holidays without one – they can make or break your trip. Check minimum and maximum ages and do your research and see what other parents have experienced at the property you are booking.
- Activities. The Peninsula Hotels have a wonderful Academy service – cooking and cultural experiences; the Holiday Inn Vanuatu have a Teens Co-ordinator.
My Hotel Mistakes
- Swimming Pool. Confirm kids are allowed to use it – I was at a property earlier this year where children were only allowed to swim between 7.00-9.00am, check the details to avoid unhappy kids .
- Kids Club I didn’t ask the age minimum for the Kids Club prior to arrival at a resort (reservations should have asked, however you can never assume they will). We arrived for our stay during peak time to be advised our toddler would require a ‘nanny’ to accompany him to the Club, it was only due to a last minute cancellation that we were able to secure said Nanny and also some relaxing ‘baby free’ time.
Hotels and Resorts get it; parents need a holiday too – so find out what is on offer and book in. Companies want to be your friend, they value your recommendations and want you to return – they really, really do…So if you are not completely happy during your stay then you should put on your big girls pants and raise your hand. Providing your request is pleasant and reasonable there is no reason you will not end up with what you WANT.