By Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino!
This is a guest post from Amie O’Shaughnessy, the Editor of CiaoBambino.com, a guide to traveling with kids and the best, worldwide kid-friendly hotels and resorts.
Do you have many families stay with you?
If a hotel is not reviewed or rated for families by a trusted source, it’s always helpful to get a sense for the kid-friendly factor ahead of time. The answer can be telling; if a hotel welcome families they will give you a positive answer without a long list of caveats.
Which room configurations support your family?
Although US-based hotels are more standard in their room configurations, it’s always essential to understand all the available options. This may significantly impact the nightly rate and your comfort level.
Prioritize price, space, and sleeping separation according to your family needs and make decisions only when you understand all the options. The least expensive room may be the one that is the most cramped, and likewise, just because a hotel quotes a suite, doesn’t mean this room type is the one that is the most spacious.
What are the exact bed sizes in a room?
The least expensive room option is often one with two beds in a single room. It is not unusual for hotels to have “double” versus “queen” beds — a big difference for mom and dad who may be used to a queen or king bed.
Where is the room located on the property?
In large resorts, the hassle factor grows exponentially if your room is miles away from the kid-focused amenities. Another issue is noise. Will noise help or hinder sleep? Hotels know which rooms are quiet and those that aren’t and can advise accordingly.
Note: some hotels won’t guarantee a specific room prior to arrival but you can always ask them to make a note in your reservation record.
What amenities are included in the room?
An increasing number of hotels have kitchenette facilities available. This is very helpful with young children (see my article on finding toddler-friendly hotels). Most hotels can offer cribs or portable cribs. Be sure and understand if use of a crib involves a nightly fee. In addition, some hotels can bring things in “on request” like microwaves, games, baby proofing supplies and DVD players.
Does the room have private outdoor seating?
When our son was young and needed to get to bed early, this was a key amenity for us. In lieu of spending more on a suite or two rooms, we’d get a standard double with a balcony. That way we had a place to go after we put him to bed. Clearly, weather can play an issue in making this strategy work.
If the room has a balcony or indoor stairs, are they safe for a toddler?
In Europe, many accommodations have stairs. It may be a “duplex” in a city or hotel or resort-type properties in the countryside. The bottom line is that stairs may be unavoidable. The key is to ensure that the stairs are not open and dangerous or too steep to safely carry a young child. Balconies can be scary. If this is a concern, at request a room on a low or ground floor.
Is the swimming pool fenced? If it is unfenced, how far away is your room from the pool?
This issue impacts independent home rentals more than hotel stays, but it is still essential to understand the set-up and request room placement accordingly.
Does the hotel have an onsite restaurant? If so, what time does it open, do they have and do they have a kids’ menu?
If you don’t have a kitchen, not having to trek to an outside restaurant every night can be a plus. This strategy works if the restaurant is kid-friendly. In Europe, hotels won’t necessarily have kids’ menus but more often or not restaurants are willing to make modified meals for kids. None of this matters, however, if the restaurant doesn’t open until 8p (hello Spain).
You may not be able to change the outcome of whatever situation is in place but at least you can plan accordingly. Room service can be useful in these situations too.
What is included/excluded in my nightly rate?
Incremental charges can be a nasty surprise—especially when they are not known until check-out. Your hotel rate may seem really great until you learn that the rate excludes an additional 20% in taxes. Other “gotchas” include nightly resort fees, parking fees, and Internet service fees.
Ask about breakfast too. At a luxury hotel, the average breakfast may cost $25 per person and up. When there’s a Starbucks next to the hotel, this may not matter as much but when hotels are isolated and the only game in town is the hotel breakfast, the rate matters.
Bonus Question: What is the distance from the hotel from the nearest hospital?
This is not as relevant in cities as it is in countryside destinations, and is particularly important when traveling abroad.
Ciao Bambino features comprehensive hotel reviews that include age-appropriate ratings, average babysitting rates, kids’ club rules, and other “families should know” caveats. Hotel requests can be made right through the Ciao Bambino website, enabling families to access the best available family-oriented rates and promotions. Our requests go directly to the property via email to ensure parents have an easy way to make special requests.