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Top 5 Family-Friendly Hotels

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You may not truly appreciate superior customer service that the best family-friendly hotels demonstrate until you show up in the lobby of a hotel with your kids – crying, shaking and gasping for air. And that’s just you.

I recently drove my infant and 3-year-old from the Jersey ‘burbs into the heart of Manhattan without a GPS or smartphone. (I dropped and busted my Droid the day before the trip and was relying on old-school maps, a Cracker Jack compass and the kindness of strangers.)

After getting jammed up in the Lincoln Tunnel, lost in Chelsea and cut off by a gypsy cab, we finally rolled into the drop-off zone of our Hilton. Then we had to wait in the lobby for 30 minutes because of a reservation snafu – my fault – not the hotels. Just as the kids were on the precipice of having their emotions rightfully runneth over, two employees came over with toys and smiles to totally disarm them. It appeared genuine and spontaneous, even if they had done this hundreds of times before.

It worked, and as we checked in, I quickly realized I wouldn’t soon forget this rare, warm hospitality. In building a list of the top five family-friendly hotels, we didn’t just take into consideration the rates, amenities and accolades hotels earned. We also talked to families in search of golden nuggets like these.

Here are the top five family-friendly hotels brands based on our research. There are other great ones out there, but these are all safe bets for your next jet-setting getaway or minivan adventure.

Kimpton Hotels

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Price range: Luxury, under $200 to $600/night or more based on our rate research.

Availability: More than 60 hotels spread across the United States, many of which are in big cities, making it the largest U.S. boutique hotel chain.1

Do your kids miss their cat or have they become bored of their imaginary friend? No worries, because at Kimpton, they’ll deliver a goldfish to your room to keep the kiddos company. Seriously. Your wee ones will also enjoy a welcome gift, bunk beds, a kid’s happy hour and more. And you’ll enjoy accredited babysitters, available cribs and strollers, and the peace of mind that Kimpton has kiddie-proofed your room: outlet covers, toilet latches and more.2

Many Kimpton hotels also offer pools and family-friendly restaurants – with good food. We’re talking about culinary delights such as Branzino Striato (striped sea bass) and Margherita wood-fired pizza. That’s much better than microwaving an overpriced Hot Pocket in the lobby, right?

Some of Kimpton’s brands include the Monaco Hotel and Hotel Palomar. You’re certainly paying a premium for the extra and kid-friendly features, and it’s easy to get spoiled and frustrated; only 60-ish hotels nationwide leaves a hefty “dead zone.” But consider this: Kimpton earned a spot on the recent Fortune magazine list of the Best Companies to Work for in America. And happy employees usually translate to amazing customer service for you and your family. So maybe driving out of the way is worth it.3

Embassy Suites

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Price range: Average nightly rate is $146.504

Availability: More than 200 hotels in the United States, Canada and Latin America

When we asked around to get some anecdotal input as to who to include as the top family-friendly hotels, we heard “Embassy Suites” more than any other national hotel chain.

From the extra space – the two-room suites are critical for keeping the peace at night – to the made-to-order omelets, free happy hour snacks and drinks, pools and koi ponds, there is a lot to love about Embassy Suites. Two rooms is about having more than a wall between the parents and kids; it’s about having two separate TVs, too. Additional amenities include access to onsite laundry facilities, a gym, Wi-Fi, in-room fridges and microwaves (and gaming systems), as cribs when requested.

The hotel’s reputation is bolstered by pretty much any family friendly accolade that’s out there. A Hilton brand, Embassy Suites has been a top family choice from travel authorities ranging from Trip Advisor to Zagat and Parents Magazine.

User-friendly and overflowing with value, Embassy Suites’ locations may actually dictate your travel plans. Because once the family gets everything they want, it’s tough to rough it somewhere else.5

Comfort Suites

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Price Range: From under $100/night to $200 plus, based on our research

Availability: It’s hard to narrow in on just the Comfort Suites brand, but it’s mothership, Choice Hotels, boasts more than 6,300 properties across the United States and more than 35 countries.6

Sometimes, hotels just happen to be in the right spot at the right time. This has been my experience with Comfort Suites, a roomier, more modern version of the traditional Comfort Inn. We were shooting up north for the holidays during a snow storm when my eyelids were feeling heavy, so we pulled over around midnight in Gettysburg, Pa. We were at the Comfort Suites maybe six hours – we received a hugely discounted rate – and the kids may not have even noticed, except for the up-close-and-personal view of the Civil War cemetery within an arm’s reach of our room’s rear window. It was a little creepy, but a nice impromptu history lesson.

Anyways, the Comfort Suites might as well be a Springhill Suites or a Fairfield Inn. All tend to boast some extra square feet, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and an overall intuitive setup for the family. The rates tend to be friendly, too. Specifically, Comfort Suites offers 25 percent more space than a standard room, 100-percent smoke-free accommodations throughout the hotel, and waffles. Go ahead, no one is looking, put one in your purse.7

Hampton Inn

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Price Range: Average nightly rate is $111.214

Availability: About 2,000 locations worldwide, including 1,800-plus in the United States

Hampton Inn is everywhere. And that’s part of the reason it makes this list. If you’re cruising down I-95 and there is a single hotel in the one-traffic light town you’re approaching, odds are that it’s a Hampton Inn.

Yet despite this gigantic footprint, Hampton does another thing well that’s important to traveling families: consistency. You more or less know what’s going to be in the free breakfast, how the room will be laid out, that there’s a micro-gym to break a sweat in, and that the staff will be mostly friendly. The Wi-Fi and the coffee is always hot. And, cross your fingers, there is probably a pool.

There might even be a few Hampton Inn wrinkles that you’re not aware of. For example, did you know that if you don’t have time to run the family through the free breakfast gauntlet in the morning and sit down for meal time, that Hampton Inn offers breakfast bags for you? Or that those strange, uncomfortable pillows are actually lap desks built for working in bed?

Hampton Inn isn’t going to shock and awe you with spacious rooms or bell boys entertaining your kids with sock puppets. But it’s a rock solid family hotel option built for a drama-free, drive-by pop-in or weekend getaway.8

Red Roof Inn

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Price Range: Between $40 and $609

Availability: 400-plus locations around the country10

It’s still possible to put the family up for a night on the road for the cash in your wallet – and to sleep safe and sound. Red Roof Inn is a budget motel that has several advantages over the likes of Super 8, Howard Johnson and Motel 6.

First off, it’s pet friendly. One mutt or cat can stowaway on your rented mattress per night at no cost at almost all locations. If you’ve ever paid upward of $100 just to have your poodle sleep on the shower mat, you know what a great benefit this is.11

Second, in 2012, the hotels underwent a dramatic, $200-million renovation, which included new furniture, spa-like bathrooms, modern interiors and large-screen HDTVs. In other words, your dog can watch Animal Planet on a nearly new couch for $50/night. Not too shabby.

The hotel doesn’t make the trip. But when you can find the right family-friendly hotels to suit your budget, the itinerary and everyone’s little idiosyncrasies, you’re already halfway there.

Sep 23, 2015