A family affair
Last updated: March 14, 2022
RightRooms finds out what one mum looks for when booking holiday accommodation with her young family.
Anna has a very young family, so when she’s booking a hotel she has to consider both the baby and toddler when deciding on a destination. Catering for different ages can be tricky when booking into a hotel.
She explains: “The main problem I find is that in a family room they put in a child’s bed - and then there’s no space for the travel cot. And the beds are often heavy, so are hard to move - especially if I’m travelling on my own. It would be so much easier if they left space for the cot, or actually provided the cot.’’
Many hotels now are beautifully decorated and styled, but this can also be a hazard for parents of little ones. Anna says that knowing that the room has been child-proofed before you arrive takes a lot of the stress out of the situation. After all, no one wants to get a bill for a broken vase after a holiday stay.
Safety is crucial - especially with younger children. Knowing how low the windows are in your room is a must - especially if your little monkey is a bit of a climber. Even knowing how the pool is set up can make a difference. Anna has had to carry a baby, and supervise a small child, so having to negotiate a ladder into the pool is tricky. A walk-in pool is far easier on the nerves of the travelling parent. And knowing if there is extra equipment such as floats and armbands on hand, if necessary, can be a great help too.
Other safety issues that Anna has highlighted include the presence of child-height locks and handles on doors. They should she says, either be above a child’s reach, or include a child lock. There is such stress in imagining your toddler could leave your hotel room in the middle of the night.
Flooring can also be an issue. Ceramic tiling is easy to clean, but is very unfriendly for a nearly-toddler. Not only is it easy to slip on, and cold to little feet that are bare or in socks, but falls on such a hard surface can be dangerous. Anna explains that knowing what you’re going to be dealing with in a room or bathroom is helpful when you already have to have eyes in the back of your head with little ones.
Making the difference
So what can really make the difference when travelling? “It’s lovely when people are sympathetic,’’ said Anna. “ I was travelling in August and it was so hot. The person on the desk said they would move us to a downstairs floor. Sometimes, just having a bit of empathy can make all the difference. I travel on my own with the children quite often, and having someone recognise that I already have my hands full with children, buggies, bags etc, can really make or break the situation when we check in. A friendly extra pair of hands from someone who understands what parenting is like can make or break a hotel stay.’’
Anna would especially like to see a member of staff assigned to parents, especially if you are travelling alone with very small children. Hotels will sometimes assign a staff member to someone with additional needs or disabilities and she thinks a similar offering for parents would make a positive difference to a stay. They should be “someone who has some experience, and can appreciate that trying to hold a newborn and deal with check-in and bags is going to be hard’’.
And in general, staff who are kind and friendly to the children can transform a good stay into a great one. A warm smile, a joke with the kids, maybe a little offer of a treat on check in - an activity pack, small stuffed toy or similar - can make both children and parents feel welcome.
In fact, feeling as if you are really welcome is really important, Anna points out. “Some places say they are child-friendly, but when you get there they make you feel like you are a nuisance. They may offer some child-friendly features - such as high chairs, or cots - but actually welcoming children is a very different thing. In fact, if they don’t really want children in the hotel, I’d rather they make that clear. We would simply choose another option.’’
While parents with young children may like a quiet room away from a hotel bar, or disco, or karaoke night, they also hope for quiet rooms for another reason. “I remember staying somewhere and the room felt quite soundproof . That was a relief because I was so worried about the children waking others up in the night,’’ Anna recalls.
Out of hours
The odd waking hours of parents is another thing that should be considered. If your children slept through every night until 7.30am that is lucky for you but it’s different for the parents of early risers who are awake at 5.30am. That’s fine when you're at home, but when you're in an unfamiliar place, knowing that there is breakfast laid out in the dining area - and access to food or milk warming facilities at random times of the night or early morning, can help the travelling parent feel less alone in those odd hours before the rest of the world awakes.
The same is true at bedtime - for some children, the absence of a warm bottle of milk can mean that there will be sleep for no one. Knowing that it is possible to get that set up is going to make a huge difference to how a parent enjoys their stay.
Before you even get to the hotel, booking online can be a hurdle - Anna has found that she’s added in the search that she is bringing a child and then gets right to the end of the booking before it says the room is not suitable for children - the good news, though is that RightRooms has asked hotels a multitude of questions about their family-friendly offering, so booking through the site should be far more straightforward, with no nasty surprises.
You are what you eat
Food is another important consideration. If you’re lucky there will be toddler and child menus, so that the size and price of meals is suitable for the age of your children. But you may have other considerations - Anna says she would be looking for low-salt options for her one-year-old; wondering if there are options for an early dinner time for the children; and how she will manage a buffet breakfast on her own with two small children?
Larger family friendly?
We’ve spoken quite a lot about support for parents travelling alone, but what happens when you have three, four, or five children? For several parents we spoke to, travelling to hotels with anything over the average number of two children was a real headache. Having to pay for another room - and then not being guaranteed that the rooms will be adjoining, means that parents end up each sleeping in a different room with various siblings - not really much of a holiday. Hotels that can provide family rooms for larger families (or adjoining rooms at a family discount) will definitely get a big tick from these families.
And when it comes to space, parents of young children are likely to spend more time in their hotel room, rather than out on the tiles. A little extra room for kids to set up some toys to play, or for parents to sit with a glass of wine once the little ones have gone to sleep is always welcome.
Talking of child-free time, anyone with preschool aged children will be happy to hear that some child care is included in the price of their room. A number of hotels include around 90 minutes of childcare in the price of a night’s accommodation - just enough time to enjoy a relaxed lunch, a romantic stroll, a drink in a bar or just a snooze without fear of being interrupted.
For those with older children, ensuring they are entertained is important. If that entertainment keeps them away from screens all the better. The Grove in Hertfordshire not only has a kids club, but offers activities from horse riding to archery, bush craft and tree climbing. There are even football camps run by former Premier League footballers. Leaving parents time to enjoy a treatment in the spa, stroll in the grounds or enjoy a round of golf.
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RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.